Ravishing beauty now overwhelms us as we finally drive into the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, for herein lies the legendary lighthouse and the Cape Of Good Hope, our final destination.
The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve forms part of the Cape Peninsula Park and is managed by South African National Parks. It is globally recognised for its extraordinary land formation, rich and diverse fauna and unique flora. It is this singular combination of beauty and biodiversity which is found nowhere else in the world – and within a short drive of metropolitan Cape Town – which sets it apart.
Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope form part of the Nature Reserve. These legendary promontories were key beacons for early navigators, and inevitably the source of much story telling and many myths. In 1488, Bartholomew Dias named the Peninsula, Cabo Tormentoso, or the Cape of Storms. King John II of Portugal later gave it the name Cabo da Boa Esperanca – the Cape of Good Hope. Less than 100 years later, in 1580, Sir Frances Drake proclaimed it to be “… the most stately thing and the fairest Cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.”
In 1860, the first lighthouse was erected at a height of 238 m above Cape Point. Far too high as it was often obscured by low cloud and mist, and when in 1911 the Portuguese liner “Lusitania” ran aground wrecking itself, it was decided to relocate the lighthouse to a more visible height of 238m above Dias Point, it’s current location.
In the 17th century a Dutch Captain, Hendrick van der Decken, attempted to round the Cape in strong headwinds in his ship ‘The Flying Dutchman. His entire ship and crew disappeared. Since then many have attested to ghostly sightings of “The Flying Dutchman”, scudding around Cape Point.
The Nature Reserve is a floral treasure house, with over one thousand different species of Cape Fynbos (Afrikaans for “fine bush”). The Cape Fynbos is internationally acknowledged as one of the world’s six floral kingdoms, albeit the smallest. Moreover, the Cape Peninsula with 2256 species, and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve with 1036 species, has the highest concentration of plant species for similar sized areas in the world.
Plants characteristic of the Cape Fynbos are proteas, heath like ericas, and reeds. The marvellous location of this extraordinary Nature Reserve at the tip of a great continent, the prevailing legendary strong winds and the sandstone soil all contribute to the unique flora found in this area.