Before we get into a lengthy debate, the tip of Africa is not the southern most point of the Cape. Confused? I was. But it’s fairly simple. Cape Agulhas, also known as L’Agulhas, is the southern most tip of Africa – believe it or not it does lie further south than Cape Town.
Whilst Cape Point, that glorious piece of land that juts out into the sea where two oceans meet, is the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula, often puzzlingly referred to as the south-western tip of Africa (which is probably where the confusion originates).
And the two oceans. Do they in fact meet at the Cape of Good Hope? Officially, the Atlantic and Indian oceans join where the warm water Agulhas current meets the cold water Benguela current and turns back on itself. The exact point is roughly one kilometre east of the Cape of Good Hope.
So, yes this beautiful peninsular can lay claim to this bit of fame – hence the restaurant that sits perched on the cliffs overlooking the sea, just below the famous lighthouse, at the very tip of the peninsular, called the Two Oceans Restaurant …
I always forget when visiting Cape Point, which lies within the Cape Point Nature Reserve and is managed by SANParks, to leave the greater part of a day to visit. Arriving at lunch time leaves you no time to take in the spectacular scenery. And we chose what has to go down in history as one of the most perfect days – no wind, not too hot, and off peak season (October / November is a good time of year to go).
There is so much to do and see en route to the reserve alone that you could probably take longer if you are a tourist, overnighting somewhere like Simon’s Town to make sure you are at the gates to the reserve bright and early, having already taken in places like Boulders Beach, Simon’s Town and Scarborough the day before (even that’s a tall order).
It might be but a narrow finger of land that juts out into the sea, but there is such a diversity of fauna, flora and beautiful nooks and crannies that an afternoon does not do it justice. Just the little bays and beaches, down to which you need walk, are some of the most beautiful in Cape Town, and certainly one of the best kept secrets.
As we drive through the gate, I am saddened at the lack of access the reserve has for those who can’t manage the R80 per adult entrance fee (most South Africans). The beauty of the space hits you as you pass beneath the boom where the sea already rises to meet you. There is something majestic about this part of the Cape.
Ravenous, we soon find a table at the Two Oceans Restaurant, after driving along the peninsular, the sea on both sides of us. The views alone are worth paying for at the restaurant, although if you don’t want to vie for your food with a local gang of redwing starlings then you might prefer a seat inside the restaurant.
We don’t yet know that starlings will steal, on average, three potato chips right from the hand of my surprised son by the end of the meal when we arrive, so we head to a table at the edge of the enclosed verandah, jubilant at its position with views right over the bay.
But the starlings are hardly worth mentioning once we’re infront of our famed Seafood Platter for Two, the restaurant’s signature dish apparently featured on the Travel Channel by the Beeb (BBC). Just an aside: if you do order this dish, let your whole family feast on it as there is enough food for four (even though Russell, our waiter, swears that some individuals consume the entire dish on their own, in one sitting).
The Two Oceans Seafood Platter includes a crayfish, four queen prawns, 200g of calamari (that our five-year old son quickly laid claim to, ignoring the fish and chips on his plate), four half shelled mussels and 250g fresh fish fillets, served with a seafood curry and rice. It might not sound like a lot, but it’s a feast.
The curry, which comes in a little potjie pot in the centre of the platter, was sensational and the line fish (a bluenose bass, which SASSI battled to identify as a sustainably fished fish or not when I smsd them) cooked to perfection. It was also difficult to finish, particularly as we had started with a haloumi cheese and avocado salad – a disappointment as I had to actively search for the two tiny pieces of fig preserve in the more-lettuce-than-substance salad – not great when it goes for R80.
The service was excellent, even if Russell thought we were foreigners – not an altogether strange assumption to make given that most tables were filled with people from other countries – and French, German, Japanese and Dutch rent the air as we ate our food with relish.
Our meal finished and the views enjoyed, we made our way to the funicular, called the Flying Dutchman. We usually walk the steep climb to the top. But why walk when you can ‘fly’, even if walking off our lunch would have been the healthier option.
The effortless views whilst taking the ride up to the Cape Point lighthouse (or just below it) were worth it. As was the experience of riding the first cable-drawn railway system in Africa. And it isn’t named after Wagner’s opera of the same name, but a ship that got into a spot of bother during a storm around the Cape of Storms below.
Which, in hindsight, might be the source of the opera after all, but I stand to be corrected.
There is much to explore at the lighthouse, and in the original lighthouse keepers’ stone cottages, which today function as a site for the Global Atmosphere Watch to document and understand the changes in the chemical and physical characteristics of the atmosphere – in other words, to monitor global warming.
These measures are carried out here because within the nature reserve there is minimal human influence, whilst the prevailing winds come in from the sea.
Known as the Cape Point Weather Station, it monitors the chemical composition and solar radiation of the earth’s atmosphere, helping scientists understand climate change.
And if science or museums fail to grab your attention, then there are walks from here – one down to Dias Beach where there were whales in the bay, and another known as the Lighthouse keepers trail – a one and a half hour return walk. There are obviously a myriad other walks within the reserve too – this is a hiker’s paradise.
On our way out of the reserve, we stop to photograph some of the flowers growing on the roadside. They are waxy like paper, and the restios are a golden red, offsetting the predominance of rocks in the reserve. The light is perfect and the day drawing to a close. How lucky we are to have all of this on our doorstep.
- Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
- Things to Do in Cape Town
- Accommodation in Cape Town
- Visit the Cape Point Lighthouse
To make sure that you eat sustainable fish in any local restaurant, simply sms the type of fish you’re considering to SASSI’s hotline – 079 499 8795 – and they’ll let you know whether its status is green, orange or red.
Restaurant: +27 (0)21 780-9200
Reservations: +27 (0)21 702-0703