Agulhas for 8
“I wish we could stay for a week,” sighs my friend Heather. We have just arrived at Lagoon House in Agulhas National Park for a weekend and already we are wondering how we can extend our time here. How suspicious would the boss be if we called in sick on Monday?
Situated at the tip of a small peninsula known as Pietie se Punt to the locals, Lagoon House looks out onto the rocky shoreline and somewhat temperamental sea beyond. This is shipwreck country, some 140 vessels having run aground near the southern-most tip of Africa, but for the time being the water is glassy and still, the sky streaked with wispy clouds.
We open the large wooden door that fronts onto the shore and look out onto the sea in all directions. “I’ve heard that during spring tide the waves come right up to the walls,” another mate, Chris, says. With water lapping around on all sides it must feel as if you’re on an island, out at sea. This is to be our kingdom for the weekend. No other houses in sight, no people around, only the roar of the surf and us, four couples looking for quiet time after a busy week.
We all agree Lagoon House couldn’t be more perfect for our needs. With two double bedrooms inside the house and a further two twin rooms with their own entrances and en-suite bathrooms adjoining it, the accommodation offers privacy for grown-up groups no longer keen on bunking down together.
The well-equipped kitchen has an enormous hearth, a reminder that the house dates back to 1898. In the lounge blue-and-white couches and a flat-screen TV invite you to put your feet up, but our attention is drawn to the picture windows. At Agulhas the sea and sky are half the show.
The weather is idyllic, but it wouldn’t be a blow if it turned. What could be better than sitting inside and watching the waves crash on the rocks, rain lashing the windows? Someone wonders aloud if we shouldn’t make a booking for winter.
This is an ideal spot for a group holidaying together because there is so much right on your doorstep, there’s no need to get in the car. Have you ever tried getting eight people ready to leave the house at the same time? It’s not a recipe for relaxation. From Lagoon House there is lots to do, giving us the freedom to follow our own timetables.
While we sit on the deck sipping cold drinks, a pair of endangered black oystercatchers stalk the rocky shelves. The rockpools along the Agulhas coastline are microcosms of life. Anemones in jewel-like colours, tiny hermit crabs and klipvis darting between the rocks. There’s no knowing what you might find in these pools. I recall a friend telling me how, while exploring around these parts some years previously, an octopus attached itself to his leg. A close encounter I imagine was equally unnerving for both parties.
Not far from the house, tucked behind a dune, lies the lagoon, an aquamarine shimmer against a crescent of sand. We set off with flippers and goggles, curious to see what lurks below the surface. The water temperature is somewhere between bracing and refreshing. Some decide to brave it while the rest of us inspect the treasures on the beach, delicately coloured shells and whole sea cucumbers.
Three versions of the Two Oceans Hiking Trail depart from the rest camp nearby. The shortest option takes an hour; the full 10.5km route, up to five hours. A detailed trail booklet points out noteworthy sights: a Khoi kitchen, stands of threatened lemon buchu, a viewpoint of the place where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.
About five kilometres up the road is the Agulhas lighthouse, the second oldest working one in South Africa and home to an informative museum. It’s a steep climb up wooden steps to the top, a little nerve-wracking if you don’t have a head for heights, but the view is well worth it. A new boardwalk leads from the lighthouse to the town’s main attraction, the cairn that marks the southernmost tip of the continent.
If you don’t mind driving, there’s plenty more to see. You can visit the historic town of Elim, all white-washed houses and thatched roofs, go wine-tasting at one of the wineries in the area or take a horse ride along the beach. The gate into the park is manned until late, so you can even go to town for dinner in the evening.
But we decide these things would have to wait. Lagoon House is where we want to be. It’s not every day you find yourself in an isolated kingdom with your best friends by your side.
Rate: R2 750 a night for one to six people or R3 430 for eight adults, which is not quite R430 each.
Contact: SANParks Central Reservations 012-428-9111
Source: Wild Magazine