A couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to visit Agulhas National Park for the third time in as many years. (see my previous trip here) The occasion was the official opening of their new Rest Camp chalets and I must admit there was something quite nice about being the very first person to stay in one of the new thatch-roofed log cabins. The crisp new linen and fresh, fluffy towels. Carbon copies of the existing chalets they have added several extra single and double room units with a few modern improvements like fancy fireplaces to keep you warm in winter and sealing around the edges to ensure the wind doesn’t sneak through under the thatch (a fix they will be applying to the older units as well now).
My only criticism of the chalets is that they are built quite close together and some of the new ones have been built behind the old ones, but if you can get one of the front units and even better one of the units on the end you can wake up to uninterrupted views like this everyday so my advice would be to call the SANParks booking office after making your booking as ask if one of the front units are available when you go.
Agulhas might not have the big five like Kruger but it has its own unique appeal. Less than 3 hours drive from Cape Town at the southernmost tip of Africa. You can explore the coastline or follow the hiking trails through the fynbos or just sit out on the deck of your chalet and finally finish that book you started reading weeks ago.
A visit to Agulhas wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the southernmost tip of Africa, which is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.
The other must do in the area is to visit the Cape Agulhas lighthouse which was built in 1848. Rather unfortunately the lighthouse was built from sandstone which doesn’t last very long when exposed to the elements. It has however undergone extensive renovation and is now open again and inside is a great museum with the history of the lighthouse and is well worth a visit. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not one for history and museums but tourism officer Maureen Fourie gave us a fabulously succinct history of the area and tour of the museum. Her passion for the area is palpable and she summed up the significance of where we were as she explained that when you stand at the southernmost tip looking south, “you have two oceans in front of you and over your shoulder, behind you, is AFRICA.”
Something I’ve never been able to do before and which I would recommend is climbing up to the top of the lighthouse. To get to the top you ascend three very steep wooden ladders that creek and groan followed by an even steeper final steel ladder, the walls of the tower close in around you. Emerging through a heavy hatch at the top you are treated to a 360 degree view of Cape Agulhas and if you look closely, you can even see the bulb that is responsible for helping so many ships navigate safely past this treacherous piece of coast.
If you’ve never been to Agulhas, or like me, have been but never had the chance to go up the lighthouse then why not plan a trip to southernmost tip of Africa. And whether it’s a weekend away or part of a longer Garden route road trip you can rest up in the serenity of Agulhas National Park.
by Pauline Alexander, photos by Rory Alexander
It’s so interesting to ponder just what things signify ‘home’ – an incandescent sabi star, a group of kudu staring you down through a veil of thicket, recognising that impala are indeed different from springbok or Mr Chameleon pointing us North.
Dawn overlooking the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers makes your heart leap. The Shashe’s sands are markedly pink and the Limpopo is indeed green and greasy and set about with fever trees. Tales of gold from across the river on the mount of Mapungubwe turn our thoughts to our own majestic place of stones and wonder at their place in that early trade with the East.
Plus ca change, plus la meme at Beitbridge, but not even an encounter with state ‘crime’ can stop our hearts from lifting as we gaze out at the landscape of dwalas and trees, the bare swept earth around the huts and the anticipation and activity of the many bus stops. The one big difference is that it is now, indubitably, the Great North Road. Not ‘great’ in the sense of wide and worthy, but ‘great’ in the visibly increased (more…)