If you’ve ever stood at the southernmost point on the African continent, and after taking the customary photo at the marker pointing the two oceans, you may have thought to yourself, “Is that all?” There are no dramatic cliffs at Cape Agulhas, unlike at Cape Point. But then there also no busloads of tourists. And if you linger and explore the coastline, you’ll realise that there is actually more than just a beacon.
The lighthouse and the tip of the continent are but a small fragment of the Agulhas National Park. Over the years, Sanparks has grown its footprint, having acquired neighbouring farmlands and reserves creating a patchwork of protected land. Some of these are undergoing rehabilitation to restore a natural balance. It may take many years, but the efforts will be worth the wait.
Close to the lighthouse, yet far enough to give a sense of isolation is the park’s main camp. The wooden chalets are modern and equipped with all the comforts you’d need. Yet the thatching and timber decks give a sense of simplicity and relaxation.
The problem with a weekend visit is that you’ll be torn between listening to the crashing waves while sitting on the deck, or exploring the coastline and fynbos hills. I chose the less sedate option, but felt equally relaxed. Closer to the shoreline, the thunderous sound of breaking waves was followed by the clank and clatter of rolling pebbles. The pebbles, a brilliant white in the afternoon sun, contrasted with the blue ocean. Unlike the roaring sea, water lapped gently on the shore of a tidal lagoon.
The Agulhas plains may be flat, but closer to the coast sandy dunes form rolling hills. The dunes are covered in diverse species of fynbos. A network of well laid out trails with numbered interest points turns an ordinary coastal walk into an exploratory experience. Ancient shell middens, endangered fynbos specimens and geological formations can be encountered. And as a reward, the trail reaches a spectacular vantage close to the end, with a view of the lagoon house and coastline. As the sun began to set, the seemingly monotonous coast erupted into a kaleidoscope of colour and light. With such a magnificent sight, it was hard to imagine that beneath those waters are the wrecks of hundreds of ships, which came to an unforgiving end on the rocky shores of Agulhas.
That night, somewhere between thinking about wild oceans and rusty shipwrecks, and the constant sound of crashing waves in the distance, I found some sleep, feeling satisfied that there indeed was more to Agulhas than just a lighthouse.