The countdown clock for the end of our nationwide lockdown has started and hopefully, things will return to some degree of normality soon, but with social distancing rules still in place, here’s a couple of great places around Cape Town that’s perfect to keep your distance from the rest of the world and get great photographs too.
From unspoiled beaches with shipwrecks and lighthouses to places you most likely never heard of, here’s our top list of isolated places perfect for social distancing.
A scenic walk along the coast to a shipwreck is surely one of my favorite things to do. Not only is it far away from the crowds…
the scenery is overwhelmingly beautiful!
You certainly wouldn’t have any trouble abiding by the two-meter rule here, if someone else did happen to be walking by, you’d see them coming a mile away.
The SS Kakapo is situated towards the Kommetjie side of Noordhoek beach and takes about 45 minutes to reach. You’ll find the shipwreck lying high and dry. This colossal steamship was on her way to Sydney when she ran ashore on 25 May 1900. A north-westerly gale had picked up and, with visibility impaired by driving rain, the captain mistook Chapman’s Peak for Cape Point and ordered ‘hard to port, full steam ahead’. Instead of sailing into False Bay the boat smacked straight into the beach. The boiler, rudders, and ribs can still be seen sticking out of the sand and makes for interesting photographs with Chapman’s Peak as a backdrop.
The Shipwreck Trail in the Cape of Good Hope Nature reserve will take you along unspoiled beaches to the shipwreck of the Thomas T Tucker, an American Liberty ship that ran aground on Cape Point in 1942 on her maiden voyage and the shipwreck of the Nolloth. The SS Thomas T. Tucker is possibly the most photographed wreck at Cape Point, and the birdlife that has taken up residence on the hull of the old ship makes for great photo opportunities. From here you can head back the same way, or take the steep path up to the plateau. The pristine landscape and rock formations sculpture by eons of strong winds are complimented with uninterrupted panoramic views across the Atlantic.
But if walking is not for you, take a drive south to the tip of the African continent and the atmospheric shipwreck of the Meisho Maru at Cape Agulhas. This Japanese fishing vessel sank in 1982 along this notoriously dangerous coastline and is one of my favorite shipwrecks to photograph.
A Light in the Dark
There is something special about these coastal beacons we call lighthouses. They fascinate us with the historic stories as well as their beautiful,
and often a lonely location that makes them the perfect place to avoid other people during the coronavirus lockdown
For the lighthouse lovers out there, here’s a list of my favorite lighthouses to photograph:
Slangkop Lighthouse in Kommetjie is South Africa’s tallest cast-iron Victorian-style lighthouse and lies in a marine protected area of the Table Mountain National Park. At 34 meters the lighthouse is a giant, and one of our most photogenic lighthouses.
The lighthouse at Cape Hangklip is on the eastern entrance to False Bay and is far remoter than you would expect. Reaching it requires a drive through pretty little Pringle Bay, down a long dirt road, and finally a fairly long walk where the fynbos gives way to sand dunes, and the sand dunes give way to the beach and the beach gives way to a tower of light.
Danger Point lighthouse was built on a treacherous coastline where seven ships sank before the lighthouse was erected in 1895. The HMS Birkenhead, where the saying “woman and children first” became known as the Birkenhead drill, when the captain ordered the men on board to stand fast to allow all the women and children to occupy the lifeboats first. Around 445 of the approximately 643 passengers perished, but because of the courage of the soldiers, all the women and children survived.
The lighthouse at Cape Agulhas was built in 1848 and is the second oldest working lighthouse in South Africa and a national monument. It has stood watch for over 150 years as a maritime chaperone over the most southern tip of Africa where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.
Hidden amid the sand dunes of Macassar, lies the derelict remains of the Macassar Beach Pavilion — an abandoned water park overlooking the sea. Built in 1991, the park was once a popular beach resort that attracted hundreds of families from the Cape Flats. After a string of financial mishaps, the water park was abandoned — left to the mercy of the harsh South-Easter winds and shifting sand dunes. Sand engulfed the once vibrant buildings and inside the window panes are bare, the walls are scrawled with graffiti, and around every corner is another interesting photograph to be taken. Most Capetonians never even heard of this deserted site and that makes it perfect for social distancing.
Another ideal location for social distancing would be Cape Town’s Forgotten Zoo (or the “lost zoo” as known to locals) It is situated just below Rhodes Memorial and was originally established as Cecil John Rhodes’s private zoo. The zoo was closed in the late 1970s, and only the lion’s den remains intact today, while remnants of other former enclosures can be found if you look carefully.
Go with the Flow
There’s a number of walking trails within the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens, but for me, the Leopard’s Kloof Trail is particularly beautiful, and a relatively easy morning walk that takes you alongside a series of tumultuous waterfalls. The scenery is tranquil and mesmerizing. The perfect location to practice slow shutter speed photography of moving water. Leopard’s Kloof trail is that place that reminds you of the beauty we have available to us in so many ways in South Africa, and how lucky we are.
Trees of Theewaters
Travel over the scenic Sir Lowry’s Pass and Viljoen’s Pass to Theewaterskloof Dam. It is a large, sprawling, remarkably unround dam with parts that look almost surreal. A forest of dead trees emerges from the water with immensely beautiful mountains as a backdrop. These magical trees, often with roots sticking out of the ground like monsters waiting to crawl away- make spectacular subjects to photograph.
A Lust for Rust
Feed your lust for rust at a fascinating secret collection of vintage and classic cars. The Wijnland Auto Museum offers an amazing setting for interesting photographs with many unique compositions, in colour, in black and white, in close-up or not. It’s easy to get lost photographing these beauties, some completely rusted away, some with beautiful detail, some without wheels or headlights, some with broken windows, some neglected beyond repair.
Do it for the Birds
The Strandfontein Sewerage Works is one of Cape Town’s best kept secrets amongst photographers as it is one of the best places for bird photography and a brilliant location for social distancing, obviously…
The main attraction is usually the flamingos, but there are dozens of water and wild fowls as well. Photography is done from the comfort of your vehicle, making it ideal for “self-isolation”
This Way to the Bay
False Bay stretches from Cape Point in the south to Cape Hangklip in the east, and the landscape and seascape photographer willing to explore some of the hidden away beaches and coves, sometimes with icing-sugar white sand, sometimes with jagged rocks, will be rewarded with fantastic photographs time and time again.
Enjoy a brilliant sunrise on the picturesque stretch of coastline from the breathtakingly beautiful Smitswinkel Bay all the way past Simon’s Town, Glencairn, Fishhoek, Kalkbay, St. James up to Muizenberg with its colorful beach huts. From here you can photograph the splendor of a golden sunset as you travel east along the Cape Flats towards Gordon’s Bay till you reach Clarence Drive, one of the most scenically beautiful roads in South Africa, known as the “Golden Mile” among landscape photographers. A photo stop at Kogel Bay at sunset is always very rewarding, and with Cape Town just over an hour away, you are sure to have the beach all for yourself.
Cape Town is a photographer’s paradise with lots of well-concealed secret places and treasures beckoning to be photographed, revealed only to those prepared to take the time to explore and wander off the beaten track, far away from the crowds…
… it is now the time to start planning all the places you would like to “get to” once you can “get out” again.
I hope this list will inspire you to dust off your camera and get going once the coast is clear…