Great Fish Point Lighthouse
If you should ever make your way to the mouth of the Great Fish River in the Eastern Cape and hear about ‘the short, red-headed fellow in the tuxedo’, don’t assume the locals have gone mad.
They’re probably talking about the Great Fish Point lighthouse, which, at a height of only 9m, is one of South Africa’s most diminutive working lighthouses. It has a cheerfully bright red dome and is painted in distinctive black-and-white stripes – hence mention of a tuxedo.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Great Fish Point lighthouse optics have an identical twin: Cape Leeuwin lighthouse in Western Australia.
The lighthouse is, however, built on a hillock 76m above sea level and thus has an excellent view over the Indian Ocean. It is one of only four lighthouses in South Africa to offer on-site accommodation, in the form of two cottages than can sleep a total of 12 people.
A campsite is also in the process of being established. (The other lighthouses in South Africa where you can stay are at Danger Point in Gansbaai, Cape St Blaize in Mossel Bay and Cape Columbine on the West Coast.)
Nearby is the seaside holiday town of Port Alfred, with its string of forever-stretching world-class beaches, marina, flight school and golf course. The popular resort location is packed during vacation time.
The Great Fish Point lighthouse staff has traditionally been very tourist-friendly since the lighthouse’s construction in 1898. The light-keepers and their families have always been a part of the Port Alfred community, sending their children to local schools and entertaining all visitors at the lighthouse on weekends.
Back in the 1800s, ships had to be warned about the presence of three shallow reefs to the north-east of the lighthouse location. These undersea outcrops have taken a number of victims, including an iron schooner called the Waterloo (1848), the steamer SS Kilbrennan (1907) and the SS Caribou in 1928.
In June 1998, a ‘rekindling of the light’ ceremony was held at the Great Fish Point lighthouse to commemorate a century of light-keeping – and to commit to another century of service.
Today, however, the Great Fish Point lighthouse is fully automated and monitored from Port Elizabeth. No matter – a revolving light still flashes out to ships at sea once every 10 seconds, come rain or shine …