Agulhas National Park

Agulhas National Park

The newly established Agulhas National Park is located in the southernmost tip of Africa. The park, with first portion proclaimed in 1999, was established specifically to conserve  the lowland fynbos vegetation types and the important wetlands of on the Agulhas plains in the Cape Floristic Region.

The Park  also includes important cultural-historical artefacts and many national heritage sites, such as the historic Cape Agulhas Lighthouse, which has been in operation since 1849.

Geographical extremes capture the imagination. From ancient mariners to contemporary mankind, the quest has always been to reach the poles, sail around the tips of continents, conquer the highest peaks and dive to the ultimate depths. This is the same spirit that captivated the explorers of yesteryear who braved one of the most challenging sea crossings of their time: the Atlantic-Indian Ocean crossing via Cape Agulhas. As the southern-most tip of Africa, it has always had its mysteries and adventure, and still captures the imagination of contemporary explorers.

Amongst the mysteries associated with this region, is the legendary 'Cape of Storms' which wrecked many ships en route to the east via Cape Agulhas. Ancient people also left their mark on the landscape. For example, archaeological middens remind contemporary man of a successful hunter-gathering culture that was in harmony with its natural environment; and a cultural heritage that dates back thousands of years to when the Khoi-khoi people trapped fish using ingeniously constructed tidal traps. This windswept, ruggedly beautiful coastal plain at the southern-most tip of Africa, with its rich cultural and natural heritage, has recently been proclaimed as the Agulhas National Park.

There are several small towns in the area encompassed by Agulhas, but no park run camps as yet.


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Agulhas National Park

The Agulhas area has several attractions, which draw tourists to its shores each year. The nearby towns L’Agulhas and Struisbaai offer several water sports such as swimming and angling. Within the confines of the developing national park, tourists can enjoy the following places of interest:

The southern-most of Africa – The official position of the tip is 34° 49’ 58" south and 20° 00’ 12’’ east. A cairn marks the tip’s exact location. It is at this longitudinal point that the Atlantic and Indian oceans officially meet.
The lighthouse at Cape Agulhas – The lighthouse was built to aid the early explorers on their passage of the rough seas off Cape Agulhas. Seventy-one steps lead up to the top of the second oldest working lighthouse in southern Africa. Stone mined from the adjacent limestone quarry provided the raw materials for its construction. The building also houses a unique lighthouse museum. Remains of ancient stone fish traps used by the Khoisan people can be seen to the east of the lighthouse.
Graveyard of ships – The Zoetendal, Birkenhead and Armiston are some of the many shipwrecks found along the Agulhas coastline. Showpieces from these shipwrecks are on display at the Bredasdorp Shipwreck museum. Visitors to the are can still see the remains of the Meisho Maru 38 wreck on the shores of Cape Agulhas.
Fynbos – The Agulhas Plain has great diversity of flora. The Agulhas area contains representatives of unique vegetation such as limestone fynbos. Although most species bloom between May and September, there are flowers to be enjoyed in any season.

Activities
Visit the southernmost tip of Africa, the official position being S 34° 49’ 58" E  20° 00’ 12’’ .
Visit the unique Lighthouse Museum, the only one on the African continent.
View the shipwreck and fish traps. See the remains of the tuna trawler, the Meisho Maru 38, and visit the shipwreck Museum in Bredasdorp. Enquire about the fish traps at Rasperpunt.
Explore the fynbos on the Agulhas Plain with its great diversity of indigenous flora, and unique vegetation such as limestone fynbos.
Swimming and angling activities in the nearby Town of Struisbaai.
Go birdwatching; the park has exceptional birdlife, including endangered avifauna such as the African Black Oystercatcher and the vulnerable  Stanley´s Bustards. Bird lovers will also enjoy driving along the Struisbaai-Elim road where birds congregate in large flocks on wetlands and in salt pans.

How to get there
Cape Agalhus is approximately 230 km from Cape Town and 260 km from Mossel bay. It can be accessed via the N2 route , turning off at Caledon and taking the R316 through Napier to Bredasdorp when coming from Cape Town. From east, leave the N2 near Swellendam taking the R319 and pass through to get to Cape Agulhas.

Accommodation
The park is currently in a developmental and expanding phase with visitor and roads infrastructure soon to be constructed and commissioned.

The above presentation of the park, is a contribution from © SANParks.org 2004-2009.