West Coast National Park

West Coast National Park

Where is West Coast National Park?

The West Coast National Park is found on the west coast of southern Africa. This national park of 40,000 ha was established in 1985 conserving the Langebaan Lagoon and surrounding landscapes, also including the islands in Saldanha Bay, and extends from Yzerfontein to Langebaan. It is located about two hours from the Cape Town CBD. It has a Mediterranean-type climate with cold, wet winters and hot dry summers, has an average rainfall of 265 mm and is dominated by strandveld vegetation. The West Coast National Park is a combination of sea, flowers and lagoon.

West Coast National Park
Map showing location of the West Coast National Park on the west coast of southern Africa.

The ecosystems in the park are varied, and it is of international and national importance in respect of both terrestrial and marine life because of the unique and diverse habitats of the Langebaan Lagoon and its salt marshes and wetlands.  It has granitic islands of Saldanha Bay with significant breeding populations of waterbirds and  varied rocky and sandy shores on the coastal strip. The idyllic coastal dune fields and the terrestrial lowland fynbos communities add to the scenic beauty.

The area is also very rich in fossils and remains of human livelihood in the park date back to the Holocene Age. It is recommended to spend a weekend or a couple of days in this national park; it offers excellent accommodation.

What does West Coast National Park have to offer?

The West Coast National Park has many activities. These include birding with two bird hides, game viewing from own vehicle in the Postberg Section where you can see species such as Eland Taurotragus derbianus, Bontebok Damaliscus pygargus and Plains Zebra Equus quagga. (only during the spring flowering season), boating and swimming in the lagoon, picnic, barbecue and ablution facilities for day visitors, tea garden and light meals at the Geelbek Homestead. There are also two self-guided walks, the Strandveld Educational Trail starts and ends at Geelbek Homestead. The Postberg Flower Trail is only open during the spring flowering season.

Flowers

During August and September, Cape Town and its surrounding areas come alive with flowers. All indigenous plants from lilies to ericas. However, what is particularly eye-catching are the swaths of beautiful daisies. These annuals pop up once a year, every year, from purple to white and orange these daisies bloom in vast numbers. In the Postberg section, with its open fields and wandering wildlife these flowers can best be admired. My mom loves going to the reserve in the flower season, and it’s become quite a tradition for us now.

West Coast National Park
Daisies with Sanparks chalets in the background

Lagoon

Situated in the South African, the town of Langebaan lagoon which forms part of the West Coast National Park is a birding destination of international standing. The extensive intertidal area of the lagoon supports up to 55 000 waterbirds in summer, most of which are waders. The five islands to the north of the lagoon provide a home for nearly a quarter of a million sea birds and include essential breeding sites for endemic populations. 12% of the global community of black oystercatchers are found in the Langebaan area. I can only describe the lagoon as bright, blue and beautiful. Along with admiring it you can also swim in the lagoon, and although I haven’t tried it yet there are also houseboats which you can rent.

West Coast National Park
A portion of the lagoon witch is bordered by the town of Langebaan

Conservation

The majority of people associate Langebaan on the West coast of South Africa with the scenic beauty of the unspoilt tidal lagoon, its long stretches of untouched beaches and sheltered bays, providing protected waters and a temperate climate for a wide variety of vacation activities throughout the year.

 This RAMSAR site of international importance and tourist hot spot is now under significant threat of ecological degradation and inevitable economic decline from plans by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to develop a widespread off-shore aquaculture zone in Langebaan’s bays. Save Langebaan Lagoon Action Group has started a wide-ranging drive to draw attention to and encourage protest against this environmental and socio-economic injustice. Our role is to educate the public regarding the negative impact that this development will have on the lagoon’s ecosystem, the access to its waters and therefore the success of the town. Fish farming operations and infrastructure will adversely impact bird habitats, breeding patterns, flight paths and access to food and place these sensitive avian colonies at high risk.

West Coast National Park
Foreground : Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta Background: Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor

They represent the collective view of like-minded interested and affected residents and home-owners in interactions with the developers and their agents, ensuring that our voice is heard and that critical environmental regulatory processes are followed.

The lagoon and the surrounding bays provide a multi-purpose leisure area and as such attract large numbers of holiday makers, as well as local and international water sports events. The vibrant town of Langebaan continues to experience high growth rates, as increasingly South Africans choose to make this town their permanent or second home. The tourism, hospitality and building industries are thriving, with a resultant escalation in work opportunities, in contrast to many surrounding rural towns. The wealth of these sectors and those who work in them will be severely affected by scores of floating fish factories in Langebaan’s bays.

The Save Langebaan Lagoon Action Group is not against aquaculture as an industry “we recognise the role that aquaculture can play in contributing to employment creation, food security and addressing the overexploitation of wild marine resources. We, therefore, would welcome a coastal aquaculture development in the vicinity of Langebaan. We strongly object to finfish (and especially alien finfish) and mussel farming in Langebaan’s waters, which will unduly compromise the numerous ecosystem services that the lagoon provides to the Langebaan community”. We can only hope that the respective authorities such as South African National Parks and the Department of Environmental Affairs step in and make the right decisions.

Conclusion

Spending a day in the West Coast National Park is always a fun day out. Whether you want to have a picnic, go for a walk or do some wildlife photography, this nature reserve offers a host of different outdoor activities which is fun for the whole family. For more information about West Coast National park click on this link.http://www.saparks.co.za/default.htm

West Coast National Park
Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor taken outside of the bird hide

References

The alien invasive land snail Theba pisana in the West Coast National Park: is there cause for concern? Lizelle J. Odendaal; 2008 Tanya M. Haupt; Charles L. Griffiths

https://www.capetownmagazine.com/west-coast-national-park

SANParks West Coast National Park | South African National …. https://www.capetownmagazine.com/west-coast-national-parkOriginal Research –

SciELO. http://www.scielo.org.za/pdf/koedoe/v50n1/a12v50n1.pdf

Petition · Save Langebaan Lagoon from a potential …. https://www.change.org/p/daff-save-langebaan-lagoon-from-a-potential-aquaculture-disaster

Comments are closed.