To the Foot of Africa | 345km

Cape Point.

Hermanus

...is the heart of the popular Whale Route, and the town's 12-km-long Cliff Path offers one of the best shore-based whale-watching spots on your South African holiday. The southern right whales arrive in Walker Bay in June/July to calve and remain until November. Visitors are kept up to date about the latest whale sightings by the town's Whale Crier, the only one of his kind in the world. The coastline around Hermanus is characterised by numerous sheltered coves and bays, which are ideal for swimming and sunbathing.

Grotto Beach, at the town's eastern end, features a magnificent sandy beach. On the hills above the town, visitors can enjoy walking among the fynbos flora in the Fernkloof Nature Reserve, which has 40 km of hiking trails. Not to be missed is a visit to the craftmarket and the old stone harbour with its interesting museum, where you can listen to whale sounds transmitted from a sonar buoy offshore. From Hermanus to Gansbaai this tour follows the route through Stanford, De Kelders and Gansbaai.

Baardskeerdersbos

...is a quaint village with an intriguing name, which is literally translated as 'beard shaver's bush'. It was in fact named after a ten-legged arthropod known in English as a solifuge. The descriptive Afrikaans name, baardskeerder, refers to the mandibles of these spider-like creatures, which are reminiscent of the clippers used by barbers to cut hair and shave beards.

Elim

This picturesque mission village, with its rows of whitewashed thatched houses, was founded in 1824 by the Moravian Church. It was named after the biblical oasis, with its 12 springs and 70 palm trees, where the Israelites made their second stop after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15:27). The mission station and houses are exceptionally well preserved, and the entire village has been declared a national monument.

All the roads in the village lead to the gabled, thatched church, which features an 18th-century clock acquired in 1914 from a church in Herenhut, Germany, from where the Moravian missionaries originally came. The clock faces on both sides of the gable are connected by a rod and operate from a single set of works. Also of interest is the slave monument, the only monument in South Africa to commemorate the freeing of the slaves in 1834.

The old water mill at the bottom of the church grounds dates back to 1838, and is the biggest wooden water wheel in the country. At the Old Mill Tea Room, visitors can sample Elim's famous mosbolletjies (dough leavened with a ferment of must) and biscuits baked with stone-ground flour from the mill.

Struisbaai

Originally a fishing village, Struisbaai has become a popular coastal South African holiday resort and angling destination. The modest cottages at Hotagterklip serve as a reminder of the community's humble beginnings. The cottages, built about 90 years ago, feature thatched roofs, simple end gables and lime-washed walls. Struisbaai's main attraction is its 14-km-long beach, said to be the longest continuous stretch of sandy beach in the Southern Hemisphere, which offers safe swimming.

Cape Agulhas

The early Portuguese navigators named Africa's southernmost tip Cabo das Agulhas, or Cape of Needles, after noticing that their compass needles showed little magnetic deviation and pointed almost due north when passing this point. The dangers of this treacherous coastline prompted the construction of a beacon to warn mariners to stay clear.

The original Agulhas lighthouse, commissioned on 1 March 1849, stood 27 m in height and was built from limestone in the style of the ancient Pharos lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt. After 117 years' service, it was replaced by a new lighthouse commissioned in 1966. Appropriately, the old lighthouse has served as the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse Museum since 1994. The only one of its kind in Africa, the museum provides an account of the development of lighthouses through the ages and the history of the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse in particular.

Also on display are lenses, lanterns, gas burners and foghorns. About 1 km west of the lighthouse, the southernmost tip of Africa (34 49' 58' south and 20 00' 12' east) is marked by a cairn and plaque. L'Aghulhas is the southernmost town in Africa, and is a popular holiday destination, especially during the summer months.

Agulhas National Park

This national park was proclaimed in 1999, primarily to protect the rich diversity of fynbos plant species occurring on the Agulhas Plain, the unique system of wetlands and their associated fauna, the scenic coastline and the rich cultural heritage of the area. The Agulhas Plain has approximately 2 000 species of indigenous plants, including 100 endemics. The initial core of the park includes Africa's southernmost point and the 97-ha area around the lighthouse.

Planners envisage the enlargement of the park to 20 000 ha, stretching from near Quoin Point in the west to Agulhas in the east, and including the Soetanysberg and associated wetland habitats. This will be done by purchasing key properties and acquiring state-owned land, and by managing part of the park on a contractual basis. Plans for the future include an environmental education centre, an upgraded museum and interpretive centre and a network of nature trails.

De Mond Nature Reserve

The focal point of this reserve, which stretches for approximately 9 km along the coast between Struisbaai and Waenhuiskrans, is the mouth of the Heuningnes River. Covering 954 ha of shifting sand dunes, dune and limestone fynbos, salt marshes and tidal flats, the reserve offers good birding possibilities. It is one of only two known breeding sites of the endangered Damara tern (Sterna balaenerum) enjoying protection in South Africa.

The rare black oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini), South Africa's second most threatened coastal bird, can also be seen here. Picnic facilities are provided, and visitors can explore the reserve along the 7-km-long Sterna Trail.

Waenhuiskrans (Arniston)

...is named after the enormous cave carved by the sea into the cliffs near the village. Large enough to hold several ox wagons, the name is translated as 'coach-house cliff'. The popular seaside village is also widely known as Arniston after the British troopship Arniston, which ran aground in Marcus Bay on 30 May 1815, with the loss of 372 lives.

The picturesque South African holiday village of Kassiesbaai is characterised by its thatched cottages with whitewashed walls and kitchen chimneys, which are typical of the fishing villages built along the Cape coast in the early 1900s. The entire village of 84 cottages has been declared a national monument.

Bredasdorp

...the centre of the surrounding wheat and sheep farming district, was established in 1838 by Michiel van Breda. The highlight for visitors is the Shipwreck Museum, which houses a fascinating display of figureheads, cannons, coins, porcelain, ships' bells and other artefacts recovered from the many vessels wrecked along the Overberg coast. The adjacent old coach house contains an interesting collection of Cape carts, a Scotch cart (a two-wheel tip cart drawn by horses or oxen), two horse-drawn hearses and an old fire engine.

The Old Parsonage is a typical strandveld house, and has been furnished with articles salvaged along the coast. The Audrey Blignault Room, at the tourism bureau, is dedicated to the Afrikaans author, who was born in Bredasdorp. The bureau also has an interesting display on the Foot of Africa Marathon, the continent's southernmost marathon. South of Bredasdorp, the 800-ha Heuningberg Nature Reserve provides protection to over 300 plant species, including eight of the 14 genera of the protea family, a rich diversity of ericas, buchu and geophytes.

Among the over 36 endemics to be seen are the Bredasdorp lily (Cyrtanthus guthrieae) and a pincushion(Leucospermum heterophyllum). There are many short walks, as well as two longer routes of 2,5 and 3 hours, respectively.

Napier

Lying at the foot of the Soetmuis and Bredasdorp hills, amid the rolling wheat and barley fields of the Overberg, Napier has retained an old-world charm. The town developed around the Dutch Reformed Church, built in 1838 after a dispute over where the church should be built. The dispute was not resolved, resulting in two churches: one in Napier, the other in Bredasdorp.

Napier's has a beautiful teak wood interior. The adjacent Feeshuis 150, one of the oldest buildings in the village, served as slave quarters and later as wine cellars in the 19th century. A number of artists have settled in Napier, and their studios and workshops can be visited by following the Napier Village Route.

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