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March 31, 2010

Hiding out on Dias Beach

dias beach

Dias Beach. Photo by Marie Viljoen

Limestone sporrie

This flower, endemic to the Cape southern peninsula, was identified by Dr Tony Rebelo as Heliophila cinerea. Its common name is limestone sporrie. Photo by Marie Viljoen

When my family first moved to Cape Town, good friends told us about Dias Beach. One morning, armed with picnic baskets, orange juice and Champagne, we went to find it. Back in those days, there was no boardwalk along the top of the cliff at Cape Point, nor orderly stairs all the way down the gully to the sand. We skidded, scrambled and slid our way to the bottom and arrived in a heap, the bubbly all shook up, but the picnic in one piece.

We returned many times and kept the same brunch menu: freshly baked scones with butter and jam, cold chipolata sausages with mustard for dipping, smoked salmon sandwiches with the crusts cut off, a Waldorf salad and Buck’s Fizz, starting a tradition. Simple, really.

Twenty years later, and the beach is still the same; empty. It features a wide white sweep of fine Cape sand, towering rock cliffs, cormorants skimming the water, and raging surf breaking from a cobalt-blue sea. This is no place to swim. Perhaps that is what keeps it free of the ubiquitous Cape Town crowds.
The walk down is steep and there are no handholds on the stairs, which is also possibly a deterrent.

I almost preferred the old slip ‘n slide method of getting there. But otherwise, this is one of the most impressive beaches I know of, anywhere in the world.

If you’re a plant lover, take the ample opportunities to photograph the area’s flora on the five-minute walk from the car park to the top of the cliff, or on the trudge down, or up.

Keep your eyes open for eland and ostrich near the top of the cliff, or try to see how many cormorants you can count as they head out to fish from the cliffs. I gave up at 234.

Where: Cape Point, to the right of the car park.
Access: Take the path then the boardwalk – it’s about fifteen minutes till you’re on the sand.
Entry: R60 per adult at the gate (or buy a Wild Card and enter for free. It’s worth it.)
Take: Swimsuit, sunblock, water, comfortable shoes and a picnic.

*Marie Viljoen is a garden designer and writer who travels between new York and Cape Town. You can visit her blog: www.66squarefeet.blogspot.com

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