West Coast National Park
The West Coast National Park was proclaimed in 1985 to protect the wetland area and the many migratory birds that come to the park every year, from the northern hemisphere to spend the southern summer here. The park supports about quarter of the earth's population of Cape gannets on Malgas Island, 12% of the African oyster catcher and over 70, 000 migratory wading birds. The islands along the coast provide safe nesting sites for somewhere around three-quarter of a million seabirds.
Sunny and warm summer days emerge from misty mornings on the Langebaan Lagoon, and rain is usually reserved for the months between May and August. This park's welcoming coastal climate is indeed very friendly to visitors looking to enjoy all the outdoor activities on offer here.
Luscious green vegetation surrounds the still waters of the lagoon, and from within the park visitors have a superb view of all the beauty this West Coast region has on show. The abundant life, both flora and fauna, that has established itself within the waters of the sea and lagoon serve as draw-cards to the eco-tourist. The park has stunningly beautiful flowers blossoming in season, a great variety of bird-life, and even some fossil deposits.
Activities which can be enjoyed in and around the West Coast National Park include water sports, picnics in secluded spots, fishing in quiet and peaceful areas and superb game viewing opportunities in the Postberg section of the park. Game, including many antelope, can be viewed from the comfort of your own vehicle. International visitors may find it convenient to hire a rental car in Cape Town and drive through this beautiful park while exploring the West Coast and its quaint sea side towns.
During spring (August and September) flower season is celebrated all along the West Coast. In this park a special hiking trail, the Postberg Flower Trail, is opened annually for the occasion. This trail offers the opportunity to explore the natural beauty of the West Coast in full bloom. The Geelbeck Homestead offers light meals from their tea garden, which makes for a refreshing break, or as a great spot to cool down with a cold drink before leaving the park. Near the Homestead there are bird hides for observing the waders and other birds which frequent the area. Indeed there are thousands of sea birds nesting on the sheltered islands of the lagoon.
The Jackass Penguin, the stunning pink Flamingoes, the Waders and Black Harrier are five of the park's most notable inhabitants, and as such visitors should make an effort to spot each of them before heading home.
An easy 100km drive from Cape Town along the R27 highway gets you to the gates of the West Coast National Park. From there you can drive through the park (look out for tortoises), with most of the roads being tarred. If you are in need of accommodation look no further than the town of Langebaan. There are often houses to rent for a weekend, or alternatively there are a variety of other accommodation opportunities, from bed and breakfast to campsites and caravan parks. The little town has great beaches, restaurants and shopping stores for all your groceries or other needs.
All of this makes the West Coast National Park a excellent place for those who enjoy bird-watching! The Geelbek bird hide is one of the best places within the park to enjoy the migratory waders. At Seeberg, up to 400 flamingoes can be seen at high tide during winter.
The Benguela current which flows up from the Antarctic brings fertile cold water which helps the rich marine life in the area. The seas off of the West Coast National Park home an abundance of fish and other sealife.
In the spring months between August and October the park is highlighted in glorious colour from the wild flowers which grow here - this is well worth a visit if you are here at the right time of year.