Cape Columbine Nature Reserve
The Cape Columbine Nature Reserve is situated near Vredenburg in the Western Cape Province of South Africa. It is a beautiful area and was declared a Nature Reserve in 1973. All along this beautiful coast grows the famous fynbos and the wildflowers cover the area with wild and wonderful colours and aromas. The reserve is known to have the last manually controlled lighthouse which was built in 1936 on Castle Rock.
|(Cape Columbine Lighthouse)|
|(Admiring the Spring Flowers along the Coast)|
The reserve also boasts one of the most beautiful stretches of pristine coastline which is home to dolphins and whales which attracts visitors from all over. The Cape Columbine Nature Reserve offers a variety of interesting and relaxing hiking trails and it is an experience you would not want to miss out on.
|(Unfortunately no access to the Lighthouse due to Covid 19 restrictions)|
Some interesting facts about the Cape Columbine Lighthouse:
- Candlepower 5 040 000 C.D.
- Character of Light One flash every 5 seconds
- Installation Date 01 October 1936
- Range 32 sea miles
- Structure 15-metre white square masonry tower with red painted lantern house
- Type of Light Revolving electric
- Other features Fog signal and radio beacon
|(One of many coastal roads to explore and enjoy, each with its own unique bay)|
|(Some local history of the marine environment and Lighthouses)|
|(Private and tranquil little bays along the coastal road for picnics and some swimming)|
Before the lighthouse was erected in 1936, the coastline between Saldanha Bay and Stompneus Bay was infamous for shipwrecks. The list includes that of The Haddon Hall (1913), the Lisboa (1910), the SS St. Lawrence (1876) and of course the Columbine (1829). The Lighthouse was named after the British wooden ship which was wrecked just 1.5 km north of where it stands today. The Cape Columbine Lighthouse is now usually the first South African lighthouse to be seen by ships travelling from Europe.
|(So many Spring Flowers and in some sections we had carpets of flowers, Coastal Fygies)|
|(A juvenile Jackal Buzzard, up close for a change)|
|(Carpets of yellow daisies south of the Lighthouse, the colours so vivid against the ocean )|
The lighthouse stands on a massive granite boulder called Castle Rock and is one of the last manned lighthouses built in the country and the last significant project of the famed Harry Claude Cooper. The Cape Columbine Lighthouse still has a full-time Light-keeper and although it still does its job of lighting up the West Coast, it has also become a favourite attraction to visitors of the Nature Reserve as well as a popular picnic site. It is one of only four lighthouses that offer overnight accommodation, the others being the Cape St Blaize (Mossel Bay), Danger Point (Gansbaai) and Great Fish Point (Port Alfred).
|(The Famous Tietiesbaai, and you can see why pristine beaches and a perfect bay for some camping)|
|(Jacobsbaai, on a gloomy morning, the main Harbour)|
|(The main entrance to the Quaint but growing coastal town)|
Having visited Cape Columbine before, but outside of the spring flower season, the area was dusty and dry, with your typical west coast fynbos scrub in drab colours.
How different it was when we returned in September 2021, the coastline covered in magnificent spring blossoms. Cape Columbine has never featured on any flower routes, so it was most pleasant to explore this area now carpeted in spring flowers. What made our stay even more special was how quiet this stretch of coastline was. None of the traffic jams and people jostling for a photograph amongst the daisies.
|(Typical Sandstone boulders along the coast littered with wonderful Spring Flowers)|
|(Cape Penduline Tit, a new lifer for me, very happy indeed)|
|(We loved exploring the narrow winding coastal roads, each one had its own unique surprise)|
Tripping through the fields of spring flowers, we were pleasantly surprised with the picturesque coastline, impressed by the colossal lighthouse structure and ever so grateful for the beautiful country we call home.
Unique flowers we high on our program; we hoped to capture some fresh floral landscapes and some birding along the coast. Captivated by the beauty of this nature reserve, we look forward to returning next year with our camping gear at hand. Unfortunately, this reserve needs more than a morning to enjoy and explore the coastline; besides, we could not enjoy the workings and history of the famous Columbine Lighthouse as it was closed due to Covid 19 restrictions.
We look forward to next years spring flower season when we return to this beautiful area.
For an authentic lighthouse overnight experience, visitors can try one of the few self-catering cottages on-site at the Cape Columbine Lighthouse. The cottages sleep between 2 and 6 people and the cost ranges between R600 and R900 per unit per night. The nature reserve also offers a few campsites where visitors can stay over if the camping experience is what you looking for.
Things to do and see
Curios & Memorabilia on Sale
Swimming pool & Jungle Gyms
Camping & Self-catering Accommodation
Entrance fees are approximately, at the time of writing this article: Adult R19 and children R13. Prices are subject to change, please contact the tourism office directly to confirm all prices.
Cape Columbine Lighthouse Address:
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, West Coast Peninsula
Western Cape, South Africa
32° 49′ 39.932″ S, 17° 51′ 20.178″ E
work: +27 21 449 2400
work: +27 22 752 2705
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm
|(Fararia Crispa, one of the most elegant Spring Flowers along the coast)|
|(Northern view of the Famous Cape Columbine Lighthouse)|
|(Giant girdled lizard, my first sighting of this rare “Sungazer”)|
The last manned lighthouse built on the South African coast
Article received from: “The Cape Odyssey”
Cape Columbine, a majestic headland on the Cape’s West Coast, is a mere two-hour drive from Cape Town. It is situated in the Tietiesbaai nature Reserve, almost 5 km from the picturesque little fishing village of Paternoster.
|(Poppy field just before Jacobsbaai)|
|(wind-still and picture-perfect, prefrontal clouds and flower abound)|
|(Ruddy Turnstone in breeding plumage, we found loads of them on the shore line)|
Paternoster is well known for its crayfish and other seafood delights and reputedly derives its name from the thanksgiving prayers of shipwrecked Portuguese mariners. Early maps consistently record the place name as ‘St Martins Paternoster.’ Cape Columbine owes its name to the British wooden snow ‘Columbine’ which was wrecked in 1829, 1,5km north of the lighthouse.
|(Spring flowers season, it was special this year due to the good rain in winter)|
|(Black Harrier hunting in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve)|
|(So many places to explore and enjoy the great outdoors)|
Prior to the installation of the Cape Columbine lighthouse, the coastline was the burial ground of several ships. In 1876 the iron steam troopship SS Saint Lawrence was wrecked on Great Paternoster Point. Bound for Cape Town she was carrying the 2nd Battalion of the 3rd Buffs. No lives were lost. Other ships to meet their demise in this region were: the Portuguese twin-screw mail-steamer SS Lisboa (1910), SS Haddon Hall (1913), SS Malmesbury (1930) and the SS Haleric which floundered off Cape St Martin (1932).
Urban legend has it that the SS Lisboa was laden with a large quantity of red wine, which stained the sea. Fortunately, a large number of unscathed barrels which washed ashore were buried by the locals and retrieved much later after exasperated custom officials had finally returned home!
|(We were searching for new flower species and this location did not disappoint)|
|(The magical Spring Floral display)|
|(Nesting Crowned Plover, harassed by local Pied Crows)|
The provision of a lighthouse on this piece of coast lay in abeyance for many years. The Lighthouse commission of 1906 recognised that Cape Columbine would be a suitable location for a lighthouse. Dassen Island and Pelican Point at Walvis Bay, however, appeared at the time to be more urgent. It took thirty years and much debate before the construction of a lighthouse at Cape Columbine got the nod – much to the relief of the local fishing community.
|(We managed to get some great Drone footage from this angle of the Columbine Lighthouse)|
|(Large-billed Lark early one morning singing away, oh what a pleasure )|
|(Two juvenile Yellow-billed Kites)|
Around the turn of the twentieth century, Harry Claude Lee Cooper was appointed as an engineer in charge of lighthouses. Columbine was the last lighthouse H.C. Cooper designed. He decided on the site known to the locals as Castle Rock, a massive granite outcrop a few hundred meters from the sea. The design of the Cape Columbine lighthouse was quite different from the conventional tapered circular tower. His design was a slightly tapered square tower with the outer faces of the walls recessed, thereby forming heavy buttresses on the four corners. The building is painted white while the lantern is red.
|(Grey-Tit with a juicy meal)|
|(We managed to add ten new flowers to our list)|
Columbine was the first lighthouse to receive all three navigational safety features, ie, a light, a fog signal and a radio beacon. The optical apparatus, supplied by Messrs Chance Brothers, was the first lens system designed for use with a 4kW incandescent electric lamp on the South African Coast. All prior installations had been designed for wick or petroleum vapour burners.
Thirty years had elapsed since the lighthouse commissions’ report and navigators and every person from the Berg River mouth, Vredenburg, and Saldanha Bay waited anxiously for the Columbine light to become a reality. They watched with anticipation as machinery and equipment were transported over the rough countryside to the rocky prominence.
The moment of glory eventually arrived on the 1st of October 1936. As the sun extinguished itself on the Atlantic horizon, Mrs H.C. Cooper set in motion the impressive lens. Two brilliant white beams penetrated the evening air over the formidable Britannia reef.
|(Juvenile Jackal Buzzard )|
|(This must be the largest poppy field we have seen to date in the Western Cape)|
|(The level of detail in the flowers we encountered was truly spectacular)|
Visit Simon’s excellent website about Lighthouses on the South African coast
Webmaster’s Note: My appreciation to Mr Gabriel Athiros, editor of “The Cape Odyssey”, for permission to publish this article. “The Cape Odyssey” is a must for everyone who enjoys reading and learning about the colourful and fascinating history of the Cape.