Kalk Bay today is a quaint and eclectic mix of interesting and unusual art, antique and clothing shops as well as numerous coffee haunts, restaurants and the odd bar.
Words and images by Ann Gadd
Just as fascinating though is its history, which started when the harbour at Simon’s Bay (Simonstown) was found to be safer during the winter months, so the Dutch East India Company or VOC declared in the 1650’s that between May and August ships usually bound for Cape Town, were to harbour here. But, the road from Kalk Bay to Simonstown was difficult to traverse for ox-wagons, so wagons from Cape Town would arrive in Kalk Bay to offload their goods onto barges, to then be transported onto the waiting ships in Simon’s Bay.
This left empty wagons which were then loaded at Kalk Bay with lime, together with fish, to feed the slaves in Cape Town. The village itself became established in the 17th century for the lime-burners. In 1795, the British, having taken control of the Cape, built a road to Simonstown and for a while, the village looked likely to fall into disrepair, until a few years later it became a whaling station. By the 1830’s, however, most of the whales in the bay had been fished out and so this profitable industry ended. This left the way for the creation of a seaside resort during the 1860’s.
The general fishing industry however still thrived. After being stranded in Simonstown when their ship was impounded, (or some say shipwrecked), the first Filipino settlers arrived in the village. Their numbers were swelled by other Filipinos deserting their ships and still others arriving in 1872, fleeing the Philippines Revolution and enticed by the tales of good fishing and a comfortable lifestyle. In 1898 when the USA took over the Philippines, many of these early settlers returned, but those that did stay, intermarried, yet many Spanish surnames such as Manuel, Florez and Fernandez are still common in the area.
With the arrival of the railway line to Kalk Bay in 1883, many wealthy people were attracted to the area and built the lavish homes still visible on the mountainside. It’s interesting to note that during the apartheid years, Kalk Bay was the only area to resist the Separate Group Areas Act, remaining a mixed-race community.