Where oceans meet and sunken treasure frees the imagination
The thrill of adventure fuels the children as they sift through the fine beach sand. It’s New Year’s Day and they are on a mission. Scurrying past impressive shipwrecks, their eyes dart to glints of metal on the floor. Scatterings of bronze and silver along the shore confirm their suspicions that the Cape Agulhas coastline is full of treasure. Years later, Tirzah Atkins and her brothers realised what it really was – coins that partygoers dropped on the beach the night before. But in her childhood, the small change was big bounty.
As an adult, Atkins hasn’t lost her admiration for the Western Cape beach. “Each time I come here I get the same butterflies I did as a child,” she says. Her fascination began with the shipwrecks along the coastline – over 100 of them. Their folkloric association with pirates and treasure was more than enough to spark her budding imagination. The simple pleasures of the seaside brought uninhibited joy. “I used to fish in the rock pools, swim in the ocean, and collect shells on the beach,” Atkins says. Then she grew up and settled in Pretoria, where she was starved of the opportunity to be at sea. Eventually, Atkins moved back to her hometown of Bredasdorp, just a 30-minute drive away from Cape Agulhas. Getting back to that spot was the very first thing she wanted to do.
Near the meeting point of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, right at the southernmost tip of Africa, fallen vessels litter the coast. They’re a reminder of the tumultuous seas and maritime history of the area. For Atkins, this beach marks a return to childhood innocence, and the small but meaningful moments that made it special. “My life has changed so much since I was a child,” she says. “But every time I come here, I feel like I’m right where I belong.” For visitors young and old, there’s never been a better time to uncover the myriad treasures of Cape Agulhas.