Cape Point Lighthouse, Western Cape
Did you know?
The Flying Dutchman, captain and crew allegedly disappeared while rounding the Cape in the 17th Century, and now is supposed to haunt these waters.
On a clear day up at the old, decommissioned Cape Point lighthouse, it feels like you can see all the way down to Antarctica.
And when the mist rolls in, there are deceptive little movements on distant waters: passing southern right whales, the sails of the mythical Flying Dutchman ghost ship – or simply your eyes deceiving you?
Another trick of the mind at Cape Point is to believe that this is actually where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean – you almost expect a 2-tone colour-divide in the seas leading south from here. The oceans actually merge all along the southern Cape coastline, not at a particular spot such as Cape Point.
In the 15th century, Portuguese explorer and navigator Bartolomeu Dias sailed past here and dubbed this rocky peninsula the Cabo Tormentosa – Cape of Storms.
And it has never stopped living up to this reputation. There are so many old vessels lying broken along these shores that a special Shipwreck Trail has been devised here in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve – part of the Table Mountain National Park.
In the late 1850s, the 1st Cape Point lighthouse was built. You would have thought it perfectly positioned on top of the cliffs overlooking the sea. But it was too high up, and its beam was often obscured by mist and foul weather.
In 1911, a Portuguese ocean liner called the Lusitania ran into Bellows Rock below the lighthouse and sank. This prompted the decommissioning of the 1st lighthouse and the building of another, lower down and closer to the sea.
In times of crisis, the light-keeper’s ingenuity has often saved the day.
John Allen, Cape Point light-keeper in the 1930s, was once supplied with the wrong-sized mantle for his gas lamp, which meant the automatic light-flashing machinery could not be used. And so, for 3 nights, Allen and his assistants sat there taking turns with the hand-switch: 2 seconds on, 8 seconds off, 2 seconds on, 8 seconds off ...
Another Cape Point light-keeper, from a more recent era, Nico Saal, said he had a deep respect for the extreme weather conditions at the near-tip of Africa. His dedication to the job was firm: ‘I was drawn to light-keeping because my father was a crayfish fisherman in Lambert’s Bay – and he died in an accident in rough seas.’
Today, the 'new' lighthouse at Cape Point sports the brightest lighthouse light in the country at 10-million candelas – visible for approx. 60km out at sea.
And the only ‘Flying Dutchman’ around here is the cable-drawn railway funicular that takes you up to the old lighthouse and down again.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Cape Point Route
Tel: +27 (0)21 782 9356
Cape Point information
Tel: +27 (0)21 780 9010/11
Two Oceans Restaurant
Tel: +27 (0)21 780 9200
Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve accommodation (self-catering)
Tel: +27 (0)21 780 9204