Wide vistas, great depths and a silence broken only by the sound of the ferocious waves breaking on the rocks. The Cape of Good Hope was also called Storm Cape in 1488 by the explorer Bartolomeu Diaz. It doesn’t take much imagination to see why ships got into trouble so often here in the fifteenth century.
The history of Cape Town begins at the Cape of Good Hope. In the seventeenth century, increasing trade with Asia made this a strategic place to found a halfway station for ships to restock fresh supplies. Commissioned by the Dutch East India Company (VOC), the Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck went ashore at Table Bay in 1652 with ninety colonists. In time, a small hospital and repair yard were built at the Cape, with vegetable gardens and livestock farming being established later. Slowly but surely, the VOC expanded the settlement into a real colony. After the construction the Castle of Good Hope in 1679, the number of residents increased steadily, including former VOC employees, settlers, slaves and exiles. And thus were the roots of Cape Town laid down.
The drive from Cape Town to the Cape of Good Hope is stunning. The Cape is part of the Table Mountain National Park, a nature reserve with a great diversity of flora and fauna and a wide choice of wonderful hiking routes. This is a true paradise - especially for twitchers as it is home to more than 250 different species of birds. The entrance of the park is still approximately twelve kilometres from Cape Point, the most famous part of the Cape of Good Hope. This is an impressive cliff with a large platform affording striking vistas over the ocean.
It is also the location of an iconic lighthouse from 1859. The construction of this lighthouse was a bitter necessity: Visibility around the Cape can be pretty bad when foggy. At least 23 vessels have been shipwrecked here, including the legendary ghost ship De Vliegende Hollander (‘The Flying Dutchman’), which perished in 1641 and has since been doomed to forever continue sailing around the Cape. This ghostly apparition is said to still be visible during storms on the Cape.
Luckily, there is also a friendlier Flying Dutchman: The cable car which brings visitors from the car park up to the lighthouse, 249 metres above sea level. Between June and November, you’ll have a good chance of spotting whales from Cape Point. Also interesting are the shipwrecks which lie here. Various relics can still be seen from Olifantsbos Point and Buffels Bay.