Agulhas National Park

Agulhas National Park - Southern Africa : The Agulhas National Park is located on the Agulhas Plain of the Overberg region. The park covers part of the coastal plain between Gansbaai and Struisbaai. The park is continuously growing as land becomes available for conservation and is over 20 000 ha.

The Agulhas National Park is located on the Agulhas Plain of the Overberg region. The park covers part of the coastal plain between Gansbaai and Struisbaai. The park is continuously growing as land becomes available for conservation and is over 20 000 ha.

The primary tourist attraction at present is Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. This is the official meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. The Agulhas lighthouse, the second-oldest and southern-most lighthouse in South Africa, includes a small museum and tearoom.

The Agulhas Plain contains over 2000 plant species, including over 100 endemics and 110 threatened Red List species. Although much bigger in size it is on par with the Table Mountain National Park, and the Kogelberg, Cedarberg and Groot Winterhoek Wilderness Areas.

Various vegetation types occur in this area. Elim Laterite Fynbos is among the rarest, containing the rare Elim and Lax Conebushes.
Agulhas Limestone Fynbos is found on the Bredasdorp Formation limestones, and support the Limestone Pagoda, Limestone Sugarbush, Limestone Conebush and Fergusons Watsonia.
Also prominent, but far more extensive are Agulhas Sandstone Fynbos of the mountains, with Proteoid, Restioid and Daisy Fynbos communities, and Hangklip Sand Fynbos on the coastline.

The Agulhas Plain is unique for its wide variety of wetlands, from rivers, to lagoons, salt pans and freshwater vleis. Consequently there is a high diversity of wetland plants, aquatic invertebrates and wetland birds. Estimates are over 21 000 migrant and resident wetland birds annually, including breeding Damara Terns. The Springfield Saltpans are visited by Lesser and Greater Flamingo, Chestnutband Plover, Little Stint, Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, and even Eurasian Curlew and Red Knot. The Zoetendalsvlei and Nuwerjaars River sport African Rail, African Purple Swamphen and Black Crake. Raptors include Lanner Falcon, Yellowbill Kite, African Harrierhawk, African Marsh Harrier, Martial Eagle, Booted Eagle, African Fisheagle, and Steppe , Jackal and Forest Buzzard.

Fynbos hosts Cape Sugarbird and Orangebreast Sunbird, Strandveld the Southern Doublecollar Sunbird and Renosterveld hosts the highest numbers, including Denhams Bustard, Blue Crane, Secretarybird, with Southern Tchagra, Largebill Lark, Agulhas Clapper Lark, Agulhas Longbill Lark, Cloud Cisticola, Greyback Cisticola, Hottentot Buttonquail and Black Harrier.

The vast herds of Renosterveld game have been shot out. Too little is left to warrant trying to restore it. Some farmers are stocking game (Eland, Hartebeest, Bontebok and Cape Buffalo), and Hippo have been reintroduced into the river. Grysbuck can still be seen in Fynbos. Smaller mammals abound.

About 18 species of frogs occur, including the endangered Cape Platanna, Microfrog and Western Leopard Toad.

Freshwater fish include the Cape Kurper, several species of what was the Cape Galaxias and Nuwejaars Redfin Minnow - all threatened by degradation and alien fish, including Bass.

The coastline supports a rich marine and intertidal life, and the adjacent islands are home to a variety of seabirds and seals. Southern Right Whales rest and breed here from August to January. Cape Fur Seals, Dolphins and Porpoises can easily be seen.

The Agulhas Plain also has a rich cultural heritage, with significant archaeological sites, of stone hearths, pottery, shell middens, of San and Khoisan eras. Numerous shipwrecks of early explorers also occur, and the Cape Agulhas Lighthouse - in operation since 1849 - is a national monument.

The Agulhas Biodiversity Initiative (ABI) aims to minimise the further loss of threatened natural habitats on the Agulhas Plain. Local private landowners work together and pool their resources to conserve biodiversity, as well as tapping economic benefits such as responsible nature-based tourism and the sustainable harvesting of the natural veld. Through stewardship agreements with landowners (40%) and the expansion of the Agulhas National Park, some 37% of the region is legally conserved.

19 May 2015
Tony Rebelo