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A marker at Cape Agulhas indicates the official dividing line between the Atlantic and Indian oceans.

Cape Agulhas (pronounced /əˈɡʌləs/, from Portuguese: Cabo das Agulhas "Cape of Needles") is on the geographic southern tip of Africa, and the official dividing point between the Atlantic and Indian oceans. (The actual division between the oceans is the point where the Agulhas current meets the Benguela current, which fluctuates seasonally, between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point.) Historically, the cape has been known to sailors as a major hazard on the traditional clipper route and is sometimes regarded as one of the great capes. It was most commonly known in English as Cape L'Agullas until the 20th century. The town of L'Agulhas is located near to the cape.



Map showing the location of Cape Agulhas relative to the Cape of Good Hope.

Cape Agulhas is the southernmost point in the continent of Africa. It is located at 34°50′00″S 20°00′09.15″E / 34.8333333°S 20.0025417°E / -34.8333333; 20.0025417Coordinates: 34°50′00″S 20°00′09.15″E / 34.8333333°S 20.0025417°E / -34.8333333; 20.0025417 in the Overberg region, 170 kilometres (105 mi) southeast of Cape Town. The cape was named by Portuguese navigators, who called it Cabo das AgulhasPortuguese for "Cape of Needles" — after noticing that around the year 1500 the direction of magnetic north coincided with true north in the region.[1] The cape is within the Cape Agulhas Local Municipality in the Overberg District of the Western Cape province of South Africa.[2] The cape is defined by the International Hydrographic Organization to be the official dividing point between the Indian and Atlantic oceans.[3]

South of Cape Agulhas the warm Agulhas Current that flows south along the east coast of Africa retroflects back into the Indian Ocean. While retroflecting, it pinches off large ocean eddies (Agulhas rings) that drift into the South Atlantic Ocean and take enormous amounts of heat and salt into the neighboring ocean. This mechanism constitutes one of the key elements in the global conveyor belt circulation of heat and salt.

Unlike its better-known relative, the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Agulhas is relatively unspectacular, consisting of a gradually curving coastline with a rocky beach. A survey marker indicates the location of the cape, which would otherwise be difficult to identify. The waters of the Agulhas Bank off the coast are quite shallow and are renowned as one of the best fishing grounds in South Africa.

The rocks that form Cape Agulhas belong to the Table Mountain Group, often loosely termed the Table Mountain sandstone. They are closely linked to the geological formations that are exposed in the spectacular cliffs of Table Mountain, Cape Point, and the Cape of Good Hope.

The climate is extremely mild, with no temperature or rainfall extremes. The average rainfall is 500mm per annum, mostly received in winter (unverified, as closest data is from Bredasdorp). Temperature climate data is available for Cape Agulhas, averages are:

  • Jan max: 23,8°C (min: 17,7°C); Jul max: 16,5°C (min: 10,8°C)

Shipping hazards

The lighthouse at Cape Agulhas has guided many ships around the cape over the years.

The sea off Cape Agulhas is notorious for winter storms and mammoth rogue waves, which can range up to 30 metres (100 ft) high[citation needed] and can sink even large ships. These conditions are caused by a number of factors. The naturally strong winds of the roaring forties, which blow from west to east, and the cold Antarctic Circumpolar Current flowing in the same direction, come up against the warmer Agulhas Current in the region of the cape. These conflicting currents of water of different densities, and the west winds blowing against the Agulhas Current, can create extremely hazardous wave conditions; these are further exacerbated by the shallow waters of the Agulhas Bank, a broad, shallow part of the continental shelf which juts 250 kilometres (155 mi) south from the cape, after which it falls steeply away to the abyssal plain.

These hazards have combined to make the cape notorious among sailors. The coast here is littered with wrecks: Arniston (1815), Cooranga (1964), Elise (1879), European (1877), Federal Lakes (1975), Geortyrder (1849), Gouritz (1981), and Gwendola (1968) are just a few of the vessels lost in the proximity of the "Cape of Needles."[4] Owing to the hazards and following the loss of several vessels, notably the Arniston, a lighthouse was built in 1848, this being only the second one to be built in the country.[5] The lighthouse now holds a museum and a small rustic restaurant.

Panorama from the lighthouse around the cape

See also


External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

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Cape Agulhas is the most southern tip of Africa. It is located in South Africa's Western Cape Province. It is not the most spectacular cape or the most popular with tourists, but as the Southern tip of Africa it still attracts a growing number of people each year.

The official location of the most southernly tip of the continent is 34°49'58" south and 20°00'12" east.

The coastline in the region is quite wild.
The coastline in the region is quite wild.

Get in

You can get there by car from Bredasdorp. You will reach Bredasdorp by travelling on the N2 highway, which runs from Cape Town along the east coast via the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth and taking the Caledon turnoff. It is about 100Km to Caledon and then another 100+ kilometers to Bredasdorp. All in all about 2 hours from Cape Town to Bredasdorp. The roads are good but narrow with a speed limit of 100km/h. Most of the inter City bus companies stop in Caledon. Alternatively, you can get there by a scenic gravel road from the fishing village of Gansbaai via the rural hamlet of Baardskeerdersbos and the Moravion mission village of Elim.

Get around

The Southern most tip of Africa is dominated by three towns. Arniston, Struisbaai and L’Agulhas. Whale watching in the spring is fascinating as are the spring flowers. Fishing, Scuba Diving, Surfing are great in this part of the world.

Don't forget the foot of Africa marathon held each year in October.

See & Do

Cape Agulhas is not as spectacular as the Cape Peninsula, but there are only few people and you can enjoy the lonely atmosphere far from all big cities. You might also see some whales.

In the town of Agulhas is also the second oldest lighthouse of the country.


The Kapula Candles factory in Bredasdorp is famous for its African style candles. Be sure to buy some for your friends and family!


You can eat great seafood at the Nostra Restaurant

  • Agulhas Country Lodge [1] is only three kilometres from the cape and has good views of the raging sea and some ship wrecks.
  • The De Hoop Nature Reserve is 70km away, but a very good spot to see some whales and to enjoy the beauty of nature.
  • Cape Town and its attractions are not too far.
  • The Garden Route in the east is very famous with tourists.
  • Danger Point Peninsula and its hinterland, concentrated around Gansbaai lies to the West of Cape Agulhas. Apart from its marine attractions, (boat-based whale watching and shark-cage diving)it has vast tracts of unspoilt fynbos in public and private reserves.
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Simple English

Cape Agulhas is the point in Africa which is farthest south. It is in the country of South Africa. It is near the town of Agulhas.


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