The Cape of Good Hope Natural Reserve has the smallest floral kingdom of all occupying only 0.04% of the planet's mainland, nevertheless it contains a number of endemisms greater than that of the rest of the gigantic floral kingdoms. of the world.
The Cape Floral Kingdom is located at the southern tip of Africa.
Botanists divide the world into six floral kingdoms based on the vegetables species that grow in each one. Five of the six kingdoms occupy entire continents and their adjacent islands. The vegetation of Eurasia and North America, for example, make up a single kingdom which covers almost the entire northern hemisphere; another covers Australia; a third covers the land of south-eastern Asia and the next two are found in South America and the greatest part of Africa.
The Cape Floral Kingdom, also called the Regional Endemisms Centre or Fynbos, is the smallest one of all, occupying only 0.04% of the planet’s land surface and yet it contains a greater number of endemisms than the rest of the gigantic floral kingdoms of the world. This floral kingdom borders the cold waters of the Atlantic to the west and the milder waters of the Indian Ocean to the east. The union of the two oceans and the advanced southern latitude result in a mild climate with an average temperature of almost 17 degrees Centigrade. The entire area is protected by a network of more than 20 preserves and national parks which are responsible for protecting a natural environment which is as much rich and endemic as it is unknown to most people.
The western coast of South Africa is bathed by currents from the Benguela which originates in the Antarctic Ocean. When it hits the Sub-Antarctic waters along its northerly course, it submerges beneath them until it has almost reached the continental mass of Africa where it is pushed upward, carrying with it a vast amount of nutrients.
The Cape of Good Hope marks the transition point for ships between the southern Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.
Although not the most southerly point on the continent, as it is often mistakenly considered, the Cape is a historic place. The first European to go around it by ship was the Portuguese Baltolomeu Días in 1487, marking the opening of the maritime route to the Orient. The poor weather conditions and the terrible danger of the ocean and its shallows for navigation led Días to baptise it the Cape of Storms, but King John II of Portugal, seeing the commercial importance of the new route which opened the way to the Indies, subsequently renamed it the Cape of Good Hope.
While the Cape in particular and the South African Coast in general are dangerous for navigation, for wildlife they are an authentic paradise.
The wealth of the union between the two oceans and the contribution of nutrients from the Benguela current produce an extraordinary biodiversity.
Here live sea bears, jackass penguins, sea birds, otters, the mountain zebra, baboons and chakmas or black papions and also endangered species such as the black-eyed parrot.
Despite the variety and importance of the different animal species which populate the entire region, in the Regional Endemisms Centre or Fynbos, plants are the real stars. While in the northern hemisphere, glaciations destroyed many vegetable species up to only 10,000 years ago, there have been no glaciations in this region in the last 115 million years. This climatic stability, together with the rough topology, have made possible the uninterrupted development and the exception richness of the vegetable life at Fynbos.
On 5 June 1998, World Environment Day, the idea proposed in 1929 by the South African Wildlife Society became a reality. President Nelson Mandela announced that the Cape peninsula would be converted into a national park. 30,000 hectares sheltering more than 2,285 plant species, 105 of which are endemic, and more animal endemisms than anywhere else, make this the most biologically diverse preserve in the world.
President Mandela called the new park South Africa’s gift to the Earth, and noted that while in prison on nearby Robben Island, the view of Table Mountain included in the Cape area, was a beacon of hope for him.
The national park on the Cape peninsula now protects the heart of the smallest and richest floral kingdom on the planet. For hundreds of unique species, endemic to this remote corner of the world, it has become, as it was for President Mandela, a beacon of hope guaranteeing survival for future generations.