The Cape of Good Hope – Southwest Point in Africa

The Cape of Good Hope is the sadness and joy of sailors. SOUTH AFRICA

Let’s say right away that the Cape of Good Hope is not the southernmost point of Africa. But it is definitely the most famous on its entire southern coast.

During the Age of Discovery (since the late 15th century) ships sailed around the continent for the first time changing course heading east towards the Indian Ocean here. That’s why people thought this cape was the most southerly.

Since then, science has stepped forward and clarified that, in fact, Cape of Needle, located 150 km to the southeast, should be considered the southern point of the continent. And the Cape of Good Hope carries the honorary title of the most southwestern point of the African continent.

Cape of Good Hope on the map

  • Geographical coordinates -34.357890, 18.475453
  • Approximately 1340 km from Pretoria, the capital of South Africa
  • Distance to the nearest international airport in Cape Town (around 45 km).

South Africa has three capitals. Pretoria is the official capital of the state. But the parliament is in Cape Town and the supreme court is in Bloemfontein. These cities are also called capitals. The reason is that at the beginning of its formation South Africa was a confederation of three territories: the Republic of South Africa (Pretoria), the British possessions (Cape Town) and a country with the rather exotic name of the Orange Free State (Bloemfontein). In forming South Africa, it was decided to distribute the authorities evenly among these cities.

Cape of Storms or Cape of Good Hope

Let us return, however, to the Cape of Good Hope. It was originally called the Cape of Storms. And for a reason. The history of the name is as follows: Europeans were looking for a sea route to India. For this purpose, in the middle of the last millennium, an expedition set off from Portugal. And in 1488, Captain Bartolomeo Dias sailed around this cape for the first time. But these guys did not manage to get to India, as the crew got tired and revolted.

Dias was forced to turn back. On the way back, a storm raged near the cape. The ship and its crew were badly battered. The sailor did not have to invent an original name, calling the rocky ledge simply Cape Storm. A little later, King João II of Portugal decided to rename it the Cape of Good Hope, rightly believing that such a name would not only not scare away other sailors, but also give them hope for the speedy completion of the journey.

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The king’s initiative paid off. Already in 1497 Vasco da Gama had paved the way from the Old World to India. The expedition was successful, and since then this rocky promontory has been firmly cemented by the name of the Cape of Good Hope. Many sailors began to use this route.

Yes, of course, sailors’ souls were filled with hope on the approach to the cape, because most of the half of the route was behind. Joy spread over the faces of the crew. But no matter how amazing and mesmerizing the view of the Cape of Good Hope is, it is quite dangerous for sailors. Storms and gales are quite normal for the area. Until now, in the surrounding waters can be seen about three dozen sunken ships.

The first lighthouse at the Cape of Good Hope

To facilitate navigation in 1857 built a lighthouse 238 meters above sea level. But it turned out to be too high and sometimes clouds and fog covered it completely.

Cape of Good Hope Lighthouse

The second lighthouse on the Cape

After another shipwreck in 1911, it was decided to move the lighthouse. From 1913 to 1919, the lighthouse was built in a different location and not as high. The new lighthouse is only 87 meters above sea level. But it is visible from a distance of over 60 km. It is the most powerful lighthouse on the entire southern coast of Africa. Since then, the sea route in the Cape area has become much safer.

Cape of Good Hope Lighthouse

There’s an interesting misunderstanding. In fact, ships passing from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean circle Cape Point, which is a little further away. But it is the Cape of Good Hope that enjoys worldwide fame.

Beyond Cape Point sits the cozy bay of Falls Bay, similar to Hawaii’s Hanauma Bay. It has a beautiful beach, washed by the warm currents of the Indian Ocean.

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Great beaches on the border of two oceans, mesmerizing views of the surrounding area, variety of flora and fauna in the Cape of Good Hope area attract a huge number of tourists here.

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

Entrance to the reserve: R360 for adults and R180 for children from 2 to 11 years. Funicular: R85 for adults and R45 for children.

The Cape of Good Hope in Africa is associated with the Age of Discovery, the legend of the Flying Dutchman, endless storms and shipwrecks. The first European to reach this point of the globe was the Portuguese Bartolomeu Dias. The famous explorer came to the southern coast of Africa in 1488 trying to find his way to India. However, he never reached his destination and remembered the treacherous cape for ever, dubbing it the Cape of Storms. The name corresponds to the nature of the place, near which you can still find endless winds and powerful waves to this day. A dishonorable number of ships have been wrecked in this area.

Despite the fact that not everyone knows what country the Cape of Good Hope is in, this natural landmark does not suffer from a lack of tourists. In terms of popularity it can be compared only to Niagara Falls.

Cape of Good Hope

Where is the Cape of Good Hope

The picturesque cape is located on the Cape Peninsula off the southern coast of the African continent, about 60 km from Cape Town. Its absolute height is almost 250 meters above sea level. This is one of the highest coastal cliffs in the world.

Information that the Cape of Good Hope is the southernmost point of Africa, as well as the border between the cold Atlantic and warm Indian Oceans, is just a myth. In fact, 155 km further south is Cape Agulhas (Needle).

Most likely, the erroneous notion was formed due to the geographical maps of a small scale. On them, however, the cape looks like a tip.

Nearby, the coastline turns east for the first time, opening the way from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean. Just 45 meters to the east is Cape Point, another rocky promontory with a lighthouse called the Cape of Good Hope. Because of this, some tourists get confused. But right on the spot or by studying a detailed map, everything becomes clear.

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Cape of Good Hope

The name of the Cape of Good Hope

The question that interests many people is: why the Cape of Good Hope is so called? It got its current name thanks to the Portuguese King João II.

While traveling off the coast of Africa, Bartolomeu Dias invented many geographic names. But the gloomy phrase “Cabo Tormentoso” (“Cape of Storms” or “Cape of Storms”) did not appeal to João II. Realizing the importance of this point in the discovery of the sea route to India, the ruler came up with another name – “Cape of Good Hope”.

The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa was so important to Europeans in the 15th and 18th centuries that it was often referred to simply as the Cape (“Cabo” in Portuguese and “Cape” in English, etc.). Hence the name of the city of Cape Town, founded in 1652.

Photos of the Cape of Good Hope do not convey all the power of this place. It is worth seeing with your own eyes

Pictures of the Cape of Good Hope does not convey all the power of this place. It is worth seeing with your own eyes, © Nikolai Ryskin

History

School textbooks tell us that the Cape of Good Hope was first discovered by Bartolomeu Dias. But in reality, travelers had been here many centuries before him.

The oldest surviving evidence dates back to the sixth century B.C. At that time, a group sent by the Egyptian pharaoh Necho II sailed to the African continent. The wreckage of their ship was found in the area of the cape in the 19th century.

In the 2nd century BC, the Greek navigator Eudoxus of Cyzicus sailed to the coast of Africa while circumnavigating the globe. Many researchers point out that his ship went missing. However, the ancient Roman writer Pliny mentioned in one of his works that Eudoxus did reach his destination and returned home unharmed.

In 1459, the Venetian monk and cartographer Fra Mauro created a circular map of the world. On it, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans were linked, and the southern edge of African land was marked “Cape Diab.” Mauro explained to his contemporaries that he was guided by data provided by a “reliable source.” It is thought that it was this cartographic work that motivated the Portuguese to find their coveted passage to the Indian Ocean.

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Cape of Good Hope

Dias was officially the first person to sail around the Cape of Good Hope. His ships wandered for a long time in the Atlantic waters until they were caught in a terrible storm. The treacherous storm did not abate for days. When the waves finally calmed down, the navigator decided to head north. And so he reached the land that turned northeast. This was the seaway to India.

February 3, 1488 was the exact date on which the Cape of Good Hope was discovered to the European world.

Storm-weary sailors refused to move on. So Bartolomeu Dias never sailed to India. He yielded to the demands of the rebellious crew and turned back.

Vasco da Gama and the Cape of Good Hope are not often mentioned together. However, it was da Gama who, guided by Diasz’s notes, rounded the cape and reached the shores of India. This happened in 1497.

Cape of Good Hope

In the 1650s, Jan van Ribeck arrived in the Cape Peninsula. This man served as a colonial administrator. Thanks to his efforts a settlement was established, which provided the ships passing by with the necessary products and medical care.

At the end of the 17th century, the Huguenots (French Protestants) landed on the cape. In France, their religion was declared illegal and was persecuted. Many Huguenots fled to the far more tolerant of non-Christianism in the Netherlands. Some of these people were sent to the Cape of Good Hope as farmers. Thus the Cape Colony (as the first Dutch colony in southern Africa was called) expanded considerably.

At the turn of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the colony was occupied first by the French and then by the British. Only a century later, in 1910, was the independent Union of South Africa (today South Africa) formed.

After the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, sailing across the Cape of Good Hope to South Africa lost its relevance. Today it is primarily a tourist attraction.

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Cape of Good Hope

The legend of the Flying Dutchman

Bartolomeu Dias and the Cape of Good Hope are closely related not only by real historical facts, but also by many rumors, speculations and legends. The most famous among sailors is the legend of the Flying Dutchman, an eternal wanderer in the ocean.

According to legend, during the worst storm the sailor swore to the sea devil that he would wander the expanse of the ocean forever, if he could not get around the cursed cape. Because of the promise, or simply by coincidence, the waves pushed his ship into the right place. But 15 years later, Dias’s ship, which set off on a new expedition, was lost exactly at the Cape of Storms. The sailors were quick to piece together the facts. Some later swore that they had personally seen a ghost ship led by the Portuguese discoverer in the waters of South Africa.

Cape of Good Hope

How to get to the Cape of Good Hope

On the map, look for the Cape of Good Hope between the South Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. It is better to focus on the Cape Peninsula and the city of Cape Town.

On your own, the easiest way to the Cape of Good Hope from Cape Town is by renting a car. It will take you 1-1,5 hours (it depends on road conditions) to drive over 60 kilometers along M3 and M4 freeways.

There is also an option to use public transport. Every day at 8:30 and 13:00 from Green Market Square in Cape Town to Cape of Good Hope buses go “Cape Comoot”. The same buses leave back at 1:00pm and 5:15pm.

Those undertaking a trip to the Cape of Good Hope should remember that the natural landmark belongs to the reserve and has a certain opening hours. In warm seasons the passage is open from 6:00 to 18:00.

The most favorable in terms of tourism weather in South Africa is from October to March. The local climate is such that the coldest months are May, June, July and August. During this period the temperature rarely exceeds +20 degrees. The hottest month is January.

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