Hiking in the Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain National Park
The Cape of Good Hope or Cape Point as it is more popularly known is probably one of the safest places to Hike in the greater Cape Town area. Both in terms of terrain, but also in terms of personal security. It does not have any intense scramble routes and because it is a fenced off section, unsavoury characters can’t just roam in. The area is still not to be underestimated in terms of general hiking safety issues. For instance it has very cold and windy days, even in the hotter summer months. The Cape Town CBD could be boiling whereas Cape Point could be experiencing “Antarctic” winds. This is mainly due to the South-Easter meeting the warm sandstone mountains along the False Bay coastline often resulting in dense fog along Judas Peak to Cape Point. Other hiking risks like broken ankles, snake bites and of course baboon raiding is possible, but if you are cautious it is nothing to worry about too much.
Below I will list some of the day hiking routes you can attempt in order of easiest to the more strenuous. I can recommend all three for a family hike or for beginners, however if it is your first hike.
- Shipwreck Circuit
Start: Olifantsbos Parking
Duration: 2-4 hours (depending on route)
The Shipwreck Hiking Trail in Cape Point will always be one of my favourite routes to hike. It is on predominantly flat terrain, which makes hiking easy, but this offers you an opportunity to spend more time focussing on your surrounds, rather that the terrain below your feet.
The trail starts in the Olifantsbos Parking area, which is located in the Western Side of the greater Cape of Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park. You have an option between hiking a 2-3 hour circuit or a 3-4 hour circuit which takes you past the Sirkelsvlei. I would recommend the latter. The trail offers a variety of endemic fynbos species like Staavi dodii, Serruria villosa and Gladiolus merianellus just to name a few. The area is also known for herds of Bontebok, Eland, Klipspringer and Ostriches who like to roam around. The Sirkelsvlei seems to also have a resident territorial Bontebok who seems to enjoy the green grass at the southern end of the vlei. Due to recent fires in the area the new vegetation growth attracts a lot of the grazing species so game viewing has increased.
The coastal section of the trail can be a bit tough on the legs, but it provides an oppportunity to view 2 shipwrecks which ran aground along the coast. The Thomas T Tucker and the Nolloth. Both were stranded on the rocks just off the beach. If you keep your eyes open you will also be able to spot a variety of coastal birds like the Endangered Cape Cormorant, African Oystercatchers and a variety of small plovers. Keep your eyes on the soft sand to find spoor of Cape Clawless Otters who move between the vegetation and the rocky shores during their feeding times, you might even be lucky to spot some.
- Gifkommetjie Circuit
Start: Gifkommetjie Parking
Duration: 2-3 hours
Difficulty: Easy to intermediate
This circular route is located along the circular drive inside the Cape of Good Hope. From the Parking area it follows along the ridge to the North while slowly making your way down the coast and the area known as the Hoek van Bobbejaan, aptly named as there always seems to be a troop of Baboons in the area. Look out for Rock dassies as you make your way along the ridge, they do favour the area for sun basking. When you get to the bottom you will then be able to follow the coast Southwards to the Gifkommetjie, a small bay just below the Parking bay where you started your hike. The name derives from a poisonous species of plant found along here. The medusas head, Euphorbia caput-mudusae is a small succulent growing along the sandy soils. The sandy walk can get a bit tough on the legs and although you may be tempted to try the rocky shores it is best to fight it out with the sand as it is the easier option. Shortly after you have made your way through some milkwood tunnels look out for the trail heading back up to the parking area. You will be able to spot the viewing platform at the top. The first few metres are quite sandy, but it then turns into a wooden boardwalk and then some stone steps to the top. Luckily the climb is not that high, so it won’t take too long to reach the top.
- Kanonkop Circuit
Start location: Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre
Duration: 2-3 hours
This hike starts and ends at the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre which is located roughly halfway to Cape Point, once you entered via the main gate. The visitor centre is worth a quick stop if you would like to get some more information about the area or just a bathroom break. The start of the hiking trail will lead you through some Monterey Cypress trees before heading across the dunes and northwards towards Kanonkop. Again this area is known for Bontebok and Eland who find shelter between the dunes. You will make a gradual ascend up towards the Kanonkop, while enjoying some spectacular views over False Bay. From Kanonkop you can way your way down towards Booi se skerm along the coast. A short walk up the tar road will lead you past a restored Lime Kiln which was used to produce lime for Simons Town. you can then either return to Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre via the tar road or take a short detour via Bordjiesrif picnic site and the Da Gama Navigational Beacon. Watch out for Baboons in the area as the troop along the picnic area is known for raiding. If you do encounter the troop, just ensure your food stuffs are well hidden in your backpacks.
If you have some free time after any of the hikes, stop by the Buffelsbay or Bordjiesrif Picnic sites to enjoy a swim or braai. Again be mindful of baboons. The picnic areas offer a very relaxed atmosphere as well as an opportunity to unwind after your hike.
There are a more trails on offer inside Cape Point (Cape of Good Hope), but these 3 are possible with one vehicle only and caters to the novice hiker.