West Coast National Park
The West Coast National Park (area 18,000 ha/45,000ac) was established in 1985, taking in the area round the Langebaan Lagoon on the west coast of South Africa and four small offshore islands. It is of international importance for its unique bird life.The National Park is reached from R 27, which runs north from Cape Town. The main entrance is just to the south of Langebaan, and there is another entrance 20km/12.5mi south of Langebaan (signposted from R 27).The climate in this region, influenced by the cold Benguela Current which flows along the Atlantic coast, is raw and dry. The low rainfall (an annual 270mm/10.5 in.) occurs almost exclusively in winter. Quite frequently there are morning mists. In consequence the vegetation is scanty, consisting mainly of low-growing bushes and succulents. There are large expanses of mud round the shores of the lagoon. In spring, however, the scene changes, and between August and October the barren land is carpeted with flowers.The West Coast National Park, home to 250 species of birds and, in winter, to many Arctic migrants.Among the numerous birds, of many species, found in the park are cormorants, seagulls, small sandpipers, curlew sandpipers, plovers, gannets and flamingos. This is one of the last retreats of the black-footed penguin, the only African species of penguin. In addition to the indigenous species tens of thousands of migrants come here in summer: some from as far as the Arctic Circle, around 80% from Eastern Europe.Among mammals in the National Park are bonteboks, elands, springboks, kudus and blue wildebeests.An asphalted road runs round the lagoon (about 35km/22mi), with lookouts from which the bird life can be observed. In the old farmhouse of Geelbek, at the south end of the lagoon, is an information center, the starting-point of a number of nature trails. There are also bird-watching cruises on the lagoon.
Opening hours: 7:30am-5pm
Facilities: Gift shop, On-site accomodations
Saldanha, South Africa
To the north of Langebaan extends Saldanha Bay, 10km/6mi long, with the little town of Saldanha - not a very attractive place for tourists, with port installations and factories dominating the scene. In terms of turnover Saldanha is South Africa's third largest port (after Richard's Bay and Durban), handling mainly iron ore (from Sishen, with which Saldanha is connected by rail). It is also a fishing port (crayfish), with numerous fish-processing plants.
Paternoster, South Africa
The fishing village of Paternoster has been able to preserve a little of its original character, in spite of the fact that it has been drawing increasing numbers of weekend visitors from Cape Town. Some old cottages are available for renting to visitors.
Vredenburg, South Africa
Vredenburg, 13km/8mi north of Saldanha, is now amalgamated with it. The town was founded in 1875 because of a particularly abundant spring in the neighborhood. The town's main sources of income are arable farming and sheep-rearing.
Langebaan, West Coast National Park, South Africa
Langebaan, at the north end of the West Coast National Park's lagoon, has become an increasingly popular holiday resort. Many new holiday homes have been built here, with fine views over the lagoon.