Cape Town - Kalk Bay

Kalk Bay

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Kalk Bay Harbour and village

On the western shores of the False Bay coastline between Muizenberg and Fish Hoek is a small village named Kalk Bay. The area was discovered by the Dutch after their arrival at the Cape in the 1650's as a place to collect lime. The area near the Kalk Bay point at the time was home to some large shell middens which the Dutch used in the production of lime (Kalk in Dutch).The Dutch named the area Kalk Baai (Lime Bay) which over the years has been anglocised to Kalk Bay.

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Kalk Bay Point where the lime middens were discovered

False bay and the southern Peninsula became very important to the Dutch in the 1740's when Simon van der Stel the then n new governor of the Cape decided that Simonsbay would be a good winter anchorage for the Dutch ships. Table Bay was prone to winter storms and over the years many Dutch ships and others were wrecked on the Table Bay coastline at a great cost to the Dutch.

After surveying the southern Peninsula firstly by land and then by sea Simon van der Stel ordered Dutch sea captains to anchor their ships in Simonsbay between the 15th of May and 15th of August each year. This proved to be a good move as many ships which might have been caught in the Cape's winter storms had safe anchorage in Simonstown where they had protection of the mountains which blocked the north winds which lashed the ships in Table Bay.

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Fish Hoek Bay with the mountains in the background that needed to be crossed by the Dutch in their ox wagons to get to Simonstown.

Moving the ships to Simonstown created logistical problems for the Dutch as they now had to move supplies from Cape Town to Simonstown over land by ox wagons. The mountains around the Fish Hoek bay and Glencairn were very steep and the quicksand in the Fish Hoek valley created almost insurmountable problems for the ox wagons. This caused the Dutch to look for a better solution to getting supplies to their ships in Simonsbay.

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Rowing boat crossing Fish Hoek Bay

The solution turned out to be Kalk Bay where there was a small natural harbour which could be utilised to land small craft in. The Dutch then instead of sending their ox wagons to Simonstown sent them to Kalk Bay where their supplies were loaded onto barges and rowed across the bay to the ships anchored in Simonsbay. In fact it was a solution that would only work in the winter months as rowing a boat across the bay in summer would have been near impossible when the strong south east winds were blowing.

In 1795 when the British attacked the Dutch in False Bay and took over the running of the Cape the importance of the Kalk Bay harbour fell away as the British decided it would be easier to build a road to Simonstown and utilise it to get supplies to their ships. Simonstown became a naval harbour for the British with a British garrison being established in the area. Kalk Bay harbour again fell into disuse.

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Rotting whale similar to those that were hunted in False Bay

Kalk Bay for some reason is one of those places which reinvents itself everytime it falls out of favour. The first time it did this was in 1820 when whaling was banned in Simonstown when residents complained of the the stink caused by burning whale blubber and rotting whale carcasses. The resolution to the whaling problem was to move whaling activities to Kalk Bay. At the time the Southern Right whales were the whales being hunted as whalers considered them the "right" whale to hunt. They were rich in blubber, easy to catch, were relatively slow swimmers and floated after they were killed.

Unfortunately the whalers at the time did not take cognisance of the fact that the female Southern Rights were in Cape waters to calve and mate and killed them willy nilly soon hunting the Southern Rights into extinction around the Cape. As a result whaling went into decline in 1835 as there were no more whales to hunt and with it so did Kalk Bay and its harbour's fortunes.

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Kalk Bay Main road

Once again Kalk Bay had to reinvent itself and this happened in the mid 1840's when a Filipino crew who were shipwrecked off Cape Point decided to settle in Kalk Bay. They discovered that False Bay was filled with fish and that Kalk Bay harbour gave them quick access to this resource. Kalk Bay once again became an important harbour in False Bay.

The large fishing resource soon attracted more fishermen to the area.Many passing Filipino seamen were persuaded to jump ship and join the fishing community by their fellow Filipinos living in Kalk Bay.After political problems in the Phillipines in the 1850's many of its population found its way to Cape Town where they joined the Kalk Bay Filipino fishing community. In 1898 when America took possession of the Phillipines many of the Kalk Bay filipino community packed up and went back home leaving about 60 Filipino families in Kalk Bay. Some of the descendants of these 60 families can still be found in the Kalk Bay area today.

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Kalk Bay with with railway line running down the coastline

Kalk Bay's fortunes changed once again in 1883 when the railways built a line through Kalk Bay from Cape Town to Simonstown. Because of the available transport many people moved into the Kalk Bay area and many new homes were built and the village grew rapidly. For a short period between 1895 and 1913 Kalk Bay became a Municipality. Unfortunately the economy based on fishing could not be sustained as the fish resource was being over fished.

The area once again went into a decline in the early 1950's helped by the advent of the Apartheid system. Much suffering was caused to the Kalk Bay population because of its policies. Kalk Bay and its harbour however survived all the hardships fate could throw at it although the village started falling into disrepair. At the time Kalk Bay had a number of businesses along its main road. The old Olympia bioscope was established across the road from the harbour and a bottle store was also built nearby. The significance of the bottle store was that it was the only one that residents of Fish Hoek could purchase liquor from in the area as Fish Hoek had been declared a dry town and no liquor could be purchased or sold within its boundaries. This by-law still applies to Fish Hoek today.

Today however Kalk Bay's fortunes are once again on the rise. Many of the old houses built along the main road from Muizenberg have been turned into small shops selling everything from a pin to an anchor including antiques. Many small restaurants and coffee shops have also sprung up. Some of the old hotels that once plied their trade in Kalk Bay have been refurbished by property developers and turned into flats and apartments bringing many new families into the area and forcing residents to upgrade their homes in the process.

With the granting of the 2010 World Cup tournament hosting to South Africa it was decided that the main road from Muizenberg to Fish Hoek needed to be upgraded. The upgrade started in 2008 but was found to be a more difficult job than just resurfacing as the underlying foundations of the road had to be repaired as well. The reason for the foundations breaking down was the heavy traffic loads on the road. Once the refurbishment of the road is complete in 2012 Kalk Bay will once again have reinvented itself.

Hopefully it will have maintained its special character of being a quaint historic village and fishing harbour.

Kalk Bay has upgraded itself for its locals and now invites visitors to come and see what they have done to put themselves back on the map. They have so much to offer and this includes their small antique shops, their good food and fine restaurants, fishing harbour, fantastic views over False Bay, many historical sites, such as Rhodes cottage, the site of the 1795 battle between the British and the Dutch, and last but not least of all, the return of the giant Southern Right whales to False Bay between July and November each year.

The Kalk Bay locals would love to see you there. DO NOT disappoint them!

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Cape Town - Kalk Bay Village
Page updated 28.5.2015







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