Kayser’s Beach is a small village on the shore of the Indian Ocean, 45 kilometres southwest of East London in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The census of 2011 counted a population of 697.
It is an easy stroll down to the beach from Millwood, no need to use your vehicle. If one walks in a westerly direction from the parking area at the beachfront (right if you are facing the sea), it is a short and pleasant stroll to what the locals call ‘Swimming Beach’. On the way there are plenty of little pools and gullies in which to play and dip. Swimming Beach is pristine and very seldom has more than a few people enjoying the water. It is flanked on either side by outcrops of rocks that give a wonderful opportunity for good fishing. The “Boulders”, which one passes on the way to Swimming Beach and “Three Sisters” which is past Swimming Beach are both excellent fishing spots. Well worth the walk, is to continue towards the west past ‘Three Sisters’ to the mouth of the Chalumna/Tyolomnqa River about a further 30-40 minute walk. This is a most enjoyable walk when not too hot, and a chance to do some fishing from the banks of the river.
The Chalumna/Tyolomnqa River is best known for the Coelacanth that was caught off the mouth on 22nd December 1938 by Captain Hendrik Goosen. Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, director of the East London museum at the time had it made known to local fishermen that she was interested in seeing any unusual specimens that they came across. Captain Goosen recognized that the fish was indeed very unusual and called Ms Courtenay-Latimer to come and look at it at the East London docks.
She hauled the fish back to her museum in a taxi and tried to find it in her books without success. Eager to preserve the fish and, having no facilities at the museum, Courtenay-Latimer took it to the morgue, which refused to assist her. She tried to contact Prof. James Smith, a friend who taught at Rhodes University, to help her identify it, but he was away. Courtenay-Latimer reluctantly sent it to a taxidermist to skin and gut it. When Smith finally arrived on 16 February 1939, he instantly recognized the fish as a coelacanth. “There was not a shadow of a doubt”, he said. “It could have been one of those creatures of 200 million years ago come alive again”. Smith would give it the scientific name Latimeria chalumnae after his friend and the Chalumna River, where it was found.
The remains of the wreck of the Cape St Francis, a fishing trawler, are to be seen at the “Bay” which precedes the “Boulders” on the walk to Swimming Beach. This ship ran aground at night in November 1963 due to tumultuous sea conditions. Fortunately no lives were lost.
On 13 March 1967, the South African Airways Flight 406 (SAA Rietbok), flying from Port Elizabeth to East London, crashed into the sea near Kayser’s Beach, resulting in the loss of 25 lives. The air accident report speculated, without supporting evidence, that the pilot of the plane suffered a heart attack while on approach to ELS and the co-pilot was unable to regain control of the aircraft.
According to the Book by T. V. Bulpin, “Discovering Southern Africa” 1986 edition, Kayser’s Beach is described as being named after John Kayser who owned the land during the 1880s. Deed of Grant 34/1928, dated 1928-10-23, was made to Joseph Franklin Kayser.
Sand dunes, shell collecting, safe beaches and rock pools make it a pleasure for both children and adults to enjoy. Cob, Spotted & Pignose Grunter, Bluefish, Silver & Black Steenbras, Galjoen (in season), Blacktail, Zebra, Silvies as well as non edible fish such as Ragged Tooth & Sand Sharks, Rays and many other varieties are caught by anglers off the rocks. Octopus, Mussels and rock bait are plentiful, making this a Fisherman’s Paradise … when the fish are being co-operative that is!
Kaysers Beach allows one to relax and enjoy the simple pleasures of life in an unhurried way.