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June 09, 2010

The Flying Dutchman flies again at Cape Point


The Flying Dutchman at Cape Point. Photo: Ingrid Sinclair

On Tuesday, June 8, Cape Point Partnership – consisting of Thebe Tourism Group, Tolcon Group and South African National Parks (SANParks) – unveiled a new and improved Flying Dutchman funicular at Cape Point. Named after the legendary ghost ship that is said to haunt our shores, this incarnation of that ill-fated 17th-century vessel has none of the bad luck but all of the adventurous spirit of its namesake.

The funicular, which was upgraded with a new body, a new computer system, new batteries and a state-of-the-art solar-powered system at a cost of R6-million, now boasts bigger windows, new seats and safer brakes. It still transports visitors from the car park up a steep slope to just below the lighthouse. It is more environmentally friendly and much quieter.

Members of the media, tour operators, SANParks representatives and key delegates from Thebe Tourism Group and Tolcon absorbed the views and feasted on a champagne breakfast at Cape Point’s 200-seater Two Oceans Restaurant, while enjoying the sounds of the restaurant’s staff choir. The choir, all of whom wore their Bafana Bafana shirts, had written their own songs for the day and each song dealt with an aspect of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, which kicks off tomorrow.

Speaking at the launch, SANParks Head of Communications Wanda Mkutshulwa praised the work that the Cape Point Partnership has done since 2003. “We appreciate the good work that is done here,” she said. “Most key for us is reputation-building, so thank you very much. We look forward to many more years working together.”

She further encouraged the partnership by pointing out that their ventures – which draw and continue to impress many tourists – are “paying for [South Africa’s] biodiversity”, important work considering SANParks’ large portfolio of 19 parks, not all of which are profitable.

Mkutshulwa also observed that “the new Flying Dutchman is looking much sexier than the old one!”

Head of the Department for Economic Development and Tourism in the Western Cape, Solly Fourie, also spoke about the economic value of corporate partnerships that see “tourism as an [economic] strategy for the province” and emphasised the role that the False Bay coastline has to play in this strategy.

two oceans restaurant

The Two Oceans Restaurant’s newly covered patio with an unbeatable view. Photo courtesy Ingrid Sinclair

After breakfast, the attendees watched as the new Flying Dutchman was wetted with JC Le Roux sparkling wine, and then it was off for a trip to the top. The funicular comfortably carries 30 passengers every three minutes in each direction. At the summit, Cape Town’s Masiphumelele High School choir performed traditional songs and entertained the captivated audience despite chilly conditions.

The new funicular is one of many improvements to this area of the Table Mountain National Park, which include a bigger parking area, an upgrade of the information area, three curio shops, an awning over the restaurant’s patio (making it more comfortable during winter months) and an overall improvement of other facilities.

Pointing out that the legend of the Flying Dutchman had been immortalised in paintings and in Richard Wagner’s opera of the same name, Head of Thebe Tourism Inbound Heather Gutierrez was proud to announce that “the Flying Dutchman flies once more”. Gutierrez also reiterated Cape Point Partnership’s continued support of SANParks’ environmental initiatives and sustainability drives.

Cape Point Partnership Managing Director Judy van Es enthused about the proudly South African Cape Point facilities. “We’re very excited to showcase this natural jewel of South Africa, and this is such an exhilarating time for the country. This does not qualify as work,” she joked. “It is a blessing to be part of a World Heritage Site such as this one.”

“We are providing skills for local people and we are proud to be representing South Africa. This is an environment that has so much to offer, in such a powerful province, it’s pristine – it’s magic.”

The legend
(Information kindly provided by Cape Point Partnership)

The Flying Dutchman is the name of a ghostly galleon that supposedly sailed in Cape waters during the mid-17th century, under the captaincy of Dutchman Hendrik van der Decken. On a fateful trip around Cape Point, the Flying Dutchman encountered very heavy weather; the ship’s sails were soon shredded by the wind, and her decks pounded by enormous Cape rollers.

Legend has it that Van der Decken’s crew begged the captain to turn around and seek shelter from the tempest, but he refused, and, lashing himself to the ship’s wheel, vowed to round Cape Point, even if it took him until Doomsday!

Van der Decken did, indeed, round Cape Point that night, but he and his crew were subsequently doomed to sail these waters forever more.

Over the past three-and-a-half centuries a ghostly sailing ship, that glows red in the night, has been sighted by a number of mariners.

Those who have seen her say she lets down row-boats that approach with ghostly men aboard, desperately seeking a Good Samaritan to take letters from them back home, where they haven’t been for more than three centuries. But those who entertain these approaches are doomed…

Visit www.capepoint.co.za for more on Cape Point. 

Flying Dutchman top station

The Flying Dutchman departs from the top station. Photo courtesy Cape Point Partnership

View from Cape Point

The view from the top. Photo Ingrid Sinclair

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