In accordance with our museum’s approved covid19 lockdown operational plan the operation times at our museum are as follows: During the week the museum is opened to the public from 09:00 to 16:45. On Saturdays and public holidays it is opened from 09:00 to 16:00 and Sundays from 09:00 to 13:00. The museum is operated under strict level 1 lockdown rules and regulations. For example, visitors without masks are denied entry to the premises. Visitors’ temperature is tested and those who have 38°C or more are not allowed to enter the premises. The caravel is closed until further notice. The aquarium touch tank at the Shell Museum is operated like other tanks, visitors are not allowed to touch the animals. Only 100 visitors per building are 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.