Exploring Cape Point on foot. The real Hiking experience.

July 14, 2019

by Alfie Curling

When visiting Cape Town, South Africa, Cape Point is always a worthwhile visit. Cape Point is very well known for its famous lighthouse and the Cape of Good Hope. But there is so much more on offer in this section of the Table Mountain National Park. Situated on the tip of the Cape Peninsula this section of Table Mountain National Park is home to a large diversity of wildlife and offers a unique opportunity to see these animals on foot. In terms of large mammals some of the more commonly occurring species include: Eland, Cape Mountain Zebra, Bontebok, Chacma Baboons, Porcupine, Grysbok and Kilpspringer. There is also a good selection of bird life in the area with over 270 species being recorded. The smaller creatures are also present and several reptiles, such as, lizards, tortoises and snakes may be seen. This is also home to the unique floral kingdom known as Fynbos. Fynbos only occurs on 0,5% of Africa’s land mass yet accounts for 20% of the plant species in Africa. It is estimated that there are over 1000 plant species occurring on the Reserve.  The true beauty of the area is almost never seen by the millions of visitors the park gets every year. The great thing about so many unknown hidden places, is that when hiking in one of the most popular destinations in Cape Town, there are almost never any people in sight.

Preparation

Getting there is relatively easy and now with apps like google maps directions are easy to find. The great thing about the location is that it is safe to hike in this area as it is in a protected area. When hiking in any area its always a good idea to be prepared. Depending on the time of year what would be advisable to take with may vary. In the peak Summer months (November – February) the days can get very hot. In Winter (June – August) the weather can easily change to windy and rainy. Its always best to check the local weather report to be best prepared. I normally use yr.no. That being said, the basics we recommend are: good walking shoes, water, sunscreen, a hat, a warm top (even in summer as the weather might change) and some snacks.

The Hikes

There are five hikes to choose from in the reserve, here is a breakdown of what’s on offer:

Shipwrecks:

Close up views on the shipwreck hike

This must be one our favorite hikes and is highly recommended. The hike starts off heading down pristine uninhabited beaches and discovering several shipwrecks along the way. The first wreck you’ll come across is the American “Liberty Ship”, the Thomas T. Tucker. The ship struck rocks while avoiding torpedoes in November 1942. The night attack may have destroyed the ship but luckily no lives were lost. The second wreck to be found is that of the Nolloth. This Dutch coaster hit an underwater rock in 1965 and the captain intentionally ran it aground to save the lives of his crew. It was carrying a large consignment of liquor which caused some substantial problems during the salvage operations.   There are two possible routes to choose from depending on how long you would like to hike for. The first route is shorter, about 5km, which follows a ridge above the beach that was just walked offering fantastic views of the ocean. The second route is slightly longer, about 8,5km, that heads further inland to the largest body of fresh water on the reserve. This is a great route to look out for the larger mammal species in the park.

Kanonkop:

This hike explores some historical sites in the area, with the highlight being the signal Canon about midway through the hike. The signal Canon was used to announce to the bay that a ship was entering False Bay.  Another historical site along the hike is the old Lime Kiln. The Lime Kiln was used in the 1890’s to heat Travertine, which is a type of limestone found in the area. This process produced quicklime which was used in cement. This hike is approximately 6,25km long with an option to walk to the sun warmed tidal pool called Venus Pool. This extension adds another 2,5km to the hike.

Platboom/Gifkommetjie:

This is a hike that primarily focuses on exploring the coastline. It is not an ideal hike during the winter as the path can get flooded after good rains. The uninhabited beaches are a highlight. This hike is a point A to B hike and is approximately 4km, but it is in reality 8km, as you will have to hike the same trail back to the vehicle. If you can organize someone to pick you up at the end it is advisable. Being a coastline along a busy sea lane some interesting items do tend to wash ashore. One such item is blocks of raw rubber that are thought to be from a cargo ship that was torpedoed near Port Elizabeth during World War Two!

Gifkommetjie/Phyllisia:

This is a beautiful hike that starts off along the coast. Eventually making it’s way to the shipwreck of the Phyllisia, which was a stream trawler that wrecked in 1968. From the wreck the path heads inland and you get a fantastic birds-eye view of the ocean. This is also a good area to potentially see some of the larger mammals. The hike is approximately 6,5km long.

Smitswinkel:

Smitwinkles Bay, Cape Point

This hike has some breathtaking views. It does involve some mild scrambling. It is a longer hike as you need to backtrack a large part of the hike to get back to the vehicle, but the views are worth it. This has potential to be a full day hike as it is 16km long. If you can get someone to pick you up at the Visitors Centre the hike is shorted to about 8km. This trail includes the Canon and Lime Kiln seen on the Kanonkop hike.

Take time to enjoy your surroundings

There is so much more on offer in Cape Point than just the main tourist attractions. They are certainly worth seeing but take some time out your day to enjoy the places less traveled. Hiking in Cape Point brings you so much closer to the beauty, fauna and flora this incredible location has to offer.

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