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Discovering the West Coast: A paradise to explore.

By Wessel Badenhorst

The West Coast is well-known for its cold sea and delicious rock lobster, but there is a wealth of undiscovered treasures along the coast. 

The West Coast does not have fixed boundaries. It actually starts in Cape Town with the R27 “West Coast road”, which directs you along the coast 140km up to Velddrif/Port Owen/Laaiplek. But the West Coast does not stop at Velddrif. It carries on to include Dwarskersbos, Eland’s Bay, Lamberts Bay, Doringbaai and Strandfontein.

Being an avid photographer, most of the places shared in this article I have discovered during my excursions along the coast, sometimes onto unknown roads or from unplanned stoppages.

PHOTOGRAPHY IN VELDDRIF

In order to catch the early worm (or rather, light in this case), my trips up the West Coast normally starts in the wee dark hours before sunrise, in order to catch the daybreak and the first rays of sun announcing the arrival of a new day. I prefer some clouds in the air to ensure some drama blended into the photo, warning us of nature’s powers. Planning is vital, as not all members of the family share my enthusiasm to see the daybreak on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Moving into summer, they may be required to get up early in order to be alongside the Berg River before 05:00. The Berg River at Velddrif never disappoints. It is one of the locations which I love – whether it be for photography or just to sit and relax, to enjoy a scrumptious breakfast along the river’s edge, or just to show my friends what is offered along the shores of the Berg River – a haven for bird photography and a paradise of nature’s wealth.

A wide variety of birds can be found along the river and their numbers change from day to day, with local pelicans begging for harders from the bokkom factories along the rickety wooden jetties in Bokkomlaan, flamingoes adding color to the Berg River estuary and salt pans, and the thousands of cormorants returning every evening from their hunting in the open seas to rest and sleep on the edges of the salt pans. Rocherpan an estuary just outside Dwarskersbos, is filled with water from June/July to November each year (depending on the winter rains) and attracts numerous waders and other marine birds.

The light during the winter is superb for photography, and with warm summer days, watersports are the norm on the river.

PHOTOGRAPHY FURTHER AWAY

Further north in Lamberts Bay, a visit to Bird Island during the summer months will showcase Cape Gannets departing like airplanes from a busy Heathrow airport, with precision and very good traffic control. Landing in the colony is a tricky learning curve, as they are attacked and bitten by offending gannets if they land on the wrong nest.

Watch out for stormy seas which may splash you when traversing the harbour-wall to the island.

VISITING PARTERNOSTER AND JACOBSBAAI

Parternoster and Jacobsbaai have their own attractions and nostalgia, not repeated anywhere else in the world. With white houses dotted along the coast like lost seagulls and brightly coloured fishing boats (or “bakkies” as they are known locally) scattered on the beaches like a toddler’s spilled sweets , they are unmistakably part of the West Coast fishing heritage.

Jacobsbaai is a lovely, quiet village. With several small bays and numerous dead-end streets, it may be a daunting task to find a straight route to the beach or back to the entrance of the town. Rocky and sandy beaches provide quiet areas to ponder the real value of the sea, and nature’s influence on our lives.

Parternoster has grown into a hustling and bustling little town with numerous restaurants and guest houses. Taking pictures of the cobalt-coloured sea and bright red and blue fishing boats is an early morning delight. With fishermen jostling for a place to launch their boats for crayfish season or when the fish is biting, the beach becomes a hive of activity. But as soon as rush-hour tis over, the descending calm will send you to a beachfront restaurant to enjoy the views of the sea, which is often calmer than the surface of the Theewaterkloof dam.

With numerous good gravel roads in the area, unique sunrises and sunsets can be witnessed every day. Cape Columbine lighthouse is on the way to Tietiesbaai and well worth a visit. Booking in advance, you can stay over at the lighthouse in the old lightkeeper’s house (all operations are now automated), with the added experience to climb to the top and witness the view from above. Tietiesbaai is a well-known camping area with beautiful coves and rocks to explore.



LANGEBAAN

Being the well-known and most visited town on the west coast, Langebaan does not need any introduction. Situated along the lagoon with its Caribbean sea colors, watersports are one of the main attractions. Also the location of Club Mykonos resort, marina and casino, and an SANDF base for the Special Foreces, photographic opportunities pop up around every corner.

On the other side of town is the West Coast National Park, which is popular and especially busy during August and September, when the Postberg is being visited for the annual display of spring wildflowers. With the warmer weather during October and November – tortoises, ostrich babies and snakes are seen regularly on the roads and numerous birds return for breeding and foraging in the area. This is also home to the rare and endangered black harrier and other raptors, some of which fly all the way from the Russian Steppes every year. Other animals regularly seen are the eland, ostrich, bontebok, duiker, little steenbok and -if luck is on your side- keep your eyes peeled for the ever elusive caracal.

To braai at Tsaarsbank in the West Coast National Park is a picnic with a difference. Changing sea conditions will make every visit unique and relaxation is the order of the day. What more does one need on a picnic than a view of the sea, a sizzling “tjoppie” on the grill and a glass of wine to toast the abundant natural beauty.

digital@escapemagazine.co.za

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