Victoria Bay, South Africa
Strolling down the Vic Bay waterfront, I found myself humming / singing the Beach Boy’s 1960’s hit song, ‘Surfin’ USA’, but changing ‘USA’ for Vic Bay, complete with the falsetto ‘inside outside USA’ bit.
Vic Bay? Well, a surfer probably cannot tell you where South Africa’s Victoria Bay is, but they do know where Vic Bay is. It is a 15-minute drive from the city of George, in the Western Cape.
Vic Bay is tiny. It has less than 15 houses, some which are B&Bs. Add two restaurants, a curio shop, and a few places that rent out surf boards, and that is Vic Bay, South Africa.
Privately owned holiday houses have been there since the 1800s. The entire area from Ballots Bay to Wilderness was once owned by a Mr Edmeades, who left Victoria Bay to his eight children when he died in 1927. To purchase a property in the tiny hamlet today, is well-nigh impossible.
Victoria Bay was originally named Gunters Bay (who or what is a Gunter? Were there Germans settlers in that area??), in the mid 1880s it was renamed for Queen Victoria, after the bay was surveyed by the British Navy, and it was deemed to be suitable to ‘land goods at all times’. These goods would then be transported to George by wagon.
Now it is purely a place to vacation, and surfers, because of the reef like right hand 200m wave, are usually in the water. Surfing competitions are often held here too. Competitions such as the Victoria Bay Classic and the Vic Bay Quad are regularly hosted. Big names in surfing, such as South African Champion Nikita Robb, internationally rated Dylan Lightfoot, and Springbok surfers Bianca Buitendag and Rob Pollock have all surfed Vic Bay. Many of the famous surfers, have left their imprints of their hands on plaques, and these have been set into a low wall. These are a lovely reminder that small villages can attract the champions of the world.
Land’s End, at the end of the road along the shore, is a jumble of large boulders which at some stage tumbled down from the hillside. Fresh flowers and candles are regularly brought to this natural ‘temple’, keeping the memory of loved ones alive. A South African version of a ‘chain and lock’ bridge is close by – it is not a huge padlock festooned bridge like those found in cities in Europe; this is a simple wall made of wire. Numerous padlocks have been attached, a symbol of promises made that cannot be unlocked or broken. I always wonder how many padlocks in those situations illustrate broken hearts and promises, and not kept promises.
On the other side of the bay, is the town of Wilderness. Wilderness is another popular tourist town, it lies between Victoria Bay and the famous town of Knysna. The Wilderness side of Vic Bay is popular for fishing, especially cob, also known as Cape Salmon, Kabeljou or Dagga (not be confused with the cannabis plant). I had an amusing conversation with the American tourist I was showing around: looking across the water, I said: ‘That must be Wilderness’, he looked at the buildings, and being polite, said: ‘yes, probably on the other side of the mountain’. Thinking he was looking in the wrong direction, I repeated what I had said. He repeated what he said about the wilderness, and then I realized that he did not know that there is a town called Wilderness, it was a funny and typical case of the meaning nearly get lost in translation, and we were both speaking English!
The Victoria Bay camping site is above the row of houses, so if the B&Bs are full, you do have another option for accommodation.
A tidal pool is next to the pier, which stretches out over the rocks into the bay. The pool and pier were built with funds won in a sweepstakes by a Mr Bramwell Butler in 1923. He won the large sum of 125000 British pounds, which would be approximately R93 000 000.00 in today’s money. He brought a property, built the pier and tidal pool, and tried to donate money to the Nederduitse Gereformede Kerk (NGK), but as it was deemed sinful gambling money, they couldn’t take it. The Methodist Church, of the opinion that life is a gamble, accepted the donation.
Today, the hamlet is strictly controlled by the property owners, making it extremely exclusive; properties seldom become available. Visitors are welcome, whether they are day trippers or are booking into a guesthouse, and you don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy the beauty and tranquility of this little bay.
How to get there: from George, follow the signboards.