Beach at Melkbosstrand
|Municipality||City of Cape Town|
|• Councillor||Magrieta Jansen van Vuuren (DA)|
|• Total||35.64 km2 (13.76 sq mi)|
|• Density||330/km2 (840/sq mi)|
|Racial makeup (2011)|
|• Black African||7.8%|
|First languages (2011)|
|Time zone||UTC+2 (SAST)|
|Postal code (street)|
Named after the species of Euphorbiaceae bushes which grow on the dunes and give off a milky latex like substance, it is commonly referred to simply as Melkbos. The town and its 7 kilometre stretch of white sand beach is situated on the Atlantic coast with the Blouberg mountain to the east. The beach is popular with surfers. It is notable for being one of the landing points for the South Africa-Far East and South Atlantic/West Africa submarine cable systems.
Melkbosstrand is along the Atlantic Seaboard and is the northern-most suburb of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality within which it became incorporated when metropolitan boundaries were redrawn, following the advent of democracy in 1994. Its nearest neighbouring towns are Bloubergstrand to the South (also a suburb of Cape Town) and Atlantis to the North-East. Melkbos is protected from urban development owing to its location in an expansive nature conservation zone to the South, insulating it from the Bloubergstrand sprawl, and the security buffer zones of Koeberg nuclear power station to the North. It remains a pristine seaside resort.
Melkbosstrand (previously known as Losperd's Bay) (meaning, in old Dutch: the Bay of Lost Horses) is the site of the famous Battle of Blaauwberg (1806) whereby the Cape ceased to be occupied by French-Batavian troops and became a Colony of the British Crown. The French had occupied the Cape from 1781-1783, after a fleet under the flag of celebrated admiral Bailli de Suffren anchored just north of Melkbosstrand. A cannon set on Melkbosstrand foreshore commemorates the battle itself. Numerous shipwrecks, some dating back to the Portuguese Discoverers of the Early Renaissance, are strewn along the coast of Melkbosstrand.
In terms of Colonial, Dutch vernacular architecture, the area boasts several fine examples. The farmhouse Melkbosch, the first established by the Dutch East India Company outside Cape Town, is still extant albeit in a rather poor condition following a fire. On Melkbos bay itself, much favored by the surfing community for its good swell and warmer currents, stands the Damhuis cottage (now a beach restaurant), a late 18th-century fisherman house and the last one of its kind in the area (apart from Ons Huisie, at Blouberg Beach, some five kilometres away).
In 1961, Melkbosstrand became the end point for the SAT-1 Copper cable between South Africa and Sesimbra, Portugal. In 1992, the cable was replaced by the SAT-2 fiber optic cable. Today, Melkbosstrand is still the landing point for the SAT-3/WASS undersea cable system.
It owes much of its present-day infrastructure to two significant South African apartheid government developments in the late seventies. The first, Koeberg nuclear power station, constructed with the help of the British and French some 6 km north of Melkbosstrand, necessitated the creation of high quality housing for the foreign contractors. The second, the government subsidised creation of Atlantis Diesel Engines (ADE), a joint venture between the British Perkins-Elmer and famous brand German Daimler AG, to bypass international sanctions imposed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 418.
Although ADE was in the industrial park of Atlantis, some 50 km north of Cape Town, subsidised housing was established in Melkbosstrand to help attract and retain the many German, British, and even South African, engineers, managers, and technicians. These houses, both for Koeberg and ADE, have long since been sold off to the public and form an interesting housing development with paved lanes, quaint housing, a club and a library, not un-reminiscent of the famed British series The Prisoner.
Melkbos features in Deon Meyer's best-selling crime novel 7 Days (7 Dae in Afrikaans original) (2012) as the place where mad sniper, cop-killer, Solomon buys spray paint for camouflage.
Economy, culture, sport and tourism
The highly touristic West Coast Region officially begins at Melkbosstrand with the "Cape to Namibia" scenic highway N7 and the West Coast Route R27 starting off there .
World-famous surfing spot Big Bay lies five kilometres away, south of a continuous line of unspoiled beaches which are a popular location for international film shoots.
The village is surrounded by a Nature Conservation Area. Its bay and warm waters are a favourite spot for whale watching, when the gracious cetaceans, on their way round the Cape, repair in the sound that separates the village from Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned from 1964 to 1982. Swimming across the sound is a sporting challenge taken up regularly by local enthusiasts. Divers may attempt to look for a host of shipwrecks dating to the late 15th Century. Melkbosstrand also boasts the Atlantic Beach Golf Resort, and possibly the oldest "fish and chips" restaurant and raw bar on the Atlantic seaboard North of Cape Town, Café Orca.
Close to the resort, to the North, the keen tourist will find the West Coast National Park together with a major historical manor house, Geelbek (named after a local wild duck species) and once upon a time a playground for the Johannesburg mining aristocracy of the 1900s. Not very far, in a quiet vale, lies the beautifully preserved De Groene Kloof Mission of Mamre, established in 1808 and still serving the local community of faithful.
A few kilometres to the East are located the artists' and food enthusiasts' village of Philadelphia, nearby German-owned Capaia wineyards , Morningstar Airfield and Flight Academy, the historic West Coast Ostrich Ranch - a favorite with Asian tourists - as well as The Cape Town Polo Club. The nearest airfield is Delta 200, FADX, close to Koeberg.
For many years Melkbosstrand has been called the "rich man's town" by its neighbouring suburbs and towns, such as Atlantis and Table View. This labelling remark is probably because Melkbosstrand is home to a host of South African celebrities (retired rugby players, actors, writers, visiting members of the House of Lords), and some higher class citizens, which is mainly due to its location and its beautiful view of Table Mountain. International best-selling novelist Deon Meyer was a long time resident of Melkbosstrand as well as South-African French philosopher Philippe-Joseph Salazar.
Wild life on Melkbos beaches has always been abundant: "The most unusual scene," writes Lawrence G. Green in South African Beachcomber, " came about when greedy seals chased thousands upon thousands of marsbankers into rocky pools on the coast to the north of Melkbosch Strand. Everyone in that village turned out with baskets, caught the fish by the hundred and carried them home alive". Crayfish or Cape lobster is plentiful although fishing is strictly regulated. Fish braais (barbecues) remain a favorite pastime among locals.
- "Councillors Online". City of Cape Town. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
- "Main Place Melkbosstrand". Census 2011.
- Military History Journal (South African Military History Society) Vol 13 No 4 - Dec 2005
- Andrew Smith, The French Period at the Cape, 1781-1783, Military History Journal Vol 5 No 3, June 1981
- See Lawrence G. Green, the great raconteur of the Cape: So Few Are Free, Cape Town: Howard B. Timmins, 1946, I, 4.
- Alan G. Morris, "Trauma and Violence in the Later Stone Age in Southern Africa", June 2012, Vol. 102, No. 6 SAMJ
- On "melkbos" and "geelbek" in Cape lore, see Lawrence G. Green, South African Beachcomber, Howard B. Timmins, 1958, chapter 2.
- Lawrence G. Green, South African Beachcomber, Cape Town, Howard Timmins, 1958, p. 11.