Cape Agulhas – at the end of Africa
I assumed that Cape Agulhas is just a stop. I will set foot on the southernmost tip of Africa, see the second oldest working lighthouse in South Africa, swim in the Indian Ocean, and drive on. I came for one night, but I liked it so much that I came back for longer, for more adventures and impressions.
Allan and Sheryl, the owners of the hotel Agulhas Ocean House (my review of this place you can find here), had a huge impact on my return, for sure. They encouraged me with stories about shipwrecks, 14 km of beaches, stingrays in the port, and resident ghosts. during my first visit. I did not expect so many attractions in a small town! In fact, two towns, because right next to L’Aghulas, where I lived, there is a settlement called Struisbaai with picturesque, traditionally whitewashed fishing huts.
In both towns, time flows slower and the residents are nice and sociable. Interestingly, the houses here don’t have upstream fences or bars on the windows, which is common in South Africa. It’s like everyone has forgotten which country we are in. According to the locals, it is simply safe, and I felt that way too.
The ocean was so close, and even two! Officially, the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet at Cape Agulhas. I imagined seeing a border in sight, on one side the turquoise of the Indian Ocean, on the other a deep Atlantic navy blue, but this is not the case here. There is a monument for it, so we have to believe: the International Hydrographic Organization, the Department of Oceanography at the University of Cape Town, and the South African Navy. These three organizations have approved the border. However, this division may still arouse controversy because it was determined by humans. The oceans and marine life are influenced by sea currents, and many oceanographers claim that the waters are mixed all the time and we (as a human) cannot draw a single correct boundary.
However, everyone will agree on one thing. The ocean in this place is very tricky. A needle-sharp reef storms with huge waves, and the fact that the compass does not distinguish true north from magnetic north makes this place extremely dangerous. Over the centuries, many sailors have learned about it. To this day, about 150 wrecks remain. Some parts of the ships threw the ocean, others found their resting place underwater. Eventually, after a series of accidents, it was decided to build a 27-meter lighthouse. On March 1, 1849, it was lit and shows the way to this day, thus becoming the second longest operating lighthouse in South Africa (the oldest and longest operating is located in Cape Town).
However, the lighthouse’s lights did not save the crew of the Japanese fishing vessel Meisho Maru No. 38, which ran aground in 1982. His wreckage is now quite an attraction. It can be reached in two ways. By car, passing the southernmost point of Africa with a monument, or on foot. I recommend the second option because it’s only two kilometers of walk. The path starts near the lighthouse and leads through a small Fynbos bush with very nice views and a breeze from the ocean. I was lucky because during my walk when I got to him there was a low tide so I could get close. Additionally, when I had warmed up sufficiently with the African sun, on the way back to the hotel. I jumped into the so-called tidal pool, a swimming pool with ocean water. There are three swimming pools like that in L’Aghulas). It’s a super cool refreshment, to be honest.
Another unforgettable experience in Cape Agulhas is searching the ghosts while climbing the surrounding hills. The path is called Spookdraai (ghost alley). It’s a two-hour hike with great views of the coast. It is not demanding. The rule is to follow the 28 signs with the image of a ghost. Whose spirit are we looking for? A young girl who fortunately survived the marine catastrophe and lived in one of the limestone caves (which we pass). Unfortunately, she died lonely, and because she was very social, she continued to “entertain”. Apparently, she had a beautiful voice so if you were “lucky” you could hear her singing sometimes.
I haven’t met her (fortunately). There are more stories about local ghosts. It seems to me that even I could be the hero of one of them. This is because, while relaxing on the hotel balcony late in the evening, I noticed an owl standing in the middle of the street. Without hesitation, in a white bathrobe, I ran to take a picture of her. A few people saw me! Now I know where ghost stories come from!
When it comes to food some of the very good restaurants are in L’Agulhas, especially with seafood. There is no coincidence that the seafood is fresh if there is a marina next to L’Agulhas. Right in the charming fishing village of Strussbai. It is best to visit it in the morning when fishermen return from night fishing. Then you can see nice fish and stingrays coming for breakfast. One of them, Parrie, is a real celebrity. She or he has her FB account @ParrieTheStingray. According to the locals, this huge, much larger than others, stingray has lived in Strussbai for over 30 years. It also gained fame in Cape Town, when for some time it enjoyed the eyes of visitors to its aquarium. Stingrays are said to recognize the sound of arriving boats and eat fish leftover overboard. They like the company of people and they are allowed to even feed them, which is a truly amazing view.
There is a small beach by the marina. I recommend going further along the wooden promenade. At the end of the way the 14 km long beach with beautiful dunes begins. By the way, it is the longest beach in the southern hemisphere. The best part is, to dip your feet in the Indian Ocean and just keep walking. Probably you would meet fishermen fishing from the shore and no one then, only the ocean and fine and soft mountains of sand, bearing the remains of wrecks.
There is another place on the coast in this area that is worth visiting. It is located in Arniston, approximately 40 minutes south coast drive towards Mossel Bay. I went there after checking the conditions of the tides. When is low tide it’s possible to squeeze yourself through a small hole in the rock to the Waenhuiskrans Cave. Unfortunately, I was a bit late. It was already too dangerous and I didn’t want to take the risk of getting stuck in the cave. Anyway, it was worth looking into the hole and seeing this amazing spectacle of ocean waves hitting the rocks.
Cape Agulhas was my discovery of the year and my greatest surprise. As a city lover, I didn’t expect to be able to spend two weeks in small fishing towns without being bored. Moreover, I was sorry that it was time to say goodbye to this beautiful corner of Africa. I recommend this region to everyone and I hope to come back soon. I have to come back, because there is one more attraction on my bucket list, and I didn’t have time to organize it. I mean, big game fishing. It was always my dream to catch a big one. I have the feeling; that I will be able to do it someday in the African waters close to Cape Agulhas.
Cape Agulhas is about 225 km (3-hour drive) from Cape Town. it is worth visiting the whale town “Hermanus” on the way. Make a stop for wine tasting in one of the local wineries. I strongly recommend Creation.
Both in Agulhas and in Strussbai there are a lot of guest houses, apartments, and hotels. There is even decent camping. In the high season which is from November to March, it’s recommended to book in advance.
More places to visit nearby:
Black Oyster Catcher – the vineyard with restaurant and farm. It is famous for its unique wine due to the climate and the local soil on which grapes are grown (40 km north of the Cape).
Shipwreck Museum in the town of Bredasdorp (40 km north of the Cape). It is best to call in advance and confirm that it’s open.
De Hoop Reserve – on the way towards Mossel Bay. More about the reserve and its attractions: