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 estuary (as there is no river), and whatever fresh water does exist comes from an underground aquifer which seeps slowly into the sea water. Its the constant and predicatable tides which make the lagoon so attractive to birds.
The West Coast NP takes a while to seduce you…especiallly as I’m a bit early for the famed flower season (July and August), which is when things get REALLY beautiful. But it’s full of oldness and time and history. Well, that’s the feeling I get, and it’s borne out by the evidence: one of the few sets of human footprints of early man is found just near Kraal Bay (they’re about 117 000 years old). Well, they were originally discovered here, but have since been removed to the Iziko Museum in Cape Town for protection and preservation.
Right now I’m sitting outside under a discotechque of Milky Way constellations using my Evosat portable unit to upload this blog via the heavens above. It’s a clear night, the lagoon is full of the chatter of crickets, frogs, birds and insects. Behind me I can hear the roar of the Atlantic Ocean on the western shores of the peninsula. Time for bed…tomorrow might be the start of summer, and I don’t want to be tired for it
Check out some of my pics…more to come!