The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve forms part of the Cape Peninsula Park and is managed by the South African National Parks. The Nature Reserve is recognized globally for its extraordinary land formation, rich and diverse fauna and unique flora. Nowhere else in the world does an area of such spectacular beauty and such rich biodiversity exist almost within a metropolitan area - the thriving and cosmopolitan City of Cape Town.
New!!! Visit the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point on our Cape Peninsula Tour.
The legendary Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope form part of the Nature Reserve. These promontories were key beacons for the early explorers and are the source of many myths and legends. 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. 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 Cape Point. However, due to its high location 238m above sea level, it was often obscured by clouds and mist. When the Portuguese liner, the "Lusitania", was wrecked in 1911, the lighthouse was relocated to its current position above Dias Point, only 87m above sea level.
In the 17th century a Dutch Captain, Hendrick van der Decken, attempted to round the Cape in strong headwinds. Mysteriously his ship and crew disappeared, and legend now tells of the ghost ship "The Flying Dutchman", which has allegedly been sighted around Cape Point.
The Nature Reserve is a floral treasure, with over one thousand different species of Cape Fynbos (Afrikaans for "fine bush"). The Cape Fynbos has earned international recognition as one of the world's six Floral Kingdoms, albeit definitely the smallest. The Cape Peninsula with 2256 species, and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve with 1036 species, have the highest concentration of plant species for similar sized areas in the world.
Plants characteristic of the Cape Fynbos are proteas, ericas (heath) and reeds. The marvelous location of the Nature Reserve at the tip of a great continent where two oceans meet, the prevailing legendary strong winds and the sandstone soil all influence the unique flora found in this area.
The Fauna of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
The Nature Reserve is built on thin and sandy soils, providing an environment where the Cape Fynbos flourishes but which can be harsh on animal life. Although the Reserve is not primarily a game reserve, animal lovers will not be disappointed.
The Chacma Baboon troops on the Cape Peninsula are the only protected population of this species in Africa. Urban development and geographical isolation from other baboon populations threatens their existence. While they feed mainly on fruits, roots, bulbs, honey, insects and scorpions, they may be seen roaming the beaches during low tide, seeking sand hoppers and shellfish.
Bird lovers can spot 250 species of birds, from the large Black Eagle down to the tiny Spotted Prinia. Seagulls and cormorants leave their footprints on the beaches. Sugarbirds and sunbirds feed on the sweet nectar of the proteas, while Egyptian Geese soak up the sun on the rocks. The vegetation is low lying and does not provide much cover or foraging habitat for bush birds. Other bird species include the Fish Eagle, the Steppe Buzzard, the Spotted Eagle Owl and Baaird's Sandpiper, as well as the large yet agile Ostrich - these are but a small selection of what the Reserve has to offer.
There are a number of antelopes in the Nature Reserve. Animal lovers will be able to see the elusive Cape Mountain Zebra, Eland, Cape Grysbok, Red Hartebeest and Grey Rhebuck. The beautiful Bontebok closely escaped extinction in the early 1900's and was branded the rarest antelope in the world, but it has recovered well here in the Reserve.
Other smaller animals include the Lynx, Cape Grey Mongoose and Dassies, and particularly at the car parks, Striped Field Mice. There is also a wealth of insects, tortoises, snakes, lizards and frogs in the Reserve, and during winter and spring the Southern Right Whales return to our waters to mate and give birth to their calves.
The Cape of Good Hope is a scenic wonder, where soft white sandy beaches alternate with rugged stretches of rock and breathtaking cliffs. The cliffs at Cape Point are among the highest coastal cliffs in the world. The mingling of the icy Atlantic Ocean with the warmer Indian Ocean results in a unique coastal environment and one of the most productive marine zones worldwide.
Dias Beach offers excellent surfing waves in an idyllic setting with perfect colouring. The beach just before Olifantsbos Point is a secluded haven for a beautiful bird life. This beach is littered with tiny whalebones, and a jewel of serenity and tranquility. Famous shipwreck diving spots are also found along the beaches of Cape Point.
The Fairest Cape of them all
Despite its harsh reputation among early navigators as a "Cape of Storms", the Cape of Good Hope is also a place of gentleness, tranquility and alluring beauty. The Reserve offers brilliant scenic and exploratory walks, and despite the many visitors the peace remains undisturbed. A visit to this nature's gem will enrich you with memories of bright flowers, perfect skies, seas of azure and sun soaked beaches.