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Hondeklip Bay — essential travels to historic seaside village on southern tip of Diamond Coast 

Hondeklip Bay — essential travels to historic seaside village on southern tip of Diamond Coast 
This way to Hondeklip Bay, at the southern tip of the Diamond Coast. (Photo: Chris Marais)

Travellers head to Hondeklip Bay for a quiet breakaway holiday in relative isolation, where ‘faraway tourism’ is the prime attraction.

Hondeklip Bay, the isolated Northern Cape seaport at the southern tip of the Diamond Coast, has taken on many functions over the past few centuries.

In the 1700s, it hosted families of Khoikhoi herders and their livestock.

From the mid-1800s, it served as a copper shipping port for the mines around Springbokfontein (now Springbok) more than 100km to the east.

Hondeklip Bay

Hondeklip Bay – a magical Northern Cape seaside escape. (Photo: Chris Marais)

When Port Nolloth became a more popular copper port, the fishing and crayfish industry took over, and a processing plant was built near the Hondeklip Bay jetty.

When the crayfish stocks began to dwindle, it was the era of the offshore diamond diving industry, as flotillas of little boats, their hardy crews and their massive suction pipes arrived and made this port their headquarters. Many locals also went to work at the land-based diamond mines nearby.

Ddiamond diving boat, Hondeklip Bay.

One of the last remaining diamond diving boats operating out of Hondeklip Bay. (Photo: Chris Marais)

Read more in Daily Maverick: The sea cowboys and diamond divers of Port Nolloth

Today, there’s seldom more than one diamond boat in the bay, and “faraway tourism” is Hondeklip Bay’s prime attraction. Travellers, both from the area and other parts of the country, come here for a quiet breakaway holiday in relative isolation.

Based in Hondeklip Bay, you spend your time on a great escape from the world of traffic, smog, deadlines and the office by simply reading a book in a secluded spot, visiting the lighthouse, meeting one of the local artists at K9 Pottery or going for long walks along the coastal paths.

Nanette Hough, one of the potters of Hondeklip Bay. Image: Chris Marais

Nanette Hough, one of the potters of Hondeklip Bay. (Photo: Chris Marais)

Or, if shipwrecks take your fancy, there are few more suitably atmospheric ports along the north-west coast.

The village was named after a huge boulder that was said to be in the shape of a hulking dog. It should really have been named for its many historic shipwrecks. What remains of one of them, Jahleel, can still be seen jutting out above the waves on the lighthouse side of the bay.

About 3km south of Hondeklip Bay lies the rusting wreck of the Aristea, which foundered on the rocks here in July 1945 on a dark and misty night in rough seas. Now it is an attraction, with picnic tables and braai stands, mussel shells crunching underfoot.

The wreck of the Aristea, south of Hondeklip Bay

The wreck of the Aristea, south of Hondeklip Bay. (Photo: Chris Marais)

Near the police station is what locals call the “English Graveyard”. It stands on the edge of a small rise overlooking the coastline where the Atlantic waves break loudly on the rocks below.

The very old and higgledy-piggledy gravestones have been weathered into semi-obscurity and you can barely make out the engraved lettering on them. But if you look closely, you will spot phrases like “all died in shipwreck, 1858”, “died with all hands”, “drowned in turbulent seas”. You can then let your imagination and the history books complete the picture.

The “English Graveyard” at Hondeklip Bay

The ‘English Graveyard’ at Hondeklip Bay, bearing the headstones of many an ill-fated seaman. (Photo: Chris Marais)

After all the walks, the shipwrecks and the hunt for curios, it’s time for an early lunch at Sam’s Restaurant, right on the beachfront. Hake and chips are the speciality of retired diamond miner Sam Cloete.

Sam Cloete

Sam Cloete, well known for his tasty fish and chips lunches. (Photo: Chris Marais)

After lunch, pop next door to the Dop en Kreef Restaurant, take an outside bench, order a drink and watch the passing parade of Hondeklip Bay.

The crew of the Crazy Diamond boat might be servicing their craft and preparing it for a four-day diving excursion out beyond the breakers. A young man will be collecting sand of different colours and artfully pouring it into bottles which are then transformed into mementoes from Hondeklip Bay.

Fishermen will pass by on their way to their skiffs, all lined up behind the deserted old crayfish factory. The tides will change, the afternoon sun will soften into twilight and then suddenly it’s time for that supper which you booked earlier at the Dop en Kreef.

Fishermen’s skiffs,

The fishermen’s skiffs, waiting for their day at sea. (Photo: Chris Marais)

The evening progresses into a companionable meal. Eventually, your cottage at the Honnehokke resort calls and you drift off after a long and lazy well-spent day at the seaside. Hondeklip Bay has once again done its job superbly.

Honnehokke Resort at Hondeklip Bay

The ever-popular Honnehokke Resort at Hondeklip Bay. (Photo: Chris Marais)

Accommodation:

LekkeSlaap

Know before you go

  • There is no tar on the way to Hondeklipbaai, so leave time to enjoy the dirt roads. You’ll be driving past Koiingnaas from the north, or from Garies if approaching from the south.
  • You’ll need at least two nights here to fully appreciate the attractions and atmosphere.
  • Another nearby attraction is the Namaqua National Park.
  • Bring enough cash, fuel and groceries (if you are self-catering).
  • There are three restaurants and one coffee shop at the moment. Depending on the season, it may be best to book for dinners. Rooi Spinnekop (for seafood and sometimes Namaqualand specials like offal or lamb) 083 983 0274. Dop en Kreef for seafood (signature dish mussels) 069 459 0147 and Sam’s Restaurant (fish and chips, opens early, closes at 4pm) 071 797 9435.
  • Hondeklipbaai falls in the Succulent Karoo, so look out for plant biodiversity around the town, and look out for lovely flowers between August and September.
  • There is a fair amount of accommodation, including camping. DM
Even the local shop owner is a part-time fisherman in Hondeklip Bay

Even the local shop owner is a part-time fisherman in Hondeklip Bay. (Photo: Chris Marais)

For more stories on life in the Karoo, get the three-book special of Karoo Roads I, Karoo Roads II and Karoo Roads III (illustrated in black in white) for only R800, including courier costs in South Africa. For more details, contact Julie at [email protected]

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