Media Release: Despite its undisputed unique global geographical position, the Cape Agulhas lighthouse precinct, along with the southernmost tip of Africa, remains one of South Africa’s most untapped tourism destinations. It mostly remains on the periphery of tourism flows in the Western Cape Region.
A situation that SANParks, along with its key partners such as the Department of Environmental Affairs, Provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism and the local municipalities (Agulhas and Overstrand) , is going to change over the coming years. Starting with the completion of stunning 1km boardwalk that links the lighthouse precinct with the southern-most tip of Africa.
This particular project created 36 jobs and the total cost amounted to R2,25 million. The funding was secured from the Department of Economic Development and Tourism; Western Cape Government who was represented by Labeeqah Schuurman Chief Director: Tourism, Arts and Entertainment and Janine Davy Acting Director: Tourism Growth and Development.
The construction method of the boardwalk provided an opportunity to employ unskilled people from in and around the Agulhas area. Three teams were formed and received training in boardwalk construction, health and safety, chainsaw operation and first aid. Through the training and transfer of skills, individuals have been made more employable. With this particular project SANParks hopes to have the following impact:
Protect the sensitive area around the southern tip from indiscriminate walking
Make the area more accessible to visitors
Provide a visitor friendly tourist facility and a quality experience.
Attract more visitors to Agulhas National Park
And, extend the appeal of the park to local, regional and international visitors
”This is just the beginning. We all know that tourism plays a vital role in the economy of South Africa because of the number of jobs it can create in the absence of other large industry in an area. In order to unlock the precinct’s full tourism potential as well as focussing attention on the sensitive natural environment, we have to improve the area to international standards.
We have the product, however it is nowhere near the standards required internationally to increase visitor numbers substantially” said keynote speaker at the launch function, Professor Gerald Swan, chairman of the conservation and tourism committee of the SANParks Board of Directors.
“And that is why we are here today, not just for the launch of a boardwalk but to launch the completion of the first step of a massive infrastructure development plan that is going to take place in this area” explained Swan. The Cape Agulhas lighthouse gateway precinct area will host full public facilities (ablutions and parking), a lighthouse museum, heritage centre, restaurant, vendor stalls and information services with the Cape Agulhas lighthouse remaining the main icon of the area.
The precinct will contain most of the high density visitor services and activities required for any successful tourism destination. Funding to the value of almost R22 million has been secured and planning and design has commenced.
Already statutory requirements, such as an environmental impact assessment, have been completed and a record of decision was issued by the Department of Environmental Affairs. However more importantly a notice of intent to develop (NID) was approved by Heritage Western Cape. These statutory requirements took approximately 4-5 years to complete and building will commence in the later part of 2014.
It is intended that the development will create an impressive gateway with a sense of an arrival experience for visitors. The gateway will be an integrated complex, with buildings and other elements defining the public space, not as individual objects. Vehicular and pedestrian access between the lighthouse, the southern-most point, nearby peninsula and adjoining coast line in general will be formalised and unnecessary footpaths rehabilitated with indigenous/endemic vegetation, thereby reducing the dominance of the car over the pedestrian and the main approach to the site will no longer end in a car park. Road infrastructure has already commenced in other parts of the area such as the tarring of the road from Bredasdorp to Elim by the National Department of Public Works, Expended Public Works Programme (EPWP), they have also committed to tar Elim to Gansbaai thereby opening up the key East - West tourist linkage to the area. Moreover the Agulhas municipality has agreed that the road past the southern tip needs to be paved and calming measures introduced.
“We will be unlocking and celebrating the superb views with appropriate viewing decks with minimal blockage and we will be paying attention to the significant space between the lighthouse and the Point” said Swan. As a priority the proposed development will maintain an uninterrupted visual-spatial linkage between the lighthouse and the southern-most point of Africa. Confirmation has been received from the National Department of Tourism that as part of the precinct development plan, they will fund R12 million for the construction of a southern tip iconic structure.
The cultural and historical significance of the site will be enhanced and all buildings will be clearly zoned. All buildings will be background buildings and will not compete with the Cape Agulhas lighthouse. In addition, no inappropriate structures will be permitted between the escarpment and the southern-most point of Africa to retain the unique sense of place. We all know that the quiet and sensitive Southern tip of Africa’s inherent attributes ly in the sense of place with strong spiritual and emotional values rather than a dramatic scenic landscape point or tip.
Therefore consideration will be given to introduce a tourism orientated, annotated hiking trail between L’Agulhas Village ancient tidal fish traps, the lighthouse precinct, the peninsula’s southern-most point and the shipwreck sites nearby along the coast line.
Underpinning all of these developments will be to conserve the indigenous fauna and flora that makes Agulhas National Park so unique. These include the milkwoods, the grave well, the fish traps and the lighthouse.
In conclusion, Agulhas National Park is a developing park – over the past few years, infrastructure development included the upgrade of historical homesteads, establishment of a small rest camp and boardwalks, however SANParks is by no means finished. A further R17m will be invested in the park for the restoration of the historic Ratelrivier Homestead that acknowledges the deep history embedded in the area. It will become the tourism hub at the Western entrance and the aim is to build the longest boardwalk in Africa from the lighthouse along the Agulhas coast. The current rest camp will also be doubled over the next few years.
SANParks is determined to create a world class tourism node and will continue to invest in this park to realise that objective.
South African National Parks, Cape Region Communications
Tel: 021 712 2337
Regional Communications Manager: Cape Region
Tel: 021 689 4441; Cell: 072 627 3910