Western Cape Game and Nature ReservesThe West Coast National Park
Just inland from the secluded harbour of Saldanha Bay one finds the azure waters of the Langebaan Lagoon, focal point of the West Coast National Park. Thousands of seabirds roost on sheltered islands, pristine golden beaches stretch endlessly into the early morning mist and brooding salt marshes are home to vast concentrations of migrant waders from the northern hemisphere.
During the spring the strandveld is embroidered with a tapestry of multi-hued flowers, while in the Postberg section many antelope are to be seen in a setting that is as unique as it is idyllic.
The largest concentration of mammals is in the Postberg Reserve, but this is only open to public during flower season. However mammals are found throughout the rest of the reserve. Eland, red hartebeest, Cape grysbok, caracal and rock hyrax are some of the species to look out for. Visitors should also keep an eye on the Atlantic Ocean for passing whales and dolphins.
The park surrounds the Langebaan Lagoon, which is a world Ramsar site (site’s deemed to be of global significance to wetland bird species). Many of the wader species are Palearctic migrants, so summer is the best time to visit the lagoon, particularly in September as species return fatigued from their transcontinental travel, and March when they congregate in large numbers to feed heavily prior to undertaking the reverse journey. In such times, the birds are often changing into or out of their Northern Hemisphere breeding plumage. The best time to observe the lagoon waders is to visit the Geelbek hide from low tide as the tide is coming in.
As the water level rises the waders are forced closer to the hide until eventually they must fly off until the tide has receded once more. The smaller species depart first, with the more long-legged godwits, whimbrels and curlews the last to leave.
Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint, Ruff, Marsh, Terek and Curlew Sandpiper, Turnstone, Ringed and Grey Plover, Greenshank, Whimbrel, Curlew and Bartailed Godwit are present on most occasions, while there is always the possibility of seeing rarer species.
Little Egret and South African Shelduck may be seen alongside the waders. Flamingoes and White Pelican frequent deeper water, and there is chance of seeing Osprey. Another isolated hide west of the Geelbek educational centre overlooks a salt pan that is an excellent place to see Chestnut banded Plover.
The reserve’s fynbos surrounding the lagoon hosts Black Korhaan, Cape and Greywinged Francolin, Southern Grey and Cape Penduline Tit, Anteating Chat, Whitethroated and Yellow Canary, Karoo Lark, Titbabbler, Bokmakierie and Cape Bunting are all easily seen. African Marsh and Black Harrier can often be seen quartering the ground.
The coastal islands at the mouth of the lagoon are breeding havens for a number of species such as Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gull, Cape Gannet, and African Penguin. Cormorants and terns are present too.
Contact the West Coast National Park on telephone +27 (0)22 772-2144 or +27 (0)22 772-2145.
Popular Attractions in West Coast National Park
Langebaan Lagoon is a large salt water lagoon, regarded as a wetland of international importance, protected by the West Coast National Park (formerly called the Langebaan National Park), 100 km north of Cape Town. The lagoon is an intense...
More info and contact details: Langebaan Lagoon
West Coast National Park MPA
West Coast National Park MPA is a collection of five Marine Protected Areas within the boundaries of the park formed to protect exposed and sheltered sandy beaches, rocky shores, a lagoon, mud flats, salt marshes, subtidal reefs and sandy benthos...
More info and contact details: West Coast National Park Marine Protected Area
West Coast Park MTB Trails
The West Coast National Park lies alongside the Langebaan Lagoon, immediately south of Saldanha Bay's harbour. For bikers it promises routes through fynbos, and alongside salt marshes with thousands of sea birds, strandveld flowers during...
More info and contact details: West Coast National Park MTB Trails
Dassen Island Penguins
Shaped like a flattened whale, its fins viewable on either side, when seen from the air, Dassen Island lies off the Cape West Coast region near Yzerfontein. Just a century ago Dassen Island was home to over a million African penquins...
More info and contact details: Dassen Island Penguins
West Coast Fossil Park
Contrary to the way the West Coast looks today, millions of years ago the area was dominated by riverine forests and wooded savanna, and animals that today are long extinct wandered the land. We know this because phosphate mining operations...
More info and contact details: West Coast Fossil Park