The museum will re-open to the members of the general public on 1 October 2020. Opening hours will be between 09:00 to 14:00 on weekdays and will be closed on weekends and public holidays. Our staff members started preparing for visitors on 25 September 2020 after approval for the re-opening was granted by the National Department of Sports, Arts and Culture. The museum will be operated under strict level 2 lockdown rules and regulations. For example, visitors without masks will be denied entry to the premises. Visitors’ temperature will be tested and those who have 38°C or more will not be allowed entry. The caravel will be closed until further notice. The aquarium touch tank at the Shell Museum will operate like other tanks, visitors will not be allowed to touch the animals. Only 50 visitors per building will be allowed at a time.
THE POST OFFICE TREE
In 1500 Pedro de Ataide, Commander of one of Cabral’s ships, on his return journey from the east, left a letter of importance in a shoe or iron pot under or near a large tree.
In 1501 this letter was found by Joao da Nova, commander of the third East India fleet en route to India. In this way the first Post Office in South Africa was founded. The large tree, a Milkwood (Sideroxylon inerme) has been declared a national monument and is generally known as the Post Office Tree.
The local post office has organised a wonderful way of communicating with the loved ones back home. The post box at the Old Post Office Tree can be used to post postcards and letters. A special frank is used on all outgoing mail to commemorate the fact that South Africa’s first post office was this tree! The reason for the boot-shaped letterbox is that it is presumed that the first letters were left at this old tree from the 1500’s in a sailor’s boot!
In the letter that da Nova received was a timely warning of problems near Calcutta and he was so grateful for this that he erected a small stone hermitage to be used for religious purposes. This was the first religious building in South Africa. The cross stands where it is thought the chapel or hermitage was built.