Mossel Bay

First postal service in a boot in a Milkwood tree.

History Of Mossel Bay

Province: Western Cape
Garden Route
Coordinates:34°11′00″S 22°08′00″E
Area:42.2 km2
Municipality: Mossel Bay

First people and first Europeans

There is evidence to show that humans have been in the area for about 164,000 years. The name Mossel Bay is from the Dutch for Mussel shells. Mossel Bay is known as the first place Europeans set foot on South African soil. Bartolomeu Dias and his crew landed there in 1488. He and his crew came ashore close to where the Dias museum is today where they found a freshwater spring that they used to replenish water supplies. King John II of Portugal appointed Dias to find an alternate route to India. By the time he reached Mossel Bay, he did not know that he had actually rounded the Cape of Good Hope before landing at Mossel Bay which he named Angra dos Vaqueiros (The Bay of Cowherds). Dias also called the Cape Cabo das Tormentas (the ‘Cape of Storms’), although King John II later changed this to Cabo da Boa Esperança (the Cape of Good Hope).. The name Mossel Bay was given by Paulus van Caerden in 1601.

Dias’ first encounter with the locals was a hail of rocks and stones

Dias and his crew were not welcomed by the locals who hurled rocks and stones at them. When Vasco da Gama reached Mossel Bay in 1497 the area was charted on maps as Aguada de São Brás, (the Watering Place of St Blaize) Da Gama had more luck with the locals and he bartered for cattle with the local Khoi people.
From the earliest days of the Dutch settlers, Mossel Bay acted as the major port serving the Southern Cape region and its hinterland.
while the Dutch governor of the Cape Colony, Jan de la Fontaine, visited Mossel Bay to erect a possession stone in 1734, the first permanent building was built only in 1787 it was a fortress-like granary. In July of the following year, the first shipment of wheat grown in the area left the Bay.
Although the British had invaded the Cape in 1806 and had taken permanent possession of the Colony in 1814, the Mossel Bay area retained its Dutch-given name until its declaration as a magistracy in 1848. The Bay was then named Aliwal marking a victory that Sir Harry Smith, who was the Cape Governor at the time, had won over Sikhs in India at a place of that name However, the name did not really catch on and Mossel Bay was retained. The first permanent settlers arrived in the late 18th century. The railway reached the town in 1905. Mossel Bay was the main for the export of ostrich feathers during the boom years of that industry.

Town of “Firsts”

Mossel Bay is a town of firsts in South Africa. At the point of human origins, the first evidence of early human habitation was discovered. In 1497, we have the first commercial transaction which took place when Vasco da Gama traded with Khoi herders, bartering a red sailor’s cap and bracelets for an ox. In 1501: The first post office in Southern Africa, a letter was left in a sailor’s shoe in a Milkwood Tree by Pedro d’Ataide. In 1501. The first place of Christian worship in Southern Africa was established. An ‘Ermina’ was erected by Admiral João da Nova of the fourth Portuguese Fleet  This was in gratitude for his safe return from India. Vasco Da Gama called in at the port in 1497 and bartered for a few head of cattle. This is considered the first commercial transaction between locals and Europeans.

Vintage seaside picture from Saartjie Klipkop

The economy of Mossel Bay

Fishing and farming remained the main activities of the area during the early years of the 20th Century. It is still one of the main sources of mussels and oysters. The discovery of natural gas fields offshore in 1969 caused exponential growth,

Things to see and do in Mossel Bay

  • Post Office Tree; In 1501, another Portuguese navigator, Pedro d’Ataide, found shelter in Mossel Bay after losing much of his fleet in a storm. He left an account of the story in an old shoe suspended from a milkwood tree near the spring from which Dias had found water. The report was found by the explorer to whom it was addressed — João da Nova — and the tree served as a sort of post office for decades thereafter.
  • -Attaquakloof pass (Old ox waggon trail)
  • Du Plessis pass
  • Santos Beach has blue flag status
  • The Shark Lab:  Mini Aquarium – 063 408 1724
  • Visit the seal breeding ground at Seal Island
  • The Diaz Museum – 044 691 1067 
  • Cape St Blaize lighthouse
  • Hartenbos – 044 691 2202 
  • Point of Human Origins, Pinnacle Point- 079 640 0004
  • Take a course in sailing.082 826 3825
  • Annual Eight Bells MTB adventure 082 416 5069 or 082 441 7198
  • Self-guided Art Walk
  • A guided historical Ghost walk    065 637 4582

Useful Numbers

  • Police: Mossel Bay – 044 606 2201
  • Traffic department: Mossel Bay 044 606 5000 / 5201
  • Fire: Mossel Bay 044 606 5031
  • Water:044 606 5262
  • Electricity:044 606 5082
  • Ambulance: 10177
  • Post office; Mossel Bay -044 691 1554
  • Library: Mossel Bay – 044 606 5171
  • Closest hospital; MosselBay 044 691 2011
  • Pharmacy; Mossel Bay- 044 691 1835
  • SPCA: Garden Route  – 072 287 1761
  • Seabirds 082 364 3382
  • Stranded animals: 072 227 4715
  • Marine life: 0722274715
  • Life-saving: 083 4621182
  • Sea rescue: 082 990 5954
  • Museums; The Diaz museum – 044 691 1067  Hartenbos – 044 691 2202  Point of Human Origins, Pinnacle Point- 079 640 0004
  • Tourism:  044 691 2202
  • Schools 
  • Sao Bras Secondary School -044 693 0033     
  •  Hoërskool Punt-044 691 2247
  • Laerskool Hartenbos-082 774 8877
  • Point High School-044 691 2247
  • Isalathiso Primary School -044 693 2661
  • Laerskool Park-044 691 1020
  • Laerskool Park-044 691 1020
  • Erika Primary School-044 693 0020
  • Indwe High School-044 693 1955
  • Diaz Primary School-044 693 0044
  • Garden Route Primary School-074 115 9369
  • Hillcrest Secondary School-083 790 6992
  • E K Primary School-044 694 0124
  • Hillcrest High School-044 693 0831
  • Indwe High School- 044 693 1955     
  • Rietvlei NGK Primary School
  • Milkwood Primary School -044 691 1858


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