World at a Glance: Republic of Hout Bay

2014-08-23T15:33:35+00:0021 April 2013|Quirky corners, South Africa|

Republic of Hout Bay

World at a Glance is an infrequent series here on Sophie’s World, portraying curious, evocative, happy, sad, wondrous, unexpected little encounters.

After a thought-provoking visit in the Imizamo Yethu township (post to come) in Cape Town, my friend Ingrid and I hopped off the bus at Hout Bay, for us a random stop along the ocean. It seemed the right place to be for a little while, just wandering along the beach, clearing the mind. I loved all the blue: the ocean, the sky, the fishing boats.

What’s more, Hout Bay is, or was, a micronation. Some say this was merely a publicity stunt created to draw tourists in the 80s, others claim it was a left-wing artists’ protest against apartheid. Whatever the reason, the Republic of Hout Bay had its own flag, national anthem, dress, and passport. These days, only the passport remains.

A few rumours persist: during apartheid, white South Africans used Republic of Hout Bay passports to visit African countries that at the time didn’t recognise South African passports. Furthermore, a local is said to have travelled half the world on his Hout Bay passport.

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  1. noel 22 April 2013 at 0235 - Reply


    I’ve always wanted to travel to South Africa, I’ll definitely put this on my bucklist of places to visit when I finally fly the long distance to the cape, thanks for sharing.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1326 - Reply

      If you’ll be in Cape Town, it’s an interesting stop.

  2. Nat 22 April 2013 at 0500 - Reply

    Might be wrong but don’t think it was a publicity stunt for tourists. Not in the 80s anyway.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1325 - Reply

      I think you may be right. Many of the residents seem to have been prominent activists during apartheid.

  3. Reg of The Spain Scoop 22 April 2013 at 1038 - Reply

    How many people live in the micronation? Sounds interesting.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 22 April 2013 at 1322 - Reply

      Interesting question – and one that’s not altogether easy to answer. Various sources give wildly varying numbers. According to a census from 2001, the official population was about 23 000. Considering that the township of Imizamo Yethu, with many unofficial residents, is part of Hout Bay, the real number is estimated to be about 60 000.

  4. Salika Jay 23 April 2013 at 0918 - Reply

    Looks like a place to relax. It’s interesting they had their own passport, national anthem etc. being a small community.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 at 0852 - Reply

      Definitely a place to chill.

  5. Andrea 23 April 2013 at 1634 - Reply

    Lovely photo – the water in South Africa always looks so inviting!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 at 0853 - Reply

      Yes, I thought so, too – so beautiful and so many shades of blue.

  6. Leigh 24 April 2013 at 0140 - Reply

    I’ve never heard of the place before but they went t a lot of work to create an identity. I wonder if it was worthwhile.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 at 0857 - Reply

      These days it’s more of a curiosity, I imagine. Of the micro nations around the world, some seem to be just for fun; others have developed as a form of civil/social protest – it’s an intriguing phenomenon, I think.

  7. Ray @stingytraveller 24 April 2013 at 2142 - Reply

    Wow…interesting post. Never knew about this place. Thanks for sharing!

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 at 0857 - Reply

      You’re welcome.

  8. [email protected] 26 April 2013 at 0358 - Reply

    Hi Sophie,I’ve been to Hout Bay and enjoyed its beautiful sceneries, but I didn’t know its story of being a micronation. That’s very interesting. Thanks for the history lesson.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 1 May 2013 at 0858 - Reply


  9. Kate 29 April 2016 at 2018 - Reply

    Pretty interesting! I would be curious to see what other countries think of that. But a pretty cool idea on how to get into Africa back in the day :).

    It would be neat to have one as a novelty.

  10. Michael van der Riet 5 January 2018 at 2353 - Reply

    I had a RHB passport. Participating businesses in town would give you a discount upon presentation of your passport, and stamp it too. Upon acquiring a certain number of stamps you could claim a free RHB pennant from the gift shop that doubled as the tourist information bureau.

    • Anne-Sophie Redisch 6 January 2018 at 0005 - Reply

      How cool! Gotta like such a spirit of defiance.

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