Cape Point – Valuable Historical and Natural Heritage
Cape Point, located in the southern section of Table Mountain National Park, is one of Cape Town’s major attractions. Standing at Cape Point and looking out at the waves crashing on the rugged rocks below, one can imagine the courage of explorers who passed this way centuries ago. The shipwrecks at Cape Point bear testimony to the fact that many did not reach their destination.
With its extreme southerly location and its history relating to intrepid early explorers, Cape Point is often mistakenly thought to be where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, but this in fact takes place at Cape Agulhas. The first recorded explorer to sail around the Cape was Bartholomeu Diaz of Portugal, who made the journey in 1488 and named the site the Cape of Storms. Other explorers followed and soon the Cape sea route was established – and so was its reputation for being a dangerous route to travel.
To assist sailors in traveling safely around Cape Point, a lighthouse was built in 1857. However, due to the lighthouse being 238 meters above sea level, it was often covered in fog and was only visible at certain angles. Following the shipwreck of the Portuguese liner Lusitania in 1911, the lighthouse was moved and now stands 87 meters above sea level. The two funicular cars at Cape Point ferry visitors from the parking ground to the look-out point near the old lighthouse, where the most breath-taking scenery can be enjoyed.
The Buffelsfontein Visitor Center at Cape Point offers audiovisual presentations and displays detailing the area’s natural and cultural treasures, while the restaurant offers guests good food and an incredible view of False Bay. Cape Point is also home to the South African Weather Bureau, which together with the Franhofer Institute in Germany, monitors the changes in the earth’s atmosphere and resulting impact on climate.
On the hillside by the beach stands a stone replica of the cross that Vasco da Gama planted in 1487 – a reminder of the Portuguese explorers who once traversed the treacherous seas of Cape Point.