Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point
After Simon’s Town we arrived at the real prize of this tour – the Cape of Good Hope.
I recall from grammar school days my sense of wonder reading about the famous sailors and navigators of the Age of Exploration. What a thrill it would be rounding the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of the African continent going boldly where no one or nearly no one in recorded history had gone before.
Romantic myth, of course, usually has little to do with reality. The early explorers endured severe hardships often sacrificing their lives. The name “Cape of Good Hope” elicits confidence and cheerfulness. Early explorers, however, called this location “Cape of Storms” which has precisely the opposite connotation. To top it off, the Cape of Good Hope is not even the southernmost point of Africa!
Childhood romantic notions shattered, it was still thrilling to reach this spot and knock off another bucket list item. The Cape of Good Hope lies in Table Mountain National Park, which includes large sections of the Cape Peninsula as well as Table Mountain in Cape Town.
There are two rocky prominences extending into the waters here. The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. The Cape of Good Hope is the most southwestern point on the African continent. It extends into the South Atlantic.
Although the Cape of Good Hope is not the southern tip of Africa (that distinction belongs to Cape Agulhas about 90 miles to the east), it was noteworthy to early explorers because it marks the point where ships travelling south down the west coast of Africa began sailing more easterly than southerly.
All of the services and buildings here are located on Cape Point. Its height and size are impressive. The lighthouse on Cape Point is 750 feet above the water. You can take a short hike to the top or ride the Flying Dutchman. There is a fantastic restaurant overlooking False Bay and several gift shops.
Even with the presence of the lighthouse, the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point are littered with wrecks. Hiking trails make some wrecks accessible.
The nearby waters teem with sealife thanks to the confluence of the cold Benguela current of the South Atlantic and the warm Agulhas current of the Indian Ocean. The Indian and Atlantic Oceans officially meet at Cape Agulhas, but the meeting point of the Agulhas and Benguela currents fluctuates between Cape of Good Hope and Cape Agulhas.
Cape Point is a good place for spotting whales that come to False Bay in the winter. The Southern Right whale is the most common. Other species include Humpbacks and Orcas.
The Cape of Good Hope is also a nature reserve. Here is some of the wildlife I saw roaming around.
Some of the other large mammals in the reserve are zebra and eland.
I had a great guide for this all-day adventure. For a tour like this I believe a private guide is worth the extra expense, especially if you get a knowledgeable one as I did.
Having a private guide means setting your own schedule and itinerary. It makes for a much more relaxed and informative experience. One of the things I hate most about group tours is often every other stop on the “tour” is some jewelry or local craft factory where I have to stand around for 20 or 30 minutes trying to look like I might be interested in buying something. There is none of that with a private guide.
Taking in all of the sights on a Cape Peninsula tour makes for a long but thoroughly enjoyable day. Everything on the tour was interesting. And driving from place to place afforded time to admire the spectacular scenery. The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point were the highlights of course. I also found the African penguin colony at Simon’s Town to be fascinating since I had never seen penguins before. One cautionary note: Save the winery tour for last unless you are accustomed to downing four or five glasses of wine in 30 minutes.