West Coast National Park is located along the coast of the far southwestern part of South Africa. The park covers an area of 140,000 square miles (362.59 sq km). It is not far from the renowned Table Mountain National Park.
The national park service of South Africa describes the protected area as azure colored waters with white dunes and green wetlands as the backdrop. This coastal paradise is a tremendous place for biking, hiking, and exploring while keeping eyes up for the variety of birds found across the park.
The majority of the park landscape is accounted for by strandveld vegetation. A secondary vegetation habitat on display is the Hopefield Sand Plain Fynbos. Combined with the waterways and wetlands, this is a tremendous sanctuary for a number of bird species.
This west coast region is recognized as both an Important Bird Area and protected wetlands under the Ramsar Convention. Numerous species of birds migrate or nest in the region. Summer is the best time to visit creating an opportunity to experience the largest number of migrant species that will visit the area. One of the highlights for bird lovers is the African penguin but there are many other species to enjoy.
Although the West Coast National Park is more renowned for birdwatching and the rich birdlife environment, there is a variety of wildlife species found throughout the park. Some of the popular species include antelope, bontebok, duiker, eland, gemsbok, hartebeest, kudu, mongoose, ostrich, and zebra.
Birdwatching is one of the leading activities of the national park and many people find the variety of species to be a highlight. The marine and coastal landscapes are much of the draw for the park as well. Two of the most significant attractions include Saldanha Bay and Langebaan Lagoon.
Saldanha Bay is located in the central part of the park. This naturally occurring harbor creates peaceful access to the ocean waterways. It serves as a foundation for a variety of water-based sports and activities. It connects with the Langebaan Lagoon extending the accessible marine environment.
Langebaan Lagoon is located on the southeast side of Saldanha Bay. The lagoon span across 9.32 miles (14 km) and no more than wider than 1.86 miles (3 km). Like Saldanha Bay, Langebaan Lagoon is a great place for marine-based sports and activities.
The shoreline of the lagoon is rocky with many boulders smoothed down by the ocean waves. Other portions of the lagoon feature white sandy beaches. The waters of the lagoon are one of the key facets of the park which earn it the wetland of international importance status.
West Coast National Park Trails:
Hiking and biking around West Coast National Parks and the coastal trails provide visitors with a great chance to discover and explore the marine protected area.
Geelbek Trail 1
This is a short and easy loop trail covering a distance of 5.59 miles (9 km). It is a circular trip starting at the information center and working your way out through the sand dunes and back.
Geelbek Trail 2
This is a second loop trail that is also an easy hike the meanders out to the 16-mile beach area before cycling back. The trail is a 4.35-mile (7 km) loop trail.
This is a 2.85-mile (4.6 km) trail that stretches along the coast with chances to see wildlife such as eland and ostrich.
Eve’s Footprint Trail
This trail is an 18.64 miles (30 km) exploration of the area based on the historical footprints of “Eve.” The trail is a camping trail that is usually done in two days, but some have stretched it out for a more leisurely adventure. Guided tours of the trail allow for stops that feature West Coast-style cuisine.
West Coast Highlights
- Saldanha Bay
- Langebaan Lagoon
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- Lonely Planet, West Coast National Park, https://www.lonelyplanet.com/south-africa/west-coast-national-park, retrieved July 2020.
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- South African National Park, West Coast National Park, https://www.sanparks.org/parks/west_coast/, retrieved July 2020.
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- South Africa Venues, Langebaan Lagoon, https://www.sa-venues.com/attractionswc/langebaan-lagoon.php, retrieved July 2020.