This article is kindly Provided By The Simon’s Town Historical Society

The part which Simon’s Town has played in maritime strategy is inseparable from that of the Cape of Good Hope and South Africa as a whole.

The meeting point of the two great oceans, the Atlantic and the Indian, is a key point in world naval strategy: it is a focal point of maritime trade between East and West.

Inevitably if followed that the two good anchorages, Table Bay and Simon’s Bay, became important havens for shipping. The dangers of the Table Bay anchorage during the winter months were quickly and forcibly brought to the notice of seafarers, but were tolerated when the callers were few. As ships began to frequent Table Bay in increasing numbers at all seasons of the year the incidence of ship-wrecks during the winter became greater than could be borne with equanimity.

Simon van der Stel Names The Bay

The False Bay side of the Cape Peninsula, sheltered from the violent northwest gales, was the obvious alternative, and Simon’s Bay was selected by Simon van der Stel himself as the safest anchorage. For many years to come there were no facilities for visiting ships and communications with Cape Town were exceedingly difficult. In spite of the greater safety in winter, captains of ships tended to avoid caling there whenever possible, preferring to risk the greater danger of Table Bay in order to enjoy the superior amenities of Cape Town.

France Controls The Cape

In 1650 the Dutch East India company decreed that a permanent settlement should be established at the Cape solely as a post for the replenishment of the Company’s vessels on the passage to and from the East Indies. At no time was it ever intended to gain any milirary advantage for which there was no necessity at that period.

The Cape of Good Hope only began to assume importance as a strategic point in the military sense with the increasing rivalry between France and Great Britain in the latter half of the eighteenth century.

In 1780 when Holland entered the War of America Independence in alliance with France and Spain against Great Britain, the British Government had become aware what a menace the Cape of Good Hope in the hands of an enemy could be to its trade with India. It was soon decided that an attempt must be made to capture the Cape to deny its use to the enemy.

The first attempt under Commodore Johnstone suffered so many delays that the French were able to forestall him and reinforce the defences too strongly to admit of successful attack.

During the next decade these dilatory methods cost Great Britain dear. With the Cape under their control the French were enabled greatly to increase their depredations on the British ships trading between India and Europe.

Relief only came with the termination of hostilities when the French troops returned to Europe. With the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1793 the Directors of the East India Company were not unnaturally nervous about the consequences of the Cape once again falling into the hands of the French. The occupation of Holland by the Revolutionary armies in the winter of 1794/5 brought matters to a head and called for action.

Two British Occupations

The British Admiralty lost no time in preparing an expedition for the occupation of the Cape, which object was successfully accomplished in 1795. The Netherlands government (in its new republican form) at last realised that an occupation of the Cape by a hostile power posed a very real threat to communications with Batavia.

With a well-situated base to work from the ships of the Royal Navy were able to establish an effective blockade of Mauritius which drastically restricted the depredations of the French commerce-raiding frigates.

During negotiations for peace in this year, the possession of the Cape became one of the most forceful bargaining points. Preliminary Articles of peace were not signed until 1801, and as one of the conditions, the short-sighted government of Addington agreed to restore the Cape to the Dutch. When the Treaty of Peace was signed in 1802, restoration of the Cape to its former owners was no longer possible as the Dutch East India Company had gone bankrupt in 1799. Its successor, the Batavian Republic, became the new owner of the Cape instead.

News of the terms of the Treaty did not reach the Cape until August 1802 and for various reasons the British evacuation was not completed until March 1803. The evacuating squadron had not reached England before war broke out again, but preparations for the re-occupation of the Cape were not put in hand until a new government under William Pitt came to power. In January 1806 a force too strong for the weak Batavian forces to withstand took possession of the Cape once more for Britain.

Within two or three months of the capture of the Cape all effective threats to the supremacy of the Royal Navy in southern waters were ended and their ships were again able to establish a blockade of the French islands, although it was not always possible to make the blockade entirely effective. The only complete solution of the problem was the capture of the islands, and measures to this end were put in hand. In 1810 Mauritius and Bourbon were captured and the fall of Tamatave in Madagascar in 1811 left the French without a single colonial possession. As a consequence there was little left for the ships of the Royal Navy to do in Cape waters and their number was soon reduced.

The Royal Navy Base Moves To Simon’s Town

The naval authorities now had leisure to give some time and attention to the consolidation of the base facilities. The removal of the whole naval establishment from Table Bay to Simon’s Bayand vice versa at six-monthly intervals was manifestly inconvenient and costly. It had furthermore become clear to the experienced seamen of the Royal Navy that Simon’s Bay provided a safe anchorage at all seasons, which Table Bay did not. The Commander-in-Chief of the Cape Station was emphatically in favour of removal of the principal base of the Royal Navy to Simon’s Bay and this was immediately accepted. The necessary buildings were completed in 1814.

It was perhaps fortunate that this was accomplished before peace was declared in 1814, as it is doubtful whether the considerable expenditure would have been authorised in peace-time!

A Period Of Peace

Valuable as Simon’s Town had been in wartime, in the years of peace which followed it proved to be quite invaluable. The first important task laid on the ships of the Cape of Good Hope Station was the guardianship of Napoleon Bonaparte during the years of his detention on St Helena. With his death in 1821 the Simon’s Town Dockyard establishment was drastically reduced. A nucleus of trained staff remained to cater for the ships which continued to call on their voyages to and from the East. There were still a few ships on the Cape Station, including those commanded by the illustrious surveyors who in the 1820’s carried out the survey of the coast of Southern Africa.

Simon’s Town was their secure base to which they returned for refitting and recuperation. Much the same consideration applied to the small vessels employed in the suppression of the slave trade. In addition the cargoes of slaves in the captured slave ships, which could number up to seven hundred or more, were landed and housed in any accommodation available pending their allocation as indentured apprentices.

Coastal Skirmishes

Nearer at home, the ships of the Royal Navy were in constant demand for the transport of troops and their equipment to the frontier during the many Kaffir Wars of the nineteenth century. Algoa Bay, the Kowie and the Buffalo Rivers and Waterloo Bay provided convenient disembarkation points and each was provided with a resident harbour master and boats crew. All had to be supplied from the main base at Simon’s Town. It was on short coastal journeys such as these that steam driven vessels proved most suitable. For all ocean voyages sail remained the normal means of propulsion until the end of the century.

Steamships And The Dockyard
It was in the middle of the nineteenth century that improvement in steam propulsion began to make a real impact on the Cape Station and purely sailing vessels unaided by auxilliary steam power were becoming the exception rather than the rule. The installations in the Dockyard, which had not been altered in any way since 1814, proved quite inadequate to deal with the complexities of steam engines. The increasing use of iron in the construction of ships as well as their very size posed new problems in maintenance. Considerable extensions and reconstruction took place during the 1850’s and 60’s.

With the advent of reliable steam engines the smaller vessels were able to approach close in to the shallow bars of the east coast rivers in comparative safety. These little ships found themselves much in demand by missionaries and explorers. Such occasions also offered convenient opportunities for “showing the flag” in places not usually visited by ships of any kind and to act as a warning to any potential slave trader that the Navy’s arm was longer than ever.

The Anglo-Boer War
Throughout the Anglo-Boer War, Simon’s Town and Cape Town were the principal ports through which passed the reinforcements of men, supplies and equipment for the British Army. Without these the few British troops would have been overwhelmed by the superior numbers of the Boer forces in the first few months of the war. As it was the British were able to maintain an uninterrupted flow of men and ammunition from the United Kingdom and other parts of the British Empire, while the Royal Navy’s command of the oceans virtually prohibited all similar supplies reaching the Transvaal and Free State Republics. There can be little doubt also that it was only the healthy respect for the Royal Navy which prevented Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany from intervening on behalf of the Republics.

East Dockyard Opened
In the closing stages of the nineteenth century the resources of the Simon’s Town Dockyard were once again proving inadequate for the needs of the larger steamships, but with the opening of the East Dockyard and Dry Dock in 1910 Simon’s Town once again became equipped to meet every requirement of any ship of the Royal Navy. It was not long before these facilities were urgently needed: In 1914 Great Britain and Germany were at war.

Simon’s Town During World War I
The part which Simon’s Town and the ships of the Africa Station were called upon to play in this war differed in no respect from the part it had played in earlier wars. These tasks were the elimination of all enemy ships, especially commerce raiders, from the waters around the southern end of Africa and the elimination of all the enemy bases within its sphere.At the outbreak of war there was a number of German warships at large in all the oceans of the world; these included the Emden, the Koningsberg and Admiral von Spee’s powerful squadron believed to be in the South Pacific. Until these ships were accounted for no protracted expedition by sea against the German colonies could be contemplated without a powerful escort of warships. The Emden was destroyed at Keeling Island, the Koningsberg in the Rufji River and von Spee’s squadron at the Falkland Islands. With all hostile warships satisfactorily disposed of, operations against the two German colonies of South West Africa and Tanganyika could now go ahead.

For the remainder of the war Simon’s Town spent a humdrum but busy and essential existence as a refuelling and refitting base for the escorts of the numerous troop convoys passing between Europe and Australasia, India and the Far East. The most destruction in South African waters was done by the mine fields laid by commerce raiders off Dassen Island and Cape Agulhas.

Simon’s Town During World War II

Simon’s Town activity followed much the same pattern in the Second World War as it did in the First. In the early stages of the war it was the assembly base for the ships engaged in the rounding up of the few German ships in the southern oceans, the most important of which was the Graf Spee. There followed other heavily armed raiders disguised as merchant ships, including the Atlantis which laid mines off Cape Agulhas and elsewhere. They operated with considerable success but were eventually intercepted and sunk by ships based at Simon’s Town.

With the closing of the Mediterranean all traffic between Europe and the East had to be routed around the Cape as in former days. Although the merchant ships put into Cape Town for replenishment only Simon’s Town was capable of dealing with the special requirements of the warships. The entry of Japan into the war and their swift conquest of Malaysia and the East Indies intensified the vital role which Simon’s Town had to play.

In the latter stages of the war, with the reopening of the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal, Simon’s Town lost much of its importance as a staging post. By this time, however, the war in the southern oceans was virtually over and Simon’s Town’s task was finished for the time being. It had done its task and done it well.

Postwar Simon’s Town

After the cessation of hostilities the tempo of naval activities slackened off. Following negotiations between the South African Minister of Defence and the British Government the Dockyard was handed over to the South African Navy in 1957. (The Union Jack that was lowered at the formal hand-over is now in the Historical Society’s rooms).

Ten years later, in 1967, Simon’s Town was proclaimed a White Group Area and over the next few years the coloured people, whose family ties sometimes went back to the very early days of the Town’s growth, were obliged to move away. Their houses in and behind the Town fell into disrepair and a lot of them were eventually bullozed flat: thus was part of Simon’s Town’s quaint attraction lost. The Historical Society’s efforts in preventing such destruction were to no avail, yet at the same time “Studland”, Admiralty House, St Francis Church, “Ibeka”, Palace Barracks and the Martello Tower were all proclaimed National Monuments.

In 1975 the face of the Town again started to undergo change when extensions to the Dockyard were started: a large area of land was reclaimed at Jaffa’s Beach and the harbour walls were extended further to sea to form a new and larger Tidal Basin.

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The seals of South Africa : Seals belong to the order Pinnipedia of which there are 33 species worldwide. These fall into two categories. Fur seals – Otariidae – or sea lions, have external ears and hind limbs that can be rotated forward to allow them to walk and climb on land. True seals – Phocidae – have hind limbs that cannot be rotated forward and have no external ears. Only one species, the cape fur seal is resident in South Africa. Other species occasionally occur as vagrants. The seals of South Africa :

Fur seals of South AfricaCAPE FUR SEALTHE CAPE FUR SEAL – Arctocephalus pusillus.
Identification: Cape fur seals can weigh up to 350kg – the largest of all fur seals. The males have a rough mane on their powerfully developed necks and are much larger than the females, which only attain a weight of around 90kg. Both males and females are covered in thick, dark-brown to olive fur. The pups are born black and moult for the first time at 4 months.
Biology: Mature bulls come ashore in late October to establish territories which they actively defend. The females arrive later and join the bulls harem which consists of around 20 females. Pups conceived the previous year are then born and the bulls mate with the cows only 6 days after they have given birth. Within the female, the implantation of the embryo is delayed by 4 months. A gestation period of 8 months follows and thus ensures that the pups are born on a yearly cycle.
Behaviour: When on land, fur seals are skilled climbers and may be sighted in surprisingly high places. At sea they are known to travel large distances – as much as 80km a day – and may spend months offshore where they are able to dive to over 200m in search of food. The females tend to remain at the colony for most of the year, feeding at sea on fish, squid and crustaceans and returning every few days to suckle the pups. Twenty five fur seal colonies are found between Algoa Bay (Port Elizabeth) and Cape Frio (Northern Namibia) most of which are on offshore islands and sightings are guaranteed the year round. Being fantastically agile and always graceful underwater, they are a pleasure to watch when diving.

Elephant seals South AfricaSOUTHERN ELEPHANT SEAL – Mirounga leonina.
Identification: The Largest of all seals, male elephant seals can attain 6m and 3500kg while the females are smaller at 4m and 800kg. The bulls are easily identified by the short, bulbous, trunk-like proboscis that hangs over the mouth. The elephant seals fur is grey-brown to brown but can be yellow-brown in mature males and before moulting.
Biology: The bulls come ashore in spring to establish territories. The females arrive later and join the harem. The pups conceived the previous year are born about a week later and the bulls mate with the cows 2-3 weeks after they have given birth.
Behaviour: Elephant seals have a circumpolar distribution and are largely restricted to sub-Antarctic waters as far north as the southern tip of South America. They feed mainly on fish and squid, however crustaceans are also occasionally taken. Elephant seals are mostly solitary animals. Spending most of their time at sea, data suggests that almost 90% of that time is spent underwater where they can dive to over 1400m and remain submerged for up to 2 hours. Sightings in South Africa are rare, although vagrants occasionally beach along our coastline.

Cape clawless otter South AfricaTHE CAPE CLAWLESS OTTER – Aonyx capensis.
Cape clawless otters are found throughout the southern and eastern coastal regions of South Africa, where they prefer areas with both fresh and salt water.
Identification: Attaining 1.5m and 18kg, the males are larger than the females. The body is dark to light-brown with a white throat and belly. Slender, and seal-like in form, cape clawless otters have a thick and tapering tail, flattened underneath to act like a rudder. The front legs have highly dexterous, clawless, fingers which enable them to probe under stones and in crevices for prey. The hind legs are partially webbed and provide most of the propulsion for swimming.
Biology: Little is known. However based on studies undertaken on other species of otter, it is believed that two or three cubs are born in the summertime following a three month gestation period. The cubs are completely weaned after an estimated 14 weeks but, stay in a family group with their mother for some years.
Behaviour: Adult clawless otters are mostly solitary animals, pairing up only for mating season. They are territorial and shy but can be found in rivers, wetlands, estuaries and coastal waters. With molars especially adapted to crushing, they feed largely on crabs, crayfish and molluscs. Octopus, small fish, frogs, rodents, insects and even birds are taken opportunistically. When not feeding, they are often playful and, if you’re lucky, they can be seen chasing each other, mock fighting and playing with stones or sticks for long periods. They have also been observed washing food items before eating. Otters are most active at dusk and at dawn, the daylight hours usually being spent in thick vegetation or in their holts.

Follow this link to our Facebook Page and see an incredible video we uploaded of a Cape Clawless Otter:


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It comes as no surprise that Cape Town was voted as the greatest city on Earth in the Telegraph Travel Awards survey for 2018, making this the sixth year in a row that the Mother City has claimed the top spot.

The Telegraph Travel Awards performs an annual survey to find out Telegraph Travel readers’ favorite cities.

Over 45 000 readers responded to the survey and Cape Town was placed at number one, above popular cities such as New York and Tokyo.

Venice surprisingly dropped down to seventh place after having held a spot in the top three for six years in a row. Meanwhile, Seville, a small city in Spain, is slowly climbing the ranks, going from holding 13th place three years ago to holding fourth place in 2018.

Sydney, Florence and New York held their positions from last year’s awards.

From Table Mountain to wine farms to the penguins of Boulders beach, not to mention the laid-back Capetonian lifestyle, there are dozens of reasons tourists and locals flock to the Mother City’s shores.

Top 10 cities in the world as voted by the Telegraph Travel Readers (UK) 

1. Cape Town

2. Tokyo

3. Vancouver

4. Seville

5. Sydney

6. New York

7. Venice

8. Florence

9. Rome

10. San Francisco

The Telegraph/ Telegraph Travel Readers Awards

Here are several reasons why our beloved city was voted the greatest on Earth this year. 

1. The exquisite Winelands

2. Our ideal beaches, which make up the city’s unreal natural landscape.

3. Table Mountain, the landmark of Cape Town 

4. The African penguins who waddle along the beaches

5. Delicious eating out options such as La Colombe, which ranks as the sixth-best fine-dining restaurant in the world according to TripAdvisor



So proud of our great team who consistently work hard, always with a smile, to ensure that our house is clean and tidy and our guests comfortable and looked after. We received our 4-star grading for the 9th year in a row yesterday!
Thanks for your encouragement and guidance over the years, Caroline Edge, of Tourism Grading Council of South Africa.

When picking your holiday accommodation, it’s easy to go by star gradings, provided you know exactly what they entail. However, there are many guests who are disappointed by their choice due to their (sometimes unrealistic) expectations not being met. After all, how do you know the difference between a 2-star and a 5-star graded establishment, really?

The breakdown

The TGCSA Star Grading is an independent quality assessment and official ranking system recognised around the world that helps customers realise the overall quality of the establishment and the kind of facilities they can expect. The accommodations are graded from 1-star through to 5-stars (with 1-star being the most basic in terms of facilities and 5-star being the highest, offering all the bells and whistles).

However, what many people often don’t realise is that you don’t have to be a super fancy hotel to be awarded 5-star status. When the accommodation is being assessed, the type of accommodation is taken into account. In other words, it’s possible for a small B&B or guest house to achieve 5-star grading, provided they meet the relevant criteria.

Sylvan Grove Guest House (TG)

Accommodations are divided into 9 categories

  1. Hotels
  2. Lodges
  3. Bed and Breakfasts
  4. Guest Houses
  5. Country Houses
  6. Self-Catering facilities
  7. Caravan and Camping sites
  8. MESE (Meetings, Exhibitions and Special Events) venues
  9. Backpackers and hostels

What does each star mean?

Before we start, it’s important to note that the criteria for each accommodation varies according to the type of establishment it is. Simply put, a 3-star B&B will have different requirements than a 3-star hotel, and so on.

The TGCSA Star Grading criteria are in keeping with international standards. They apply to building exteriors, bedrooms, bathrooms, public areas, dining facilities, food and beverage outlets, service and services, and housekeeping. To ensure credibility, consumer feedback is encouraged on the TGCSA website.

Cape Flame Guest House (TG)

Basic grading requirements

  • The accommodation must have a formal reception area
  • An on-site representative must be contactable 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
  • Breakfast should be provided or available. Please note that breakfast is not necessarily included in the rate, and guests should enquire about this before they confirm their booking.
  • Room servicing (including linen and towel change, removal or rubbish, and cleaning)
  • En-suite or private bathroom

To be 4 or 5-star graded

All the above and:

  • Accommodation must be available 7 days a week
  • Dining facilities on site
  • On-site parking
  • Concierge, porter, and luggage handling
  • Central business centre
  • Range of other services such as babysitting
  • Other exceptional facilities, such as a gym, beauty spa, etc
  • Full housekeeping and laundry service
  • Universal Access Compliance
  • Valet service

Julina's Guesthouse (TG)


Many ungraded establishments operate at star graded standards, however an official star grading awarded by the TGCSA is the best quality assurance you can get. In other words, an ungraded establishment is more of a gamble as you can’t be sure of what to expect.

☆ 1-star

A 1-star accommodation offers modest to good quality in terms of the overall standard of furnishings, services, and customer care. A 1-star establishment should be clean, comfortable, and functional. You should expect an en-suite bathroom with complimentary toiletries and towels. An adequate breakfast should be offered.

☆☆ 2-star

A 2-star accommodation offers good quality in terms of the overall standard of furnishings, services, and customer care. You should expect an en-suite bathroom with complimentary toiletries and towels, a colour television, and an in-house bar or restaurant. Breakfast should include some hot food items.

☆☆☆ 3-star

A 3-star accommodation offers very good quality in terms of the overall standard of furnishings, services, and customer care. You should expect multiple rooms to choose between that are slightly bigger in size; extra furnishings like a desk, colour television, or bar fridge; an in-house bar or restaurant; safe available on request; conference facilities; and an en-suite bathroom with towels and complimentary toiletries.  Breakfast options should be varied.

Rusthuiz Guest House (TG)

☆☆☆☆ 4-star

A 4-star accommodation offers superior to excellent quality in terms of the overall standard of furnishings, services, and customer care. You should expect multiple room or suite options, a colour television with at least 12 channels, a work area (desk, telephone, and Wi-Fi), and an en-suite bathroom stocked with complimentary toiletries and towels. On-site facilities could include a business centre, concierge services, a swimming pool, gym, babysitting services, an on-site restaurant or bar, and room service available at least 18 hours of the day. A full breakfast should be offered over an extended period of time, with the choice of a la carte dining.

☆☆☆☆☆ 5-star

A 5-star luxury accommodation offers the highest quality in terms of the overall standard of furnishings, services, and customer care. You should expect multiple room or suite options, a colour television with at least 12 channels, a work area (desk, telephone, and Wi-Fi), and an en-suite bathroom stocked with complimentary toiletries and towels. On-site facilities could include a business centre, concierge services, a swimming pool, gym, crèche or babysitting services, an on-site restaurant or bar, and room service available 24 hours a day. A full breakfast should be offered all day, with the choice of seated or in-room dining.

Majeka House (TG)

Did you know?

The TGCSA star grading is valid for a year, where after a property must be re-assessed.


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