Graham Leslie McCallum

The tree of happiness flowers and fruits most abundantly for the creative man



Most Durbanites would not have heard of ‘Cave Rock’, and this is not surprising, for Cave Rock no longer exists. Well – as a landmark, tourist attraction, natural wonder and picnic spot it no longer exists – but as a pile of rocks it does, for it was dynamited in the 1940’s by the South African War Department. Only in South Africa, and perhaps quite particular to Durban, where any feature of interest, any building of heritage or any name historic is dismantled. It is a wonder that the Bluff still exists.

For many hundreds of thousands of years this large sandstone formation stood proudly at the Bluff headland, witnessing the centuries rolling on like the ocean waves. It was there that Christmas Day in 1497 when Vasco da Gama sailed up the coast in his rickety wooden carrack the 178 ton Sao Gabriel, looking for his route to the East. It was standing like a sentinel in 1685 when the sailors of the ironically named ‘Good Hope’ were wrecked at Rio de Natal (Port Natal). They built a hut on the south shore near the outcrop until being rescued the following year. Also, familiar with this formation were the tribe called the Abakwa Luthuli “People of the Dust’ who used the Bluff which they called IsiBubulunga as a refuge from King Shaka’s marauding Zulu impi and thus survived his ‘Mfecana’. Meticulous mapmaker Lieutenant King would most certainly have recorded it in 1823 during his survey of the Bay and surrounds. It was there in 1824 when 20 year old settler and pioneer Henry Ogle built  his kraals and homestead atop the Bluff. Each morning at sunrise and waking he would have seen the landmark below on the shoreline.

And so it was for all those early Durbanites – who could also visit the mound for a look-see, a family picnic and the opportunity to take a scenic photograph. For no citizen of this maritime city considered himself one until he had perched himself like a rooster atop this pile, or had cowered chicken-hearted beneath the the arch of the cave at low tide.

Like a bulwark it managing to withstand the pounding of a myriad Indian Ocean waves, but not the decision of the pratt who determined that it blocked the trajectory of the gun placed at the headland to protect the Port of Durban from German u-boats during World War 2. Would it not have been easier to simply move the gun emplacement?  If the ‘Tommy Atkins’ were able to drag a naval gun to the top of Inkwelo Mountain in Northern Natal during the 2nd Anglo-Boer War, then there is simply no excuse. I hope the name of this person can be ascertained so that it can be established like a monumental adjective to idiocy.

Bluff, Cave Rock and Bluff Lighthouse from North Pier

Cave Rock can be seen in this painting at the headland of the Bluff.

Map and Plan of Durban Harbour, 1911, Point, Cave Rock and Bluff

Cave Rock is marked on this map as the dark spot just off the tip of the Bluff.

The Bluff headland and the entrance to the Bay of Natal

(above) A remarkable photograph of the headland to the Bluff, with the remnants of Cave Rock still visible as a pile of rocks in the left lower quadrant of the image.

The Bluff headland, Bluff Lighthouse and Cave Rock viewed from South Pier

(above) A photograph taken from the southern breakwater (South Pier) of the Bluff with Cave Rock visible on the far left.

Cave Rock, Durban

Bluff, Cave Rock, Durban

Drawing by C. W. Methwen of Cave Rock, Bluff, Durban, 1891

(above) A drawing of Cave Rock by the Durban artist Cathcart W. Methven, 1891.

Painting of Cave Rock, Bluff, by the artist Maggie Loubser

(above) Cave Rock by the South African artist Maggie Loubser.

cave rock by artist

(above) A surrealistic landscape painting of Cave Rock by Gabriel Cartwright Marks, 2017. Gabriel is a scholar at Durban High School. It is evident from this provocative painting that this landmark (although long gone) exerts a fascination in the minds of Durbanites, long after its destruction.

Cave Rock, Bluff, Durban

photograph, cave rock, bluff, durban

(above) A photograph of a Photographer setting up his camera at Cave Rock.

picnic, durbanites, cave rock

cave rock, natal, bluff, durban

Cave Rock, picnic, durbanites, natal, durban, bluff

Cave Rock, Bluff Durban nd

Cave Rock, the Bluff, Durban, Natal (2)

Cave Rock, Bluff, 1903, Durban

Cave Rock, Bluff, Durban, Natal

Cave Rock Band, Durban 1906

Cave Rock, Bluff Heads, Durban, Natal

Cave Rock, head of Bluff, Durban

Cave Rock at  the head of the Bluff

Cave Rock, Durban, Bluff 1

Cave Rock, Durban q

Cave Rock, Bluff headland, Durban i

Cave Rock, Bluff Headland, Durban a

Cave Rock, Bluff, Durban with ship

A photographic view of the Bluff Beach and Cave Rock, Durban

Cave Rock, the Bluff, Durban, Natal

Cave Rock, Durban, Bluff

Cave Rock, Durban

Cave Rock, Bluff Heads, Durban

Cave Rock, Durban b

Cave Rock, Bluff, Durban, 1

Cave Rock, Bluff headland, Durban

Cave Rock, Durban 1

Cave Rock, Durban, Natal, 1913

(above) Cave Rock photographed in 1913.

Cave Rock looking North with pounding surf, head of Bluff, Durban

(above) A photograph of Cave Rock being pounded by heavy surf.

5 comments on “CAVE ROCK – DURBAN

  1. Bronnie
    December 20, 2018

    very interesting article. Really enjoyed it. Thanks for all the hard work.

  2. Colin Chester
    January 9, 2019

    A complete travesty that they did this! Something we can never get back again

  3. Don
    February 10, 2019

    Great research, a fascinating reach back into the past

  4. AJ
    June 14, 2019

    This whole area of the Bluff is a mystery to me. Thanks for your priceless insight.

  5. Peppy Anckorn
    June 28, 2019

    I remember my parents talking about going to picnic as children at Cave Rock. Probably in the 1920s. Wonderful website. I so admire and appreciate all the time and effort you have put into this. I live in the UK but when I return to Durban I always mean to go to the Killie Campbell museum to do research but each time it is next time. You have inspired me and it will be next time.

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This entry was posted on May 26, 2014 by in Durban Environment and Issues, Durban History, History.
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