It’s great to be back on the road again! After some time in Cape Town restocking and reconnecting with friends and family, we’re off again – between now and Christmas, Thandi and I will visit the southern Cape and Karoo areas of South Africa – Agulhas National Park, De Hoop Nature Reserve, Bontebok National Park, Karoo National Park, Gamkaberg Nature Reserve, and then Garden Route National Park (which is now an amalgamation of Tsitsikamma, Knysna and Wilderness) and finally Kogelberg near Cape Town!.
This week we are in Agulhas National Park, which is at the southern-most tip of Africa! In fact, this is the newest national park in the country, proclaimed in the late 1990s, and the first piece of land to be conserved was the two hectares around the famous lighthouse (which is the second-oldest in South Africa, operational since 1849).
The main reason for conserving this land is the presence of intact fynbos – specifically lowland and limetone fynbos consisting of more than 2 000 species in 20 000 hectares! Botanists get really excited about this, but for us folk on the street, it’s enough to know that these two types of fynbos are rare and endangered, and form an integral part of the larger Cape Floristic Region – the smallest and richest plant kingdom on earth, per square kilometre.
The park is also planning a marine protected area, which will hopefully conserve a sizeable patch of the adjacent ocean, which is highly productive and ecologically abundant (it’s the meeting point of not only the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, but also of the warm Agulhas current and the cool Benguela current).
The park is now 21 000 hectares in size – and every piece of park land was bought from farmers in the area. It’s a place of deep history with lots of shipwrecks (from the late 1600s to present time – some still hide treasure in their hulls, according to park manager Ettienne Fourie).
There are archaeological remains of huge shell collections, left over thousands of years by the original strandloper people who lived here (‘strandloper’ means ‘beach wanderer’ in Afrikaans). They lived off the vast amount of shell fish in the tidal pools, and were drawn to the fresh water springs that run from the dunes onto the beaches. Life must have been pretty good here…it still is!
Park manager Ettienne Fourie told me how it’s still a mystery as to who the first person was to navigate the southern tip of Africa. Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias’ journey was the first RECORDED navigation, but Ettienne poses a theory that the Vikings or the Chinese may have been the first. The ancient stone fish traps which are found along the shoreline here are very similar in design to the ones in Scandinavia, while some of the beads that are found among the archaeological remains are Chinese in origin. Who knows, but chances are it probably wasn’t the Portuguese who first rounded the southern-most tip of Africa. It may even have been a local Khoisan…
We are staying at the Agulhas Rest Camp, which is just to the west of Cape Agulhas. It is beautiful! There are 8 wooden chalets with views of the southern Atlantic Ocean. Read Thandi’s blog to get a better idea of what it’s like to stay here!
Tonight the wind is howling – as it usually does! Apparently, Agulhas has the highest average wind speeds in the country (even more than Cape Town – no mean feat!). The moon is almost full. Clouds are moving across its milky face. The ocean is dappled light green. The ocean is booming. The fynbos is pungent with spring smells. And I’m happy to be here! My camera and I are best friends again…here are some photos from today, and also from my previous visit to the park.
Once again, thanks a million times to my sponsors for making Year in the Wild possible…especially Ford, Evosat (who let me upload my blogs from ANYWHERE in the wild!), Total (who have helped me with fuel costs), Goodyear Tyres, Frontrunner 4×4 Technology, National Luna (their fridge keeps our beers and wors cold!), Vodacom (who let me make calls and upload my blog via a modem), K-Way and Cape Union Mart (who keep me and Thandi warm and dry when the weather ain’t ideal) and Conqueror Trailers.
Thanks again to my sponsors for making it all possible. CapeNature, South African National Parks, Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, Eastern Cape Parks, iSimangaliso Wetland Park, Ford, Total, Evosat, Conqueror Trailers, Vodacom, Digicape, Lacie, Frontrunner, K-Way, EeziAwn, National Luna, Nokia , Goodyear, Global Fleet Sales, Hetzner and Clearstream Consulting.