While the homely settlement of Slangrivier may not seem like much at first glance, digging a little deeper will reveal a truly intriguing history as well as a community of colourful characters, making for a truly enriching experience.
The town was officially established in 1838 when Sir George Grey, Governor of the Cape Colony at the time, awarded land to 20 local men and their families as a token of his gratitude for their loyalty during the Cape Frontier Wars. If indigenous legends are anything to go by, however, Slangrivier has a far more fascinating back story. Apparently the first inhabitants were actually survivors of a shipwreck that ran aground somewhere close to what is now Stilbaai. They made their way along the coastline and after a run-in with one of the farmers of the area, finally settled under a large tree in a relatively secluded inland area. The settlement was originally called ‘Olieboom’, but became Slangrivier somewhere along the line.
These days Slangrivier’s biggest drawcard and most well-known export is its award-winning Christmas choirs, a cultural phenomenon unique to the Western Cape, with the southern Cape and little Karoo being particularly well-represented. Going by names the likes of Newborn Stars and Young Loving Shephards, these gospel choirs boast memberships of between 50 and 100 people – some vocalists and others playing brass instruments. Competition season lasts from January to March and sees an influx of Christmas choirs to the Hessequa region.