At first glance, with its narrow cobbled streets working their way up the mountain, antique and craft shops and the harbour side, Kalk Bay is a picturesque holiday seaside town.
Located roughly 30km from Cape Town, Kalk Bay has one of the last working fishing harbours on the Cape Peninsula. Here you can pick up fish, fresh off the boats, at the fish market directly beside the harbour.
If you visit around midday you’ll be just in time to see the boats coming in from the sea with their cargos of freshly caught fish.
The fishermen wet the sides of the harbour before throwing handfuls of fish out from the bottom of the boat and a crowd gathers round to have first pick.
Another attraction of the harbour, and one that is almost certain to get tourists reaching for their camera, are the Cape fur seals. Whilst they should perhaps be residents of Seal Island off the False Bay coast, the harbour at Kalk Bay has become home for many of them.
The relationship between seals and fishermen is somewhat less than friendly, as they compete for the same food resources, and the reception of the seals on the harbour side is met with mixed reactions too. When they come up out of the water tourists inevitably flock to them, irrespective of the fact that the seals are wild animals and can be dangerous, a point reiterated many times by a market worker shouting ‘He will bite you Lady! He will bite you!’
The market workers themselves don’t seem to welcome the seals, making a show of shooing them away.
So why do the seals stick around after being driven away so many times? Well, the seals bring the tourists in, and the market workers can’t be ignorant to the fact that the more people who visit the harbour, the more fish they have a chance of selling. So in quick succession from driving the seals away, they give them a gourmet meal.
This repeats in a pattern, the love/ hate relationship provides ongoing entertainment for visitors to the harbour. Keep in mind though, they have been known to bite. Males can grow to 400kg, and on grabbing onto a fish with their immensely powerful canines, they proceed to shake it to kill- a fact which I’m sure many ‘fish gut’ showered bystanders will attest to- and which could cause serious damage to a human arm. The seals themselves face dangers from their new habitat as well, (being caught in the propellors of incoming boats, losing the ability to hunt for themselves, injuries from the rubbish floating in the water and more) yet with such easy living, who can blame the seals for sticking around? Even some other locals from the area get to join in the feast!