White sand beaches leading out to infinite horizons; fynbos and flower-carpeted landscapes that erupt into kaleidoscopic colour every spring; hot, fresh seafood caught by local fishermen that morning; and the best views of the sunsets you’ll find in the Cape…these are just a few of the myriad assets the spectacular West Coast of South Africa has to offer. And now, with social distancing becoming a part of our culture, we can add another quality to the West Coast experience: wide open spaces!
Let’s take a look at all the beguiling reasons you should take a trip up the West Coast…
# 1. Picnics and sundowners on endless beaches
The West Coast serves as the country’s border to the Atlantic Ocean. Beyond its fringe of white-sand beaches and rolling coastal shrub there is nothing but open ocean. Next stop? South America.
Given it’s remoteness and distance from major cities, the West Coast is equally blessed with beauty and tranquility. And so, if it’s generous swaths of beach looking out onto infinite western horizons you’re after, you won’t find a better viewpoint in the entirety of the Cape.
# 2. The blooming of the spring wildflowers
The West Coast has an international reputation for the annual blooming of its wildflowers. Towards the end of every August, millions upon millions of bulbs and seeds that have lain dormant in the soil erupt into a celebration of colour, carpeting the region in swaths of orange, purple, red, and white. If you didn’t know any better, you might think that a vast truck carrying paint had upended its contents across the landscape! For more information on the area’s incredible flora, check out the Velddrif Tourism Website.
# 3. A birdwatcher’s paradise
With the West Coast spanning a spectrum of different habitats—notably mudflats, estuaries, coastal scrub, and fynbos—the area is considered a prime location for birds and birding. Here, 127 different species of water birds and 93 terrestrial birds have been identified, 25 species of which are of national importance for their scarcity and at least five of which are listed as ‘Red Data’ species.
Two exceptionally popular sites for birding include the West Coast National Park, Rocherpan reserve, the Langebaan bird sanctuary, and the Cerebos salt pans, the latter of which is located near the mouth of the Berg River, which attracts birds species such as greater and lesser flamingo, great white pelicans, and chestnut banded plovers, as well as occasional rare and elusive vagrants.
For more information about birdwatching in the lower Berg River wetlands, please click here.
# 4. Go river or deep-sea fishing
If you’re a fishing enthusiast, you’ll be spoiled for choice on the West Coast! There are fantastic opportunities on the Berg River or, if it’s bigger catch you’re after, you can strike out west to go deep-sea fishing on a charter, like A&M Fishing Charters. All you need is your fishing and bait licence, which is available at the local Post Office. To book, visit the website or contact +27 (0) 71 550 8491.
# 5. Go whale-watching
Being an important upwelling zone, the Benguela current, which flows north alongside the West Coast, nurtures a thriving ecosystem, which means rich marine life and the potential to spot big ocean mammals like dolphins, porpoises, and whales! Species such as southern right whales can be spotted from the beaches, while humpbacked whales can be seen further out to sea. Alternatively, you can hop on a whale-watching charter to get up close and personal with these extraordinary animals.
# 6. Visit the West Coast’s nature reserves
Because much of the West Coast has been left untouched by development, its flower-carpeted plains, estuaries, mudflats, and indigenous coastal scrub and fynbos have been left in a pristine state. They also support a myriad of animals and birdlife, many species of which are endemic to this region and found nowhere else in South Africa, or indeed the world!
The West Coast National Park is undoubtedly one of the Western Cape’s most beautiful nature reserves. Within this 36,260-hectare park, which runs the length of the cool Atlantic Ocean from the town of Yzerfontein to the Langebaan Lagoon in the north, there are innumerable species of indigenous birdlife, several large antelope species, and a spectrum of smaller mammals and reptiles. Visit the South African National Parks website or contact +27 (0) 22 772 2144.
There’s also Rocherpan, a 930-hectare, coastal nature reserve consisting largely of a seasonal vlei that is usually dry between March and June but, over winter, receives the water it needs to host a vibrant array of fauna and flora. Visit the Cape Nature website or contact +27 (0) 79 203 1092.
# 7. The freshest seafood in the Cape
Much of the West Coast culture has deep roots in fishing and so throughout the area’s coastal towns, you’ll discovered constellations of restaurants that serve up the freshest seafood, from fish caught that very morning to muscles freshly plucked from rocks bathed in surf. There are many fine establishments to try out here, but whether you’re in the mood for fish-and-chips takeaways or a nine-course seafood buffet experience (Strandloper restaurant), you’re craving for fresh seafood will be satisfied!
# 8. Go on an exhilarating watersports ride!
With its sheltered lagoons, broad expanses of beach, rich marine life, and sometimes tireless, yet prime wind conditions, the West Coast boasts some of the country’s finest real estate for water sports. From wind surfing, kite surfing, and sailing to stand-up paddling, snorkeling, and kayaking, there’s an activity for people of all ages, skill levels, and appetites for adrenalin!