When Neanderthal man was still ruling supreme in Europe, modern people had provided some of the earliest evidence in the world of modern people. Such early remains have been found in only three South African sites and in the Middle East. Klipgat cave is one of the most important cultural assets in the Western Cape.
Klipgat Cave, just outside of De Kelders in the Walker Bay Nature Reserve, has a dramatic view over the ocean and the Walker Bay Reserve through its two “windows” and one small “portal”.
The remains found in the cave date back to between 65’000 and 85’000 years. At this time the ocean was at a distance of around 5 km from the cave. Excavations in Klipgat Cave between 1969 and 1995 produced stone artifacts, preserved bone tools and human remains left by Middle Stone Age people between 65’000 and 85’000 years ago. The excavations also produced remains of some of the earliest sheep bones in the Western Cape, indicating that sheep-keeping Quena pastoralists from the Later Stone Age were already living in the region 2000 years ago.
De Kelders is also rich in other archeological sites, with shell middens occurring in several areas along the coast. Stanford’s Cove has two important historical aspects, namely the graves of early inhabitants and the fig tree planted by the first fishermen who lived here.
The Klipgat cave is open to the public and is accessed through the Walker Bay Nature Reserve entrance at the end of De Kelders. From the gate, numerous steps take you down to the protected cove. From there one has to climb a bit to get to the entrance of the cave. In the cave one can see the sand bags that have been used to seal the excavations. At the moment the cave is only accessible for fit people, but this will change in the near future when the cave and its surroundings will be developed to both protect this cultural asset and allow smoother access for visitors.
The Klipgat Cave in the Walker Bay Reserve is managed by Cape Nature Conservation. It is one of the most important assets in the Western Cape. After a period of neglect, funding has now been made available to upgrade the facilities and protect the site from further damage. The construction of board-walks will provide access without further damage to the cave due to visitor impact. An interpretation and information centre will be built to facilitate an awareness, understanding and interest in our indigenous cultural heritage. The centre will offer opportunities for environmental education for youth. School groups will be able to use this effectively for their environmental projects.
This project undertaken by Cape Nature will ensure the necessary long-term conservation and preservation of Klipgat Cave. Tour guides will be employed from the local communities to assist and educate visitors.