The rich history of Kommetjie

A photograph of the De Stadler family camping in Kommetjie in a canvas tent around 1920. Picture: Fred Hemming collection.
The Kommetjie to Muizenberg bus at St James. Picture: Fish Hoek Valley Museum.

While the seaside village of Kommetjie is known for its surfing and kite surfing hot spots, it is said that the first bus service on the Cape Peninsula, and quite possibly the first bus service in South Africa, operated from Kommetjie to Muizenberg from 1902 until 1905.

According to A Century of Kommetjie, compiled by the Friends of the Kommetjie Library the vehicle was owned by Kommetjie Estates Ltd, the owners of the whole Kommetjie area at the time.

Anton J Benning, a well-known building contractor who built a number of houses in Kommetjie was one of the first directors of Kommetjie Estates Ltd and is regarded by many as the “father of Kommetjie.”

The bus service ran between Fish Hoek and Kommetjie during the week and transported both passengers and supplies.

During weekends, the service was extended to Kalk Bay and Muizenberg, mainly carrying day visitors who wanted to enjoy the beaches in the far south.

The journey from St James to Kommetjie took one and a quarter hours to complete.

However, frequent breakdowns and the ongoing hassles of getting stuck in sand dunes became a problem as passengers often had to push the bus through the soft sands of Fish Hoek.

They were reluctant to pay for the service and it was discontinued in 1905.

In 1743, the farm that was originally called Slangkop, but later changed to Imhoff’s Gift, was granted to Christina Diemer, a widow, by Baron Gustav Wilhelm van Imhoff, commissioner extraordinaire of the Dutch East India Company.

The grant included one condition: That she had to grow vegetables to supply to the VOC for their ships in Simon’s Town.

In 1902 Heinrich Pieter Hablutzel sold the land on which Kommetjie was established in 1903 and Ocean View in 1965, to Benning.

The name Kommetjie is said to have been derived from the Afrikaans word, kom which means basin, as Kommetjie is located around a small natural cove that resembles a basin.

A government surveyor and his friends, Ernst Seeliger, Benning, and Joseph Rubbi were among the first to buy plots in Kommetjie in 1904.

Imhoff’s Gift has been owned by the Van der Horst family since 1912.

In later years, Kommetjie became a popular destination for camping.

According to The Story of Kommetjie by Roger Bain, Marilyn Metcalfe, and Duncan Duffett, the first campers came from farms in Noordhoek, Sunnydale, the Cape Flats, and Cape Town.

Most families came for the summer holidays and stayed until after New Year.

Some had tents while others camped under the milkwood trees in canvas structures.

Preparations for the holidays started months before.

Unlike today, campers had to take all supplies, including food, beds, canvas chairs, and carpets with them on their wagons.