Kommetjie and the Slangkop Lighthouse

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Time to move on from the attractions of Noordhoek’s beaches and coffee houses and continue our drive south. Very shortly you will arrive at the quaint little town of Kommetjie. Pronounced ‘commeykey’ which is Afrikaans for ‘small basin’, this little town is more or less halfway to your destination and is at the southern end of the enormous, magnificent beach which stretches north to Noordhoek and to Chapman’s Peak.

However, the real thrill of this part of the drive awaits you. The coastal lagoon and its hundreds of vividly coloured flamingo inhabitants is a sudden astonishing vision. It is a brilliant and utterly unexpected shock. Pause for a while and marvel at these extraordinary creatures. Did you know that their pink colour depends entirely on their diet – the colour of their diet? Moreover, these large birds are filter feeders. When feeding they stride through the shallow salty water and using their long necks to stoop down, they scoop up mouthfuls of the water and using their tongues, force the water through the comb-like extensions on their beak. These ‘combs’ filter out the nutrients which are swallowed whilst the water is expelled. Flamingos are omnivorous eaters – through stomach content analysis, scientists know that they eat crustaceans, worms, algae, fish, insects, organic debris and even plant material. And it’s the crustaceans and the algae which produce the bird’s distinctive colour as they contain large amounts of carotenoids. Another curiosity is the evolution of flamingos’ beaks. Because of their manner of eating, their top beaks function exactly as the bottom beaks of other birds and their bottom beaks function exactly as the top beaks of other birds. And something else, note how their top jaw moves whilst eating. Not many other birds, or indeed other animals are able to do that.

When your curiosity is exhausted drive on and not far from Kommetjie you will see the Slangkop Lighthouse. Slangkop (which means ‘snake head’) Lighthouse has been reassuringly guiding sailors since 1914. It became fully automated in 1979 and its brilliant light can be seen a full 33 nautical miles out at sea. The tower boasts a 33m circular construction and was first commissioned by the then Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, Sir Francis Hely-Hutchinson who recognised the ongoing threat to shipping of the dangerous rocky coast.

One of South Africa’s oldest lighthouses, it emits four flashes every 30 seconds with a candlepower brightness of 5 000 000 C.D on a focal plane of 41m above the high watermark.