|The West Coast
The area is the hub of the South African commercial fishing industry.
From snoek (which can be bought fresh for R20 or less) to crayfish
and mussels from the bay. The area is also a popular spot for
tourists to see whales during their mating season, which is from
early August to about November.
The climate is mostly known for its infrequent rains, dry countryside
and high offshore winds. But for all that, the West Coast is becoming
increasing popular, with its remarkably beautiful coastline of
jagged cliffs, wide beaches and perfect sunsets.
Because of the Benguela current flowing from the Antarctic, the
water of the Atlantic Ocean is cold. This is also the reason for
the vegetation, which comprises mostly of succulents and succulent-type
plants, low bushes, sedges and some coastal fynbos. During spring,
the area is transformed into a floral paradise, with wild flowers
growing everywhere, forming the southwestern fringe of the famous
flower carpets of Namaqualand.
Taking the R27 leading north from Cape Town, one reaches Yzerfontein,
a small holiday resort. A very popular surfing spot, Yzerfonteins
rock promontories are also excellent for fishing. About 10 km
south-west of Yzerfontein lies Dassen Island, which is the main
breeding ground of the Cape penguin (Spheniscus demersus) more
commonly known as the jackass penguin for its harsh, braying call.
During springtime the road to Yzerfontein is lined with wild flowers.
The Tienie Versveld Flower Reserve on the road to Yzerfontein
has been designed to conserve the typical vegetation of the Sandveld.
Following the R27 north, the next coastal town is Langebaan,
which, just like Yzerfontein, is a holiday resort. A must see
if one is in the area and a popular tourist sight is the Langebaan
lagoon, which forms part of the West Coast National Park. The
lagoon supports some 60 000 birds of at least 23 species. It is
truly a bird watchers paradise.
The West Coast National Park, which lies between Yzerfontein
and Langebaan, is an extremely important conservation area for
many different live forms, including 50 per cent of the worlds
population of swift terns. The terrain in the park is, like the
rest of the area, virtually treeless, but the ground vegetation
has its interest and in spring its beauty.
Within the park, one can find the Postberg Wild Flower Hiking
Trail that is only open during August and September. The trail
follows the lagoon and offers an opportunity to walk among the
Between Yzerfontein and Langebaan, just north of the lagoon mouth
and outside the park borders is Club Mykonos. This large hotel,
timeshare and resort complex, draws its design inspiration from
the Greek isles. A casino has recently also been added. If it
wasnt for the wind and the obvious newness of everything,
one could easily imagine oneself beneath an Aegean sky.
North from Langebaan is Saldanha Bay, one of the great natural
harbours of the world. The town, Saldanha has developed much since
the days when it was a peaceful fishing village, but has nevertheless
kept much of its charm. One can find many scattered well preserved
old cottages. The municipality hires out holiday bungalows and
runs an attractive caravan park.
Only 11 km from Saldanha and slightly inland, lies the town Vredenburg,
where the peace monument in Church street commemorates the origin
of the towns name ("town of peace") when an end
was put to the interminable water squabbles about water rights.
Fifteen km northwest from Saldanha is lies the quaint fishing
North from Saldanha one finds the town St Helena, which bay is
the largest on the West Coast and the centre of the South African
commercial fishing industry. St Helena Bay was given its name
by Vasco da Gama when he anchored here in 1497. The Vasco da Gama
monument is located more or less where the explorer landed.
The last village worth noting is Lamberts Bay. Bird Island
in the bay is a massive slab of rock where tourists can see thousands
of penguins, cormorants, gannets and other bird species. At the
Muisbosskerm, a restaurant on the beach about 5 km south of the
village, gourmet seafood dishes are prepared on open fires and
served under the stars.
Other tourist attractions are the horse mill together with a
wooden lock more than 200 years old, which can be seen on the
farm Wadrif, 15 km south of Lamberts Bay and also the Sandveld
Cultural History Museum.
With its exquisite seafood dishes, rugged beauty, attractive
fishing villages and small holiday resorts, the region is very
different from the southern and eastern coastal areas and has
much to offer.