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Lime to fish - the story of Kalk Bay on the Cape Peninsula

Updated on February 25, 2015

When megafauna roamed

Back when giant animals like Equus capensis (a kind of giant zebra) roamed the Cape Peninsula, in what is now the Western Cape Province of South Africa, the shells of masses of sea molluscs were collecting on the west shore of False Bay and would become, hundreds of thousands of years later, the reason for the foundation of what is now the quaint fishing village of Kalk (pronounced in English "Cork") Bay.

False Bay is a large bay to the southeast of Cape Town with its mouth facing almost due south. The mouth of the bay is designated by Cape Hangklip (Hanging Rock) to the east and Cape Point to the west.

In the 17th Century when the Dutch settlers at the Cape were consolidating their presence on the southern tip of Africa they needed lime (in Dutch, "kalk") for their buildings.

The considerable lime deposits laid down eons before were discovered and soon were being extracted and taken by wagon to the settlement that would become Cape Town.

Today the economy of Kalk Bay is no longer dependent on lime, but flourishes on the linked industries of fishing and tourism.

Kalk Bay history

From those early beginnings as a lime quarry the history of Kalk Bay was influenced by many happenings, perhaps none more influential than the wreck of a ship off Cape Point in the 1840s. This ship was manned by Philippine sailors who found the already active small fishing harbour at Kalk Bay a good place to settle.

The fish in False Bay, so named more than 300 years ago because sailors returning from the east en route to Europe often confused it with Table Bay, were plentiful and the weather and sea conditions conducive to the fisherman's life.

These sailors were mostly Catholic and needed to be served by the Church. As a result the church of St James was founded in 1858, giving its name to the popular swimming beach adjacent to Kalk Bay.

The influence of the Phillipino sailors is still evident today, especially in the surnames of the descendants of these fisher folk who live in Kalk Bay, who have names like de la Cruz, Fernandez, Menigo and Erispe

Queueing for a seat at Kalky's
Queueing for a seat at Kalky's

Kalky's

One of the highlights of a visit to Kalk Bay must be a meal at Kalky's, a no-nonsense eatery in the harbour area.

On the two occasions I have eaten there, separated by three years, the food has been exceptionally good and good value too. I especially enjoyed the calamari which was superb.

The restaurant is really down-to-earth with no frills or fancy stuff, and one has to queue for a seat as there is no booking. But the slight wait is very much worth it - the food is served simply but is very, very good.


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Home at last!Throwing a snoek ashoreA fine specimenSilvery harvstA Cape fur seal luxuriates in the calm waters of the harbourPerforming for a fish!
Home at last!
Home at last!
Throwing a snoek ashore
Throwing a snoek ashore
A fine specimen
A fine specimen
Silvery harvst
Silvery harvst
A Cape fur seal luxuriates in the calm waters of the harbour
A Cape fur seal luxuriates in the calm waters of the harbour
Performing for a fish!
Performing for a fish!

When the fishing boats come in

The arrival of the fishing boats in the harbour is always an occasion of great excitement. The visitors love to see the picturesque boats and their crew bringing the haul of fish in.

The wives of the fisherman are equally excited to see the boats come in as it means their men are safe and there will be a bit more money to be made from the sale of the catch.

The gulls, of course, are also happy to see the boats as they know they will also get a little something. The gulls are mostly Hartlaubs Gulls (Chroicocephalus hatlaubii ) which are endemic to the south west coast of South Africa.

Often seen in the calm waters of the harbour, to the delight of visitors, are Cape Fur Seals which lazily swim about in the green water hoping for some delicacy to fall from one of the boats.

These seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus ) were once incredibly common around the Cape coats, but their numbers were drastically reduced by commercial exploitation.

Today there are about 1.5 million of them around the coasts of South Africa and Namibia and they breed in about 20 localities. Commercial exploitation of seals is now strictly co9ntrolled by law.

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A gull rests on the awning of Kalkies
A gull rests on the awning of Kalkies
A gull rests on the awning of Kalkies

A little more about the gulls

There are estimated to be in the region of 15000 Hartlaub's gulls in the greater Cape Town area. This represents about half of the total population of the gulls. They are a feature of the area, adding to the general atmosphere with their loud screeching calls and their voracious appetites.

The name of this gull species comes from German physician and ornithologist Gustav Hartlaub (1814 - 1900).

The premier breeding location is Robben Island from where the parent gulls fly to Cape Town, making a round trip of about 24 kilometres, to scavenge for food for their young.


Click thumbnail to view full-size
Looking down the Peninsula towards Fish Hoek from Boyes Drive, a road which clings to the mountainside above Kalk BayLooking across False Bay with Cape Hangklip in the distance to the right.Looking along Boyes Drive
Looking down the Peninsula towards Fish Hoek from Boyes Drive, a road which clings to the mountainside above Kalk Bay
Looking down the Peninsula towards Fish Hoek from Boyes Drive, a road which clings to the mountainside above Kalk Bay
Looking across False Bay with Cape Hangklip in the distance to the right.
Looking across False Bay with Cape Hangklip in the distance to the right.
Looking along Boyes Drive
Looking along Boyes Drive

A little more about Kalk Bay

In the Victorian era Kalk Bay was regarded as a very healthy place to live and many famous and wealthy people established holiday or permanent homes there, including Cecil John Rhodes, whose cottage is now a museum.

The railway line from Cape Town reached Kalk Bay in 1883 leading to a rapid increase in the population. It was later extended to Simonstown further down the Peninsula.

Kalk Bay was a separate municipality from 1895 to 1913.

Today the village, no longer dependent on either lime or fishing, is home to many small antique shops and fine restaurants.

Copyright Notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2011

A markerKalk Bay, South Africa -
Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek, South Africa
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    • Reynold Jay profile image

      Reynold Jay 6 years ago from Saginaw, Michigan

      All right , I'm checking this out now and gonna get my ticket and see you at the Dock! Very nicely written! I enjoyed it a big bunch and found it useful and UP 1. RJ

    • Mentalist acer profile image

      Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

      The idea of "Fresh" calamari sounds enchanting,thanks for the tour Tony.Peace.;)

    • Twilight Lawns profile image

      Twilight Lawns 6 years ago from Norbury-sur-Mer, Surrey, England. U.K.

      This sounds really nice. There is nothing quite like seafood eaten close to where it was caught and brought in.

    • jo miller profile image

      jo miller 6 years ago from Tennessee

      I always enjoy your writings about South Africa. I hope to visit your country some day, so I'm bookmarking these hubs.

    • Robwrite profile image

      Rob 6 years ago from Bay Ridge Brooklyn NY

      I've always wanted to go to south Africa and this makes me want to go there even more. Thanks for the information

      Rob

    • Micky Dee profile image

      Micky Dee 6 years ago

      Very nice Tony. It looks like a wonderful place. Thank you for another informative hub! God bless you brother Tony!

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Reynold - thank you so much, squire! Your visit and comment are both much appreciated - and I'm waiting for your ETA!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • soneblom profile image

      soneblom 6 years ago from South Africa

      Great hub tonymac04, The Cape is a beautiful place I say, I lived there for three years now back home in Johannesburg! the information is interesting and you write so easy it keeps one tuned to the page, makes me proud to be South African :-) thanks!

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Bryan (I'll get you name right this time if it kills me! LOL!) - thanks so much for stopping by. I think you really need to come over and try it!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      TL - thank you so much for stopping by. It is a delight to eat at Kalky's establishment!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Jo - so glad you enjoyed this story! Let me know when you're coming over! Would love to show you some things around here for real!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Rob - come on over, the water's great, LOL!

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Micky - thank you so much, my brotherman. And Bless you too. Kalk Bay is one of my favourite places, no doubt. Wish I could be there now!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Hi, Tony. Well done and I liked the history of this place. Wow... this was so beautiful. I liked your presentation between description and pictures. Thanks for writing this. Vote up. God bless you.

      Love and peace,

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 6 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Tony - Your hubs are always a source of beauty and education. Loved the pics and story.

    • DjBryle profile image

      DjBryle 6 years ago from Somewhere in the LINES of your MIND, and HOPEFULLY at the RIPPLES of your HEART. =)

      Hey, I love this hub! I had another very enchanting and joyful virtual tour. Thanks for sharing! Voted up for a very informative and useful hub! ... I suddenly crave for calamari! lol! =)

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 6 years ago from South Africa

      Awww, this was a nice read. I decided to skip lunch in Kalk Bay and to drive on to Hout Bay, where I once ate the most delicious melting-on-the-tongue-fresh fish. Unfortunately their prices are now sky-high - focused on tourists.

      Because I had nothing to do, I drove right down to the end of that beautiful peninsula, Tony, where the gates to the reserve were once again closed – Do you have a clue when it is open and when not? Then I drove the Peninsula up from the other side.... the side where the wreck of a ship lies almost next to the road - Is it still there?

      Tony, I could smell the sea in this hub of yours. En nou wens ek darem regtig ek was in die Kaap. Thanks a lot!

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Soneblom - my sunflower friend! Thanks so much for stopping by and the kind words. I'm really pleased that you enjoyed the Hub.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • justom profile image

      justom 6 years ago from 41042

      Hi Tony, thanks for another great lesson. I hope the tourist agents are sending you a check :-P Peace!! Tom

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 6 years ago from Southern Illinois

      This is great Tony. My favorite food is seafood. I would love to visit there and eat at a nice outdoor cafe. I enjoyed the tour. Thank you.

      Love and Peace

    • alexfantastico profile image

      alexfantastico 6 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Thanks for the good hub. It sounds like my kind of place.

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Prasetio - thank you so much, my friend. I'm glad you enjoyed the Hub.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Peg - thanks so much for those kind words. I really appreciate your visit very much indeed.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • lionel1 profile image

      lionel1 6 years ago

      You are truly the man! Anytime I need to expand and learn all I need to do is visit you hub postings. Another great post thank you very much.

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      DjBryle - thanks flor the super comment which I really appreciate. Hope you can soon satisfy that calamari craving!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 6 years ago

      Sounds like a really nice place to have a breakaway holidays. I love the photos of the gulls and I think, the train passengers must be excited to cross this area. :)

    • daydreamer13 profile image

      daydreamer13 6 years ago

      Love the article and love the pictures. You did an excellent job on this! This sounds like a great place!

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Martie my friend - glad you enjoyed this. I certainly enjoyed doing it. Brought back lots of happy memories.

      I don't know the gate opening times - sorry!

      Thanks for the lekker comment - I appreciate it opreg!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Tom - so glad you enjoyed the visit, my friend. Wish the tourist agency would send me a check!

      Thanks again

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Ruby - if you like seafood this is the place to get it! Kalky's is simply marvellous! Glad you enjoyed the Hub and thanks for stopping by.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Alex - it certainly is mine! Thanks for stopping by and I'm glad you enjoyed the vicarious meal at Kalky's! And the birds and the seals and the people!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Lionel my good friend, thanks so much for stopping by with such a great comment.

      Thanks again

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Ingenira - thanks for the kind words ad I'm glad you enjoyed the visit. The trains do add a nice bit of variety and yes, I guess the passengers must enjoy the view!

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Daydreamer - thanks so much for the very kind words. I'm very pleased that you enjoyed this Hub. It was my pleasure to put it together.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • amillar profile image

      amillar 6 years ago from Scotland, UK

      That's a lovely part of the World you live at, and the photos are stunning. Are you the cameraman?

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Amillar - indeed it is, my friend. Thanks for stopping by. The photos are indeed all my own work too! Thanks for noticing.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • BobbiRant profile image

      BobbiRant 6 years ago from New York

      Wonderful and informative piece. It makes me feel like I want to visit this beautiful and peaceful looking place. I love the water and love boats. Very nice.

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Bobbi - thanks so much for the kind comment. Glad you enjoyed it.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • katiem2 profile image

      katiem2 6 years ago from I'm outta here

      WOW Tony, what a nice tour both stimulating and tantalizing, this is a must visit destination on my list of travels. Thanks for the amazing collection of great photos you must be very proud of this wonderful place. I can imagine it now. An honest first hand account always makes for a nice story. Water and boats are a plus. :) Katie

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Katie - thanks for the very kind words which I deeply appreciate.

      It is a lovely place to visit - and if you ever come to South Africa I would love to show you around!

      Thanks again for stopping by.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 6 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Wow.... this was so beautiful. Thanks for writing this. I like something about history and tourism place. You combine this so beautifully. Awesome! You have done a great job here. You got my VOTE. Thank you very much. God bless you.

      Love and peace, prasetio

    • tonymac04 profile image
      Author

      Tony McGregor 6 years ago from South Africa

      Prasetio - thanks so much for those very kind words, my friend! I am pleased you enjoyed the Hub.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • EsJam profile image

      Essie 2 years ago from Southern California

      Reading this was like entering another world. Completely fascinating! Articles and stories revolving around fishing communities are especially appealing to me. Here, in California, I enjoy visiting Morro Bay and Cannery Row.

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