South Africa’s Small Town West Coast

by Jules on February 9, 2014

Route 27 on South Africa’s west coast is one of the quieter summer destinations in the popular holiday destination of the Western Cape. On this route the beaches remain unspoilt, bordered with fields of flowers in the spring. The west coast begins from Cape Town until the border with the Northern Cape. In this incredibly beautiful part of the country there is the majestic Cederberg Mountains which are also known for the indigenous rock art. Along Route 27 are many fishing villages and small towns. These include Langebaan, Paternoster, Saldanha and Lambert’s Bay.

Darling

In the fishing villages the residents sustain their way of life through crayfish, snoek and mussel fishing, making this region a paradise for seafood lovers. Tourists and locals enjoy meals at beach restaurants serving the freshest seafood. The town of Darling, on the outskirts of Cape Town is incredibly beautiful in September because of the wild flowers that grow there as well as offering an Orchid show and local wines.

West Coast National Park

Further north on the coast is the West Coast National Park which is another ideal place to view the carpets of wild spring flowers.

Next to Route 27 is the N7 which goes through the Swartland and leads to other quaint towns like Clanwilliam and Citrusdal. Along the N7 one can travel to Ceres along the way to Citrusdal on the Gydo Pass. Along this route one passes through the Koue Bokkeveld which is a region of fruit farms growing plums, peaches, pears, apricots and apples. For uncrowded idyllic beaches Britannia Bay is the perfect spot. It is about 45km from Saldanha Bay and Vredenburg. While the west coast is known for its cold waters (the Atlantic Ocean), the waters in Britannia Bay are relatively warmer than at other beaches. This bay is also perfect for whale watching as it hosts Humpback and Southern Right whales for about 10 months a year.

There are also dolphins that live on this part of the coast. Dusky and Heaviside dolphins are quite friendly and often follow the tourist boats. About 10 minutes from this bay is Seal Island which is a popular place for Cray fishing and diving. In general, Britannia Bay is ideal for all kinds of water sports.

Bird Watching

Hosting more than 200 types of bird species, the bay is one of the best bird watching destinations in the world. The West Coast National Park is a leading bird sanctuary in this regards. For bird watchers there is also the nearby Rocherpan Nature Reserve and the Berg River estuary. These birds are mostly attracted by the wild flowers that flourish during the spring time; amongst these are the Gazania krebsiana (gousblom) and the Trachyandra ciliate (veldkool).

Whale Watching

Another fishing village on this coastline is Doringbaai. In this bay the Southern Right whales calve every year between the months of May and November. This is one of the quieter towns on the route, and so is ideal for a quiet getaway. It does not offer much by way of entertainment, other than the beaches, the fishing and the natural wildlife. To be able to do some whale watching via boat one can find licensed tours in Lamberts Bay, Saldanha Bay, St Helena Bay and Port Nolloth.  Whale watching is also available in Hermanus. However, in Hermanus these tours can be quite crowded. And, if you go further north to one of these smaller towns then you can also catch the wild flowers. However, there is no guarantee of spotting the whales on your visit. It is advisable to call the relevant tourist companies prior to your visit. To get a good view of the whales bring some binoculars.

Fossil Park

Next to The West Coast National Park is The Fossil Park in which 200 different types of animals have been found, including some that are entirely new to science. Millions of years ago this part of the world actually had wooded savannah and riverine forests with now long extinct animals. This was discovered in the 1950’s when some mining in the area exposed a huge fossil site. It is one of the fullest fossil sites in the world. The fossils are 5 million years old and are amongst the most diverse in the world. When visiting the park visitors can watch live excavations with guided tours available daily.
In 1993 this area was declared a national heritage site and is now operated by museums. The Fossil Park is about 120 kilometres north of Cape Town along the R45. South Africa’s west coast, north of Cape Town is a rich holiday destination for those appreciate quiet and unspoilt nature. There are companies that offer tours along this route. However, for a less strict schedule and for more flexibility and quiet it is better to hire a private car. There are numerous car hire companies operating in Cape Town. The best way to get to the west coast is to fly into Cape Town and then hiring a car or tour company from there.

Image credit: Nick Roux CC ASA 1.0

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