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The Most Southern Tip of Africa: A Place of Continental Significance

30 March 2007

Mr Etienne Fourie,manager of the Agulhas National Park, was the guest speaker at a meeting of the Napier Discussion Group earlier this year. He was invited to talk on what is referred to as the “dynamics” of this, the southernmost and also the most recently proclaimed, South African National Park.

The park stretches over a area of 16,804 hectares and what makes it unique and really special, especially to the many foreign visitors who pass by Cape Agulhas every year, is the fact that it is situated “at the Southernmost tip of the African continent where the Atlantic and Indian oceans converge.”

Mr Fourie explained that for marketing purposes in particular, they have decided to focus on this fact, as well as on the park’s other unique and ever present landmark, the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse. This well known historically significant structure, will also be the focal point in the plans being drawn up by the architects and landscape artists who were instructed to design the complex which is planned for the terrain immediately surrounding the area referred to as the “Lighthouse precinct ”.

A growing park with it’s own distinct character.

Mr Fourie furthermore pointed out that the park was very much “a growing park” , as the process of acquisition and consolidation of land progresses. The park itself is situated in a area which is also of immense botanical importance because of the tremendous variety of indigenous shrubs and flowers. In an attempt to explain to some very English visitors who attended the talk together with their hosts, he meticulously explained the exact meaning of that very South African term “fynbos”! He went on to explain that the nature of the “fynbos” in a particular area is co-determined by the particular soil type which also varies tremendously within the boundaries of the park.

A fynbos- and marine-theme park.

“Visitors who come to the park, especially those from up north, want the sea.” This, Fourie explained, has been taken into consideration in the planning of accommodation facilities within the boundaries of the park. Taste also differs and therefore provision will definitely be made for different categories of visitors. Within the boundaries of the park, various historically significant sites have also been identified. Some of these old farmsteads will definitely be restored, developed and incorporated into the accommodation framework. As far as the building style of all new developments is concerned, he pointed out that the planners and architects will definitely “touch the earth lightly” and refrain from heavy structures. All structures and light fittings will have to blend with and not impact negatively upon the unique nature and natural beauty of the park.

Capturing the mystery surrounding Cape Agulhas

From a visitor’s point of view, compared to a visit to Cape Point, visiting the most southern tip of Africa, “ is more of a spiritual thing”. To illustrate this, Fourie asked the audience to tell him exactly who the first people were who either passed the tip or resided here.This was not possible!

In planning and developing this, South Africa’s most southern national park, this element of “mystery” will definitely be one of the main marketing strategies. He pointed out that structures similar to the fish middens which were constructed along the rocky shorelines by people who either lived here or passed by at some stage in history, have also been identified in Scandinavian countries. This fact links the Vickings of old, who are of Scandinavian European origin, to the most southern tip of Africa!

The advocates of this theory have it that it is possible that the Vicking seafarers of the 11th century might have been shipwrecked along the southern African shores and in their struggle to obtain fish from the sea, might even have been the original architects of the middens – a model later copied by local Khoi tribes ( Afrikaans: Strandlopers”) who frequented the sea shores around the most southern tip. It is generally believed that the Portuguese were the first seafarers of European origin who actually passed by the present Cape Agulhas! Some food for thought!

Operational projects

Fourie concluded with an overview of the various operational projects which deal with amongst others problems of alien vegetation in the park. As they are in essence dealing with mistakes made by past landowners which now have to be rectified, the rehabilitation of the area is not only very sensitive, but also an extremely slow and time consuming process. A number of teams are presently working within the boundaries of the park, removing alien vegetation and restoring what is generally referred to as “wetlands” areas. By law, they have to attend to both skills development and job creation projects. Many operational projects are therefore underway within the boundaries of the park.

Ora Laubscher (Southern Post/Suidernuus & Overberg Venster/Hermanus Times)



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