Cape Point, the jumble of rocks that represents the most south-westerly point of Africa, is an evocative place. Protected by a 7500 hectare nature reserve, the landscape that squeezes in between the Atlantic and India Oceans hides secret lakes and herds of antelope. Rusting shipwrecks lie on wild beaches patrolled by seabirds and otters while long-tailed sugarbirds sing from bush tops in a sea of flowers.
But almost everyone who visits Cape Point misses out on this. Easily accessed from Cape Town, the road runs all the way to the end. You can step into your car at your hotel and step out at the point’s convenient car park an hour later. Shops and a restaurant are there if you need them.
Trouble is that’s what Cape Point’s hundreds of thousands of visitors do. It makes for a busy car park – and that’s before the reserve’s infamous baboons arrive to help themselves to your cheese sandwiches. And the view from the lighthouse … well, if miles of empty ocean and sky are your thing then you’ll love it.
To truly experience Cape Point, you’ll need to lace up your boots and get hiking. There are established trails down both the reserve’s coastlines: you can walk up and down mountains or take it easy on beach walks – or both. There are all-day hikes and half-day hikes, and there’s even a 2-day trail, over-nighting at self-catering huts.
Once on the trail, you’ll quickly see what I’m talking about. The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, despite its modest size and apparently barren appearance, is home to as many plant species as the British Isles or Canada. Or New Zealand as it happens. Several plants are only found here, and it’s the best place on the peninsula to spot wildlife: ostriches and bontebok antelope are commonly seen as are tortoises and lizards in sunny weather. Bird watchers can tick off endemic fynbos birds as well as sea and shorebirds.
There’s a seasonality aspect too. From July to December the reserve blazes with colour as great numbers of flowers bloom; August, September and October are the best months for whale watching; the autumn months of April and May often enjoy the best weather. And there’s usually a pleasant surprise: a family of mountain zebras, a herd of eland – perhaps a black eagle.
Cape Point hiking can be as tough or as undemanding as you want – indeed, a half-day Cape Point hike can easily be combined with a visit to Boulders Beach Penguin colony. Combined with a Table Mountain hike, a hike at Cape Point will leave you with a better insight into the unique fauna and flora of the Cape Peninsula.
It’ll also get you away from the car park and ensure your cheese sandwiches are safe.