West Coast National Park

Home to Langebaan Lagoon, one of South Africa’s largest estuaries, West Coast National Park provides a stopover every year for thousands of migrating seabirds. The lagoon itself is acclaimed as a wetland of global significance. While the Atlantic Ocean rages on the peninsula’s western shore, the calm turquoise waters provide an idyllic backdrop to a windblown tapestry of fynbos. In springtime, the flowers in the Postberg section of the park rival Namaqualand for their colours and diversity.  Size: 34 000 hectares. Situated near Langebaan on the south west coast of South Africa.

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Blog posts

Flying high over West Coast National Park

In the past few weeks since finishing my first Year in the Wild (I'm planning Year in the Wild 2 - watch this space!), I've been tying up some loose ends, and writing some articles for Getaway Magazine, so have travelled back to Addo Elephant National Park, Garden Route National Park, Tembe Elephant Park and Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park. It's been good to get back into these areas, meet up with old friends, and see these beautiful protected areas at different times of the year. Watch out for blogs on these in the next few days.

But a real highlight for me, excuse the pun, was flying this past week up over West Coast National Park. My friend Jean Tresfon, an Read more »

Eddie Papier from West Coast National Park

Eddie Papier is a character, and a conservationist. He worked for several years as a ranger for SANParks in the West Coast National Park, and there is probably no-one else who knows it as well as he does. (His wife Caroline worked for several years at the excellent restaurant at the beautifully-restored homestead at Geelbek in the park).

Eddie was born in what was to become part of the park (near the Oosterwal homestead on the eastern shore of the lagoon), and he spent his early childhood growing up there. His dad was a fisherman and a whaler, when there was still a Norwegian whaling station at Donkergat on the end of the lagoon’s peninsula.

Eddie spent his early adult life on whaling boats, mostly on the west coast of Africa, off the shores of Angola and Canary Islands. Then he Read more »

Back to the asylum at Malgas Island

While at West Coast National Park, I was fortunate again to be taken to Malgas Island, just offshore of West Coast National Park, by the SANparks marine rangers. This island is covered with nesting Cape Gannets, and is one of the last strongholds of this species, which is becoming increasingly vulnerable to overfishing and development. The nearby Saldanha Bay port looms large and ugly in the background, where millions of tons of iron ore is offloaded onto ships to be transported to China for smelting. This is the sign of the times: industrial development side-by-side with fragile ecologies.

I only had 30 minutes on the island, but once again enjoyed the crazy commotion of thousands of squawking, argumentative Read more »

Flower season! – West Coast National Park

It’s flower season! It’s at this time of year – August and September every year – that the west coast of South Africa puts on the biggest psychedelic visual display on earth. My ma and I went up to the West Coast National Park – just an hour’s drive from Cape Town – to take some photos and research an article for Getaway Magazine.

I was in the West Coast NP last year, when I started Year in the Wild, but it was before flower season. So I missed the flowers. But WOW!, this year they are especially brilliant. Be sure to get up there before the end of September to see them for yourselves. It’s one of the wonders of the world, and something that must be seen at least once!

But the West Coast NP is not only about the Read more »

Awesome photo of Langebaan Lagoon…

I wish I could claim to have taken this photograph, but alas, I was given it by Pierre Nel, senior section ranger at West Coast National Park. The lagoon, seen from this view is so impressive, don't you think?

But it also illustrates how small - actually - this sensitive ecosystem is.  When you're IN the park, on the ground, it seems so BIG and expansive, but in reality it's not. It's like that for most of our conserved areas in Africa.

It reminds me of a chat I had with Dick Pitman, one of the stalwarts of conservation in Zimbabwe, and he told me how he would spend several days travelling on 4x4 tracks over the Zambezi escarpment into the famous Mana Pools...then one day he flew the same route in a small aeroplane, and it took him twenty minutes. And I think it's like that for Read more »

The calm after the storm…

I'm staying right on Langebaan Lagoon tonight in West Coast National Park...this is the view from our window in Churchhaven this evening. A massive rain storm came through, but the clouds cleared a bit, and the wind dropped completely. Wonderful light!

Trip to Malgas Island – West Coast National Park

I need to give marine ranger William Brink and field rangers Debbie Winterton and Andile Manana an extra mention...

They took me out yesterday on the SANParks law enforcement rubber duck to Malgas Island to see the Cape Gannets. Even though its not peak season for the birds, there must have been several thousand on the small island, which is probably about the size of two rugby fields. Malgas is a very important part of the Gannet's survival, as more than 60 000 birds breed here every year, or roughly 25% of the world's population.

There is no jetty to use, so we had to jump off the boat onto the rocks - amid a sizeable winter swell. Debbie accommpanied me onto the island, but managed to fall off into the sea...drenched. So thanks Debbie for hanging around, even though you were Read more »

Shortest day of the year…the start of summer!

What a way to spend the shortest day of the year! The West Coast National Park, just an hour's drive north of Cape Town was drenched in sunlight all day. I woke up at a cottage in Churchhaven on the lagoon, had a (cold!) swim at sunrise (about 8am), then spent the day taking photos of the park and avoiding all the tortoises (they're everywhere!), then had a swim at sunset (about 5:30pm) in the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern shores of the lagoon's peninsula.

The central focus of the park is the lagoon: it shelters one-third of all salt marsh habitat in South Africa. It's a tropical green colour when the tide is low, and it attracts hundreds and thousands of migrant birds that use the salt marshes as a place to get fat again before flying back to Russia. Interestingly, it's not an Read more »

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