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March 18, 2013

The southernmost tip of Africa – just a few hours from Cape Town

The Indian and Atlantic oceans meet at Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. Photo courtesy of Ukslim

Drive south from Cape Town, as far as you can go, and you will end up at the tip of the African continent in a town called L'Agulhas, where centuries ago shipwrecked sailors created a home for themselves. Their heritage is still alive in the area today.

It is also here that the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet in a wild, stormy confluence. The trip to L'Agulhas takes about two hours from Cape Town and it is well worth the drive.

For many years the meeting point of the two oceans created much debate, with some saying the meeting place was at Cape Point, the most south-westerly tip of Africa. But according to the International Hydrographic Organisation (IHO), the meeting point is at L'Agulhas.

The IHO describes the western boundary of the Indian Ocean from the coast of the Antarctic continent northwards, along the meridian of 20°E to Cape Agulhas (34°50’S 20°00’E), the southern extremity of the Republic of South Africa.

Here you will find South Africa's second-oldest working lighthouse, built in 1848. You can climb the 71 steps to the top of the lighthouse and look out as far as the eye can see. Many ships sailing around the Cape, including the Arniston, were shipwrecked along this stormy coastline, and a few wrecks can still be seen today. 

The southern end of Africa is marked by a cairn, situated about a kilometre away from the lighthouse.

There is also evidence of beach nomads, the Khoikhoi, who lived along the coastline for centuries before European sailors discovered the Cape. Over the years stone hearths, pottery and middens have been discovered.

The Khoikhoi heritage lives on, with people still using fish traps created by the Khoikhoi.

The area is also a good place to spot southern right whales and Cape clawless otters.

In 1999 Agulhas was declared a national park.

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