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It took several shipwrecks and lost lives before a lighthouse was finally erected on the treacherous Danger Point Peninsula in Gansbaai in 1895.
Even after the famous wreck of the Birkenhead, which claimed 440 souls, it would still take another 43 years. But building a lighthouse in those days was no small task.
Heavy parts had to be carted in from Cape Town by ox-wagon along narrow mountain passes and rutted trails.
Climbing to the top of this 18,3m tall octagonal lighthouse, which is today open to visitors, reveals marvelous 360 degree views over the ocean, the hinterland and the peninsula. The beam, which flashes 3 times every 40 seconds, can be seen approximately 25 miles out to sea and is a fitting reminder of the many souls that were extinguished along this perilous coast.
Standing sentinel over the Southernmost Tip of Africa, the lighthouse at Cape Agulhas is not surprisingly one of the oldest in the country, and is today a national monument, housing Africa’s only lighthouse museum. The museum offers a fascinating graphic account of the development of lighthouses through the ages as well as a small rustic restaurant.
Owing to the notoriously hazardous coastline and its prolific wreckage of vessels, the government of the Cape Colony commissioned the construction of a lighthouse at Cape Agulhas in 1847. The light was lit for the first time on 1st March 1849.
The round tower is 27 metres (89 ft) high and sends out a beam of light that can be seen 30 nautical miles out to sea, flashing once every five seconds. The dizzying 71 steps to the top offer magnificent views of the wild, windswept landscape and the meeting point of the mighty Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
There is a cairn that marks the actual southernmost point of Africa. Many brave explorers and intrepid travelers have started and ended their epic journeys at this geographic extreme, including Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor on their epic motorbike adventure, the Long Way Down (during which time they stayed at Grootbos).
The Strandveld is the name given to the coastal region stretching around the Southern Tip of Africa, extending from Hermanus to Cape Infanta. This wild and solitary coast has been the undoing of hundreds of ill-fated ships, smashed against the jagged rocks by roaring winds and raging seas. The Strandveld Museum in Fraanskraal, 5km’s from Gansbaai, offers a rare glimpse into the fascinating history of this dramatically beautiful region
The historic mission settlement of Elim, situated inland of Gansbaai, was founded by Moravian missionaries in 1824 who valued its isolated location for its peaceful atmosphere and lack of worldly distractions. At the time, the region was very sparsely populated with no major settlements or villages. Their first priority was to build a church and a school. People came from far and wide to attend the weekly church services, which were often followed by reading and writing lessons at the school. These lessons were attended by children and adults alike, including labourers and slaves, for schooling was a rarity.
By 1854, there were 1241 residents. The population consisted mainly of farm labourers of Khoikhoi descent and freed slaves
Each family was allotted a free plot of land on which they could build their home.
Today, the village of Elim has retained much of its original character, with the majority of the 350 homes displaying the traditional white washed walls, thatched roof and reed ceilings. The church is still the dominant feature of the town while several other historical features have been well preserved and restored. The entire village has been declared a National Heritage Site and welcomes visitors to explore the quaint streets and enjoy the wholesome, country atmosphere.