Seal Point lighthouse, Cape St Francis
Did you know?
The tower of the Seal Point lighthouse has been struck by lightning at least 3 times.
Prior to the late 1870s, when the Seal Point lighthouse was built, the deadly 2km-long reef running from near Cape St Francis into the ocean claimed a number of passing ships.
Back in January 1690, the Noord – a Dutch East Indiaman – fell afoul of this reef and ran aground. In the following decades, ships like the Queen of the West, Hope and L’Agile met the same fate.
The time came to build a tall lighthouse in the vicinity, and a spot on an outcrop called Seal Point near Cape St Francis was selected.
Building began in 1876, and there was no shortage of logistical problems. The roads from the towns of Algoa Bay and Humansdorp were rough tracks, and the seaward approach via Kromme Bay involved negotiating dodgy waters. The original builder died soon after construction began. Another took his place and the lighthouse was completed in an amazing 2 years.
Unfortunately, it seems brackish water was used in the construction. The plaster along some of the interior walls soon rotted and much of it dropped off, revealing bare stone. But the basic structure stands firm, and the lighthouse still operates to this day.
Initially the light that was installed had the power of 15 000 candles. Its upgraded system now boasts the power of nearly 3-million candles, flashing every 5 seconds.
Ironically, there were shipwrecks after the lighthouse was built. In 1959, the Lady Head was scuppered near the mouth of the Kromme River and, according to legend, part of its cargo was a large consignment of swans that survived the wreck.
Today, the Kromme River swans are a popular sight for locals and visitors.
The main attraction in the vicinity of the Seal Point lighthouse is, however, the penguin rescue and rehabilitation facility that has been established on the lighthouse grounds.
The centre has a good working relationship with Portnet, custodians of the Seal Point lighthouse, and has done significant rehabilitation work, especially with birds that have fallen victim to oil spills.
Operating mainly with public funding, the centre educates visitors about seabird conservation, focusing particularly on the endangered African penguin.
And the giant penguin you see as you approach the lighthouse was a gift from Nelson Mandela Bay after the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Don’t worry, it won’t bite – it’s only a model ...
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Central info – South African lighthouses
Tel: +27 (0)21 449 2400
Seal Point lighthouse
Mobile: +27 (0)82 890 0207
Penguin Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre
Tel: +27 (0)42 298 0200
St Francis Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)42 294 0076
Tel: +27 (0)41 378 1486
Cell: +27 (0)72 358 4634