West Coast National Park
There is a place near Cape Town that stole my heart at first sight and I always like to come back to it. The West Coast National Park, is around 120 km away from the city, about 1.5 hours by car.
Maybe two if you stop on the way at a roadside bar, Route 77, for traditional Roisterkook rolls. It is run by two nice ladies who know everything about buns. It’s best to order a set of four, each with a different filling, chicken mayo, biltong – dried meat and cheese, curry mince, and jam. The price is R40, about PLN 10. It is not fancy cuisine, but the scones are fresh, tasty, and filling.
The road that leads to the Park is straight, one side of the ocean, and on the other side of colorful hills. Right behind the aforementioned bar, there is I! Khwa ttu, the only center of the African heritage of the San people, or Bushmen, in South Africa. As the slogan says, here “a bridge is being built between the past and the future”. I agree with that. Here you can get a solid dose of knowledge about our very distant ancestors. Apparently, we all have our roots in Africa.
130,000 representatives of this community live in Africa. Most in Namibia and Botswana. The San people are the first South Africans to survive many generations from the Stone Age. They were and are excellent hunters and gatherers with amazing knowledge of nature. They have perfected hunting with a bow and arrow. The arrows were covered with poison made from mixtures of herbs, flying insects, or, for example, caterpillars cooked into a jelly. The animal, stabbed by an arrow, slowly died for several days. The San at that time followed such a poor antelope to finally eat it. Well..such times.
In I! Khwa ttu in the interactive museum you can find out what their lives looked like throughout thousands of years. In turn, by taking part in activities organized by contemporary San, you can learn more about their language (with a specific clicking sound), how to light a fire, or which herbs to use for various ailments. Their mission is to share knowledge about nature. Working in the center is a way to survive and adjust to the modern world.
What methods did the San have to survive, e.g. 10 months in the Kalahari Desert without water? They found it in the bellies of oryxes, stored it in ostrich eggs, and in extreme situations drank the fetal water of antelopes. A way to get sick? The smell of fruit. They believed that if they bound a sick child with fruit, he would recover. In an adult, the disease may have been caused by wind in the body blocking blood circulation. The solution was found by the shaman who chased the wind out through massage.
West Coast National Park is famous for its flowers. The season is August / September and only then this part of the park (Postberg) is open. You can see carpets of colorful flowers then, but even outside this specific season, it is one of the most charming places I have ever seen. Nature, space, and the smell of freedom, so I can describe the experience of riding in the park. It’s like a mini safari, although it’s not easy to spot animals. I’ve seen ostriches and antelopes. I almost ran the turtle (note the speed limit of 50 km / h). You have to keep your eyes peeled. Apparently, among the bush, there are also steppe caracals, zebras, various rodents, and an animal similar to a gray fox, with an “aristocratic” sounding name surrounded by a big-eared. Big ears and a funny face are his hallmarks. Maybe I’ll meet him someday.
The park is a very important place from the point of view of ornithologists. It can boast 250 species of birds and numerous hiding places for their observation. Those who, like me, are less knowledgeable about birds, may be tempted by elegant flamingos, of which there are many. Flamingos live in flocks. Unfortunately, I saw a lonely individual, which supposedly means that he was kicked out of the group or could not find a partner. Sad … I saw a larger group of these birds at the Geelbek Visitor’s Center (it was probably the gang that threw their friend out), where there is a very good point to observe them, a restaurant, and a replica of the mysterious Eva’s print. The woman they belonged to was a size 38/39 and was about 150 cm tall. Amazingly, a piece of fossil can be so imaginative after that. Where was she going, how was she dressed, what was Eva like from thousands of years ago?
The original print is in the Iziko Museum in Cape Town and belonged to a woman who lived approximately 117,000 years ago. It was discovered in a park in 1995 on Kraalbaai Beach. These are the oldest traces of modern man so far.
One of my favorite places in the park is the Seeberg viewpoint. On cloudless days, you can see Table Mountain from there. The view of the lagoon is spectacular. I don’t know why, but in this place, I felt like an ant concerning the world around me. On the other hand, if you want to see the wild ocean contrasting with the peaceful lagoon, it is worth going to the Tsaarsbank beach area. Here the waves crash against the rocks, revealing huge amounts of black clams stuck to them.
Coming back to the lagoon. Kraalbai Beach is perfect for spending a lazy afternoon. The azure of the water is unbelievable and the water is warmer than around Cape Town. This “hidden beach” (I did not notice the crowds on it, even on a weekend on a hot day, but maybe it’s a matter of luck) is located in a shallow bay. Depending on the ebb and flow during the day, we can see the landscape change, from the azure blue of the water to desert views. Watch out for small crabs when taking water baths, they like to pinch!
At this point, one more thing caught my attention. Boats/houses moored on the lagoon. It turned out that you can even spend the night here! Wake up in such natural circumstances? I think I’ll be tempted one day. 🥰 More information here.
On the other side of the bay is the tourist town of Langebaan, very popular with kitesurfers due to the excellent conditions for this sport. There are a lot of hotels and smaller guesthouses in the town, which is why the locals often come here for a few days to fully experience the charms of this place and completely relax.
For lunch or dinner, visit Die Strandloper, a beach restaurant where fresh fish and seafood are prepared in a traditional boom. It’s a true culinary experience, but one important thing cannot be forgotten. For starters, fresh bread with butter and homemade jam is served as an appetizer. It is worth stopping at one slice because then fitting a 10-course menu can be quite a challenge.
The West Coast Park has its unique, unspoiled character. I recommend going on a one-day trip or, if the time allows you to stay a little longer, and get to know this still undiscovered region in depth. You will surely be positively surprised.
Some useful information:
You can enter the park through two gates. West Coast Gate which is accessed by the R27 road or from the town of Langebaan.
Park map. The park is divided into three zones. The map shows what activities / sports can be practiced in each zone.
I recommend taking some snacks with you for a picnic and then ending the tour with dinner in Langebaan.
I do not recommend the restaurant in Geelbek, where there is a replica of Eva’s footprint. It is quite expensive, the dishes are average tasty, and the service is also not the best.
August / September: flower season 136R adult, 98R child
Remaining months: 96R for an adult, 48R for a child
Hours of Operation:
From September to March 07:00 – 19:00, the last vehicle entry is at 18:30.
From April to August, 07:00 – 18:00, the last vehicle is admitted at 17:30.
Postberg, which is the part where you can admire the flowers in August and September from 09:00 to 17:00, the last vehicle is admitted at 16:30, there may be queues on weekends.
Die Strandloper restaurant is very popular with Cape Town residents. Best to call and book in advance.
More information about the San! Khwa ttu people center here.
More information about the West Coast Park here.