Spring break from volunteer work is a great opportunity to spend time hiking the Cape. Today I went for an all-day hike at Cape Point with Binny Ridgway and a client of hers from France, Edie, who is staying in Simon’s Town. Binny also leads four-day overnight tours in the Cape Point area. When there is a strong southeasterly wind (also known as the Cape Doctor) hiking at Cape Point is challenging (at least for me) but we had near-perfect hiking weather today.
After a shark attacked a swimmer yesterday at Clovelly Beach in Fish Hoek, authorities decided to close the beaches around Muizenberg. There have been several more shark sightings in the area. The rescued swimmer is in a hospital intensive care unit. He lost his legs. We didn’t see any sharks from the Cape Point cliffs but did see a few whale flukes!
Cape Point is in the southeast corner of the Cape Peninsula. It’s a “promontory” about 30 kilometres (19 miles) long at the extreme southwestern tip of the African continent. It’s part of Table Mountain National Park and is in an area called the Cape of Good Hope covering the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula. Its vegetation is wild, unspoiled, undeveloped sandstone fynbos – and it’s a haven for pelagic birds and seabirds that breed and nest along the cliffs.
Although both Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope are well-known, neither one is actually the southernmost point in Africa. The southernmost point is Cape Agulhas, about 150 kilometres (90 miles) to the east-southeast. Cape Point is often mistakenly claimed as the place where the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean and the warm waters of the Indian Ocean meet to create Cape Town’s micro-climate. However, that real meeting point supposedly fluctuates and experts say it’s somewhere between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point.
“Contrary to popular mythology, the meeting point of these two ocean currents produces no obvious visual effect.” There is no “line in the water” where the sea changes color, but there are strong, dangerous swells, tides, and localized currents around the point and its adjacent waters. There are several tall posts along the coast built to point out large rocks that have caused many shipwrecks.
“These troubled seas have witnessed countless maritime disasters in the centuries since ships first sailed there. Fishing is good but unpredictable swells make angling from the rocks dangerous. Over the years freak waves swept scores of fishermen to their deaths from the rocky platforms. False Bay, which opens to the east and north of Cape Point, is home to the well-known naval port of Simon’s Town. The bay is also famous – or infamous – for its great white sharks, which hunt Cape Fur Seals that live in the area.”
From the rocky peaks between the two oceans the difference we observed was amazing – the Atlantic side had churning currents and rough seas while the Indian Ocean side was placid and smooth.
In addition to the whales we saw several ostrich families, greater kudu, eland, bontebok, a striped mouse, lizards, rock hyrax (dassies), a mongoose, blue bottles (Portuguese Man-of-War), and many sea birds. It was a fantastic day of hiking and Binny brought along a flask of delicious rooibos tea to enjoy during break.