20 Ways To Experience Biodiversity In The West Coast National Park

The West Coast National Park, which stretches from Yzerfontein to Langebaan, is a pristine nature reserve which offers an array of activities such as bird watching, game sighting, biking and whale spotting.

West Coast National Park located on the West Coast Way Culture and Foodie Routes

What is Biodiversity?

“Biological diversity” means the variability among living organisms from all sources including terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part of; this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems”.

“UN Conference and Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992, Convention on Biological Diversity, Article 2”

 

Why is Biodiversity so important in the West Coast National Park?

The West Coast National Park was established in 1985 with the aim of conserving the Langebaan Lagoon and surrounding landscapes, also including the islands in Saldanha Bay, and stretches from Yzerfontein to Langebaan.

1. Picnic With A View At Tsaarsbank

Tsaarsbank is a 1.8km trail along the beach to the original site of Pantelis A. Lemos shipwreck(1978). It is a wonderful spot for a family picnic, and between August and October it is a hotspot for whale spotting as they pass the shores of the Western Cape. If one is lucky, you may see the common Southern Right and Humpback whales. This is also a fantastic place to go bird watching, as the West Coast National Park is home to more than 250 bird species.

2. Find Flowers At Postberg

The Postberg Section is open to the public only during the flower season in August and September each year and a great place for spotting game, the largest concentration of mammals in the West Coast National Park can be found the Postberg section. However, mammals are found throughout the rest of the reserve. Eland, Red Hartebeest, Cape Grysbok, Caracal and Rock Hyrax “Dassie” are some of the terrestrial species to search for. Visitors should also keep an eye on the Atlantic Ocean for passing whales and dolphins.

3. At Kraalbaai Sit On The Preekstoel

Enjoy a family picnic in Kraalbaai

You can easily spend a full day at Kraalbaai, located right at the shore of the Langebaan Lagoon. You will often find a number of boats dotted around the lagoon, many of which are anchored. The facilities here are great and you can even enjoy a braai next to the beach or bring your picnic basket and enjoy the fantastic surroundings of peacefulness and tranquility.

4. Find Guidance At Geelbek Visitor Centre

A display of the Aquatic life outside the Geelbek Visitor Centre

Every visitor to the park should pop in at the information centre to gain a bit of background knowledge of the park and hiking trails, fauna and flora, accommodation and wealth of cultural history, including that of the Eve’s footprints.

5. Walk In Eve’s Footprint

A replica of Eve’s Footprint which is preserved at the Geelbek Visitor’s Centre for viewing in the West Coast National Park

Eve’s Footprints were discovered in 1995 at Kraalbaai, these are unmistakable human footfalls in rock (formerly sea sand) and are said to belong to a young woman who lived 117 000 years ago. The original footprints are housed at Iziko South African Museum, but be sure to go have a look at the replica that is preserved at the Visitor’s Centre.

6. Lekker Eating At Geelbek Restaurant

Geelbek restaurant in the West Coast National Park

The restaurant is housed in a beautifully restored Cape Dutch building that is a national monument. Find Geelbek Restaurant in the West Coast National Park on the West Coast Way Foodie Route.

Did you know?

The name Geelbek comes from the Yellowbill Duck and not from the Geelbek (Cape salmon) fish.

7. Go On Hiking Trails and Mountain Bike Routes

Cycling route information
All routes start from the Langebaan Gate.
***All cyclist are expected to pay normal conservation fees at the gate or buy a Wild Card.***
Cycling routes:

  • Langebaan gate – Geelbek & return 30km on tarred road.
  • Langebaan gate – Kraalbaai & return 70km on tarred road

Mountain biking routes:

  • The 13km Green Trail (follow Green signs) starts at the Langebaan gate and traverses up to the Seeberg Bird Hide before heading back to the gate.
  • The 17km Red Trail (follow Red signs) uses a similar route to the Green route, but heads up instead to the Seeberg Lookout and thereafter to Mooimaak before heading back to the Langebaan gate.

Code of conduct

  • Respect the National Park and do not damage anything.
  • Beware of and do not scare the animals.
  • Leave no trace except tyre spoors on the route.
  • Ride on marked trails only and heed no-entry signs.
  • Be alert to other riders and cars.
  • Normal road rules apply on the tar.
  • No helmet – no ride.
  • Except for the deviations described above, no bike may use any other trail or dirt road in the Park.

Maps are available at the Geelbek Visitor’s Centre.

8. Seek Birds In Bird Hides

An amazing flamboyance of Lesser Flamingos filter-feeding along the estuarine Lagoon

Bird watching can be enjoyed quietly in one of the four bird hides

The park has four bird hides, these bird hides offer visitors a chance to view and admire some of the most unique avian species as well as migratory species that nests or breed in the region. There is quite a variety of bird species and some that can be spotted are Curlew Sandpiper, Grey Plover and Sanderling and many more. Some of these, such as the Knot, journey 15 000km from Russia every year to their breeding grounds inside this beautiful National Park on the West Coast of South Africa. For those who do bird watching as a hobby, this is the perfect location for viewing. Bird hides can be found at Geelbek (two), the Abrahamskraal Waterhole and below the Seeberg Lookout Point.

9. Family Fun x 7

West Coast National Park boasts a number of activities that the whole family can enjoy:

  1. take a walk or more strenuous hike;
  2. mountain bike on one of the cycling routes in the park;
  3. kayak and kite-board in the Langebaan lagoon;
  4. scout for the hundreds of bird species found in the one of the four bird hides;
  5. picnic and braai at some of the specially built facilities in the park;
  6. watch for whales in August and September from the Tsaarsbank section of the park;
  7. explore the park from the comfort of your vehicle (car or motorbike) and view Game in their natural habitat.

10. The Highest Points: Seeberg And Atlantic Viewpoint

The Seeberg Viewpoint is said to give the best view of the West Coast National Park including Table Mountain, the Cederberg mountains and the southern part of the Langebaan Lagoon!

Do your own trail walk on the white sands of the beach south of the West Coast National Park to Seeberg whale museum and Atlantic Viewpoint (which offers sheltered picnic spots and benches), which is the highest point of the park.

Where: West Coast  Road-27
Contact:  [email protected] or email  www.westcoastway.co.za

11. History And Heritage

Originally proclaimed the Langebaan National Park in 1985 and renamed in 1988, the Park was established in 1985 with the aim of conserving the Langebaan Lagoon, a Ramsar site, and surrounding landscapes, including the islands in Saldanha Bay. The habitats in the park are varied, and the whole area is of international and national importance in respect of both terrestrial and marine life.

The most easily recognisable relics are the stone fish traps and large ‘kitchen’ middens left behind by the Khoikhoi. A set of fossilized human footprints, thought to be over 115 000 years old were also found in the reserve and are now preserved in a museum. A historically rich area, the Oudepost 1 at Kraalbaai is said to be the location where the first meeting between officials from the Dutch East India Company and the local Khoi took place.

Historically many different large game species roamed the area including Elephant, Rhinoceros, Lion and Common Eland, however, due to the low levels of nutrients in the surrounding vegetation; it is thought that these species were mostly nomadic.

12. Book Your 16-Mile Beach Challenge

Yzerfontein is best described as a beach paradise where warm, lazy days stretch into long, pleasurable evenings. It is here that R&R and adventure abound in equal proportions. It is known for its natural beauty, vast stretches of beach and tranquillity, and its tradition of warmth and hospitality. It also has a unique #16MileBeach, the longest uninterrupted sandy beach on the South African coastline. This area is ideal as a beach vacation. Your holiday cottage or self-catering accommodation is your home away from home. Book your spot for the next 16-Mile Beach Challenge with Chessley-Ann on 0861 321 777.

13. Cruise Langebaan Lagoon

An aerial view of the Langebaan Lagoon.

Langebaan Lagoon is the only tidal lagoon in South Africa and protects 30% of South Africa’s saltmarshes. Thousands of Palaearctic migrant waders travel to the lagoon in the summer months when they are not breeding. The waders comb the mudflats for tiny molluscs and other organisms.

The marine fauna of the lagoon includes 400 invertebrate species, 29 bony fish species, and 12 shark and ray species. Important recreational and commercial linefish species such as white stumpnose, Geelbek, snoek, and yellowtail use the lagoon as a refuge and many fishes depend on it as a nursery area.

14. A Coast Of Rock Pools

Explore the many rock pools along the seashore at Tsaarsbank!

15. Fauna And Flora Hot Spot

West Coast National Park as some would say is a true hub for natural diversity, you can spot anything from Cape Mountain Zebra, Cape (small) grey mongoose to the Great White Pelican, Black Harrier, and Puff adder, and Caracals. Fauna and flora form a huge part of every ecosystem, and without the interaction between the two, there wouldn’t be life on earth.

Mammals also abound and, apart from eland, you could also see springbok, kudu, gemsbok and the rare mountain zebra. In summer hundreds of tortoises patrol the flowering land in search of food. Although they have long since gone from the area, lions and elephants used to roam during the Dutch East India Company (VOC) period in the 17th century.

 

African Oystercatcher

A playful yet graceful display by Humpback Whale

A pair of Gemsbok spotted in the Park

16. A Place Where Birds Go Island Hopping

Black-winged stilt

West Coast National Park is responsible for the management of four islands in Saldanha Bay. These are Marcus Island (17ha), Malgas Island (18ha), Jutten Island (43ha) and Schaapen Island (29ha).

Malgas, Jutten, and Marcus Island are important nesting sites for seabirds. Malgas Island is one of only three islands in South Africa where Cape gannets breed, supporting more than 2,000 pairs. The islands are also home to endangered bank cormorants, kelp gulls, and African Black Oystercatchers.

Approximately 30 percent of the world’s population of African Black Oystercatchers breed on these islands.
The endangered Bank Cormorant – whose numbers have plummeted from 8 700 breeding pairs in 1980 to a current number of 4 900 pairs – also breed on these islands.

The largest known colony of Kelp Gulls in Southern Africa is found on Schaapen island.

Populations of African Penguins and bank cormorants have dropped dramatically on Malgas island and it is believed that predation by a small number of seals may be the cause of this alarming decline.

Cape Fur Seals have re-populated Vondeling Island (managed by Cape Nature ), now an established breeding colony. These seals are also found on Jutten, Malgas, Marcus, and Schaapen islands. Interestingly, European Rabbits, which are thought to have been introduced by Jan van Riebeek, still abound on Schaapen and Jutten islands. The rabbit population on Schaapen island is an albino race and they survive the hot dry summers by grazing seaweeds and the seashore.

Egg-eating snakes prey on bird eggs on Schaapen and Meeuw islands. With few natural predators, these snakes grow up to a meter long and have a significant impact on the breeding success of the seabirds.

17. Take A Kettie 2-Day Tour And Visit the West Coast National Park – Here’s How:

Book a 2 Day tour with Kettie Travel and explore more parts of the Park. Bring a few of your friends or family for an outdoor, scenic adventure on the Cape West Coast of South Africa. Plan ahead so that you make it in time for the Flower season, this can be enjoyed from the Postberg Section during August to September.

Tour includes: pick up and drop offs, a visit to various places along the West Coast and a Boat Cruise on the Berg River.

Minimum of 3 and maximum of 12 People.
R4945 per person includes: accommodation, guided tour and transport, !Khwa ttu lunch, supper at Thali Thali Game Lodge and drinks.
Book Now: Book your spot on the next 2-Day Tour with Chessley-Ann on 0861 321 777 or email [email protected]

18. Showcasing Diversity: Open 7 Days A Week

Main Gate: April – August 07h00 – 18h00
Last vehicle entry at 17h30
September – March 07h00 – 19h00
Last vehicle entry at 18h30
Postberg opens during August and September (flower season): 09h00 – 17h00
Last entry to Postberg at 16h30

Contact Details

Call: +27 (0)22 772 2144

Visit website: www.sanparks.org

19. Go Slow

It is a known fact to everyone visiting a national park or any nature reserve facility, that going slow means better sightseeing, but also safety for the many animals and critters crossing the road.

Here are a few things to adhere to when entering the West Coast National Park;

  • The speed limit within the park is 50km/h
  • Make use of the various refuse bins placed in the park to dispose of litter
  • Very important, DO NOT PICK ANY PLANTS 
  • Never pick up, move or remove an animal
  • Stay on the marked walkways, pathways and roads
  • Do not feed birds or animals

20. Go On South Africa’s Road Trip With The Most Twists:

Road-Trip-Southern-Africa-West-Coast-Way-Routes

West Coast Way is South Africa’s road trip with the most twists. Explore a unique collection of 101 road trip stops along themed routes by planning a self-drive trip or guided tour for a nature and adventure-filled Cape West Coast vacation. The new West Coast Way “basket” of free routes on offer include the West Coast Way Tractor Route, the West Coast Way Berg Route, the West Coast Way Foodie Route, the West Coast Way Cultural Route, the West Coast Way Wild Route – as well as the newly launched Cape Way Route – all of which are designed to showcase the many attractions and activities that are already on offer on the Cape West Coast and inland areas – but may be unknown to many.

For more information on West Coast Way, the other routes on offer, and the list of 101 Things to Do on the West Coast visit westcoastway.co.za or call West Coast Way on 0861 321 777. Connect with West Coast Way on Facebook and Twitter at WestCoastWaySA.

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