Danger Point lighthouse, Gansbaai
Did you know?
The rock where the HMS Birkenhead foundered is sometimes visible from the Danger Point lighthouse tower.
Perhaps the most aptly named piece of geography along the Southern Cape coast of South Africa is Danger Point, near the seaside village of Gansbaai.
Thus the looming Danger Point lighthouse, which throws its night lights far beyond the distant Dyer’s Island, is no postcard plaything. It has been warning sailors off these treacherous rocks since 1895.
Myth has it that the Flying Dutchman ghost ship was spotted for the 1st time from Danger Point. Reality, however, trumps legend here.
More than 40 years before the Danger Point lighthouse was built, the HMS Birkenhead struck an unmapped rock at sea near this part of the coast. More than 440 people aboard perished, but all the women and children were brought to safety. The story of what happened at 2am on 26 February 1852 has become 1 of the most poignant tales in a sailor’s chest of naval accounts.
It is believed that the remains of 7 sunken ships lie on the rocks at the foot of the Danger Point lighthouse. But think on this: as you take a meandering day drive from Gansbaai across the Agulhas Plain and beyond to Cape Infanta, with stops at Bredasdorp, L’ Agulhas, Arniston, De Hoop and Port Beaufort, you’re passing the hidden wrecks of more than 140 unfortunate vessels that sank along here.
The Danger Point lighthouse, which today is a popular spot to visit after your morning at sea – possibly watching curious great white sharks from the submerged safety of a steel cage – was not a popular posting with the early light-keepers.
The weather was often bad, there was not much happening in Gansbaai, the road to Hermanus was challenging and Cape Town was very far away back then. How times have changed.
The area, known as the Overberg, is now a hot traveller’s destination. People from all over South Africa and the world come here to indulge their adventure fantasies, view the aquatic wildlife that includes whales, be part of a slower country lifestyle and enjoy the genteel offerings of centres like Stanford, Arniston and Hermanus.
And many of them make a brief stop at the base of the Danger Point lighthouse, read the plaque dedicated to those who died on the Birkenhead, and then look thoughtfully out to sea.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Info on SA lighthouses
Tel: +27 (0)21 449 5171
Danger Point Lighthouse
Tel: +27 (0)21 449 2400
Tel : +27 (0) 28 384 1439
The Great White House Restaurant
Tel: +27 (0) 28 384 3273
Mobile: +27 (0) 82 895 2736