There's a certain magic about L'Agulhas, as though the magnetic pull of the ocean is stronger than elsewhere along this rugged and stormy coastline where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at the southernmost tip of Africa. The feeling of wild, windswept wilderness is enhanced by the many shipwrecks dotting the shoreline - silent testimony to the vast and diverse variety of people, plant and animal species that over the eons have been washed ashore here by gale-force winds and conflicting currents.
It's a fascinating village with a rich history that grabs you from the moment you round the legendary Spookdraai and spot the impressive signal-red and white Agulhas Lighthouse in the distance - still guarding the treacherous coastline that claimed many lives since the earliest Portuguese seafarers rounded this dangerous cape and dubbed it Golfo de Agulhas (Gulf of Needles).
Two theories hold that the name either refers to the jagged, slanting rocks that project from the surf offshore, like a thousand needles waiting to pierce the hull of any stray ship, or that a compass needle shows no deviation at this spot between true north and magnetic north and bores directly upon the true poles of the earth. The famous Agulhas Lighthouse was built here in 1848 in the Pharos style. After the Greenpoint Lighthouse in Cape Town (1824) it is the oldest working lighthouse in South Africa. Since 1994, it also houses the only lighthouse museum in Africa. The museum offers a fascinating graphic account of the development of lighthouses throughout the ages, as well as the history of the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse. The 71 steps to the top is a very steep climb and not recommended to anyone suffering from acrophobia (or a hangover)!
The less brave who also want to witness the 7,5 million candlepower beam shining far over the dark sea, can climb the koppie (hill) behind the lighthouse for a panoramic view of passing ships and the point where the two oceans merge. A beautiful coastal trail running past the cairn that marks the actual southernmost tip of Africa, is a popular tourist attraction where people queue to take photos for keepsakes or even get married! This ruggedly beautiful area has recently been proclaimed the Agulhas National Park and hosts more than 1 750 botanical species.
Wild Wilderness of Extreme Forces and Magic
The coastline supports a rich marine, bird and intertidal life with a combination of fynbos, wetland and coastal habitats that provide breeding sites for rare birds such as the African Black Oystercatcher. The islands around L'Agulhas are home to seabirds and seals and seasonal Southern Right Whales are a common sight along this coastline. Besides its ecological importance, the Agulhas area has a rich cultural heritage. The discovery of stone hearths and pottery, together with shell middens, link the archaeological deposits with the era of Khoisan migration and settlements.
In the shallow gullies near the Lighthouse, the remains of ancient fish traps (visvywers) - made by packing layers of rocks around the pools to trap the fish on the outgoing tide - can still be seen where the original Khoi-khoi inhabitants collected their fish. Some of these traps have been maintained through the centuries and are still used today. Come meet the locals at a variety of pubs, eateries and restaurants in the town or at the adjacent Struisbaai where the longest beach (24 km) in the Southern Hemisphere and the harbour teeming with stingray are the main attractions. A variety of guesthouses, backpackers and the newly built rest camp ensure ample accommodation for a diverse market of international and local travellers and tourists.
Explore the small, exquisite village of Suiderstrand just west of the southern tip, or embark on any of a number of coastal walks and hikes through the National Park where visitors are enchanted by superb views, pristine beaches, pebble bays, rock pools and a unique marine lagoon.
The southernmost tip of Africa holds a peculiar romantic attraction to people - as though the gale-force winds and nature's extremities have a magic pull that draws them to that mystical point where two magnificent oceans meet. Many couples choose this unique and turbulent Cape of Storms for a wedding venue or a sacred place to exchange their vows next to the cairn that marks the true southernmost tip of the African continent. The more brave even pledge everlasting love on the top of the Agulhas Lighthouse with the wild, windswept and wonderful wilderness around them their only witness.