The Legend of the Flying Dutchman, the Ghost Ship of the Cape

The Flying Dutchman
The Flying Dutchman | © Charles Temple/WikiCommons
Kerri-Ann Bevis

Appearing in Richard Wagner’s opera as a man searching for love, as a ship manned by octopus-faced Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean and even as a green spirit in the animation SpongeBob SquarePants, the Flying Dutchman is a popular maritime legend. But many people are not aware of how far this legend has sailed to enthral them.

Loved by over 40s

Beginning in a storm

Known for its terrible storms and treacherous outcrops of rock, The Cape of Good Hope in South Africa once had a far darker name: The Cape of Storms. This rocky peninsula, which juts out into the water, was the final resting place for many ships unfortunate enough to run afoul of this beautiful yet temperamental coast.

Cape of Good Hope

European trading ships heading to Asia would have to pass through this dangerous route, and one of the first people to journey around the southern coast of Africa was the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias. He was followed by Vasco da Gama, who was the first person to sail directly from Europe to India and, it is said, the first person to name this rocky headland ‘The Cape of Storms’. It is from here that the legend of the Flying Dutchman set sail.

Until Doomsday

The story behind of the Flying Dutchman begins in 1641 with a captain in the employment of the Dutch East India Company. Hendrik van der Decken and his crew were returning to Holland from the Far East when they, like all trade ships, had to risk the dangerous passage around The Cape of Good Hope.

Legend has it that, as van der Decken and his crew attempted to round the Cape, a storm began. The crew begged their captain not to sail into the storm, but he was determined to face the chaotic waters and screaming winds. Van der Decken vowed that he would sail around the Cape, even if it took him ‘until Doomsday’ to accomplish it. Some say that, at one point, an angel appeared to van der Decken, and the Dutch trader shot at his otherworldly visitor. With that, the ship’s fate was sealed.

Der fliegende Holländer

Ghostly visions and bad omens

The Flying Dutchman is said to appear as a ghostly, glowing ship. It will materialise suddenly and then, just as suddenly, vanish. Some claim the ship, doomed to sail the seas forever, will attempt to make contact with other travellers, and that seeing the Flying Dutchman is a sign of horrible misfortune to come.

Whether maritime superstition or true event, the Flying Dutchman continues to haunt the Cape and stories of the sea. Standing on the beach on South Africa’s southern coast, looking out into the swirling clouds and crashing waves, you may just catch a glimpse of a strange-looking ship desperate to get home.

culture trip left arrow
 culture trip brand logo

Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip

meet our Local Insider


women sitting on iceberg


2 years.


It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.


I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!

culture trip logo letter c
group posing for picture on iceberg
group posing for picture on iceberg

Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.

map of volcanic iceland trip destination points
culture trip brand logo
culture trip right arrow
landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.