Cape Town Places

Table Bay

by on May.26, 2012, under Cape Town

Table Bay (Afrikaans Tafelbaai) is a natural bay on the Atlantic Ocean overlooked by Cape Town (founded 1652) and is at the northern end of the Cape Peninsula, which stretches south to the Cape of Good Hope. It was named because it is dominated by the flat-topped Table Mountain.

Bartolomeu Dias was the first European to explore this region in 1486. The bay, although famous for centuries as a haven for ships, is actually a rather poor natural harbour and is badly exposed to gales from both the SE and NW. Many sailing ships seeking refuge in the bay during the 17th and 18th centuries were driven ashore by storms. (See article about Wolraad Woltemade).

The Dutch colonists nevertheless persisted with their colony on the shores of Table Bay because natural harbours along this coastline are scarce and the only realistic alternatives- Simon’s Bay and Saldanha Bay – had almost no fresh water. Eventually a harbour was built in Table Bay by a process of land reclamation and defended by breakwaters to protect shipping. The older part of this structure is called the Victoria Dock. The newer part is called the Duncan Dock. The blue indentation that is the harbour and the white line of the breakwater are just visible in the satellite image. Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades, is in this bay.


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