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The Post Office Tree is a famous milkwood tree in Mossel Bay that was used by early Portuguese explorers as a post office. It is located in the grounds of the Bartholomeu Dias Museum Complex.

This ancient circa 600 year old, milkwood tree is believed to be the country’s very first mailbox.


In 1500, a Portuguese sea captain named Pêro de Ataíde lost much of his fleet in a storm off the Southern Cape. D’Ataide landed at the “watering place of São Brás” (present-day Mossel Bay). Before returning to India, he wrote a message reporting the damage and warning of rough waters to the East. Ataíde tucked the message in a boot dangling from a milkwood tree near a spring where sailors often drew water.

The fourth Portuguese Fleet to India found D’Ataide’s letter in July 1501. It contained information that was useful to them about the hostility towards the Portuguese at Calcutta, now known as Kozhikode, and warned of rough waters “to the East”.

The captain of this fleet, in turn, left an inscription on stone which was found in 1850. A replica of this postal stone can be seen inside the Maritime Museum.

The tree became a de facto post office box, where sailors would exchange letters protected in boots, iron pots, or beneath rocks. Seamen would leave their messages behind, trusting that their countrymen would pick them up and deliver them to their correct destination, albeit very slowly.


The tree still continues to send and receive mail. A large post office box shaped like a giant boot has been constructed beneath the tree, where people can send letters anywhere in the world and a special  frank is used on all outgoing mail to commemorate the fact that South Africa’s first post office was a tree.

Presumably, delivery now takes less than a year.

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