Things To Do in MuizenbergWalking Zandvlei
Where? Start at the Imperial Yacht Club parking area and finish at the yacht club, or halfway in Muizenberg
When? Daylight Hours
How much? Free
Start: Imperial Yacht Club parking area (alongside the Sea Scout Base on Promenade Road)
Finish: the yacht club, or halfway in Muizenberg
Duration: 2 km one way, or 4 km return
Fitness: anyone can walk this, and the route is perfect for children's prams. It is a popular dog-walking path, and you're likely to bump into locals and their dogs en route
Our tip: it can get really windy on the exposed Zandvlei shore, so go prepared with an all weather jacket
Zandvlei is the only functioning estuary on the False Bay coast of Cape Town today. But when the Dutch arrived in 1652, Zandvlei was a huge marsh fed by the rivers that drained the Constantia valley and the Cape Flats. In winter the water would rise over the sand bar, whilst in summer the mouth silted up.
Only in 1882 was the inaccessible marshland made more available by an embankment across the vlei, which allowed the suburban railway to connect to Muizenberg.
Today it is an estuarine lake to the east of Lakeside and Muizenberg. The banks have been stabilised since the time of van Riebeeck, and a series of water canals join the vlei to Marina da Gama on its far eastern flank, parallel to Prince George Drive.
The water is ideal for yachting, windboard sailing, kite-boarding, canoeing, fishing (carp, tilapia and, at the southern edge, haarder and springer) and SUP (stand up paddle boarding).
Wildwood Island lies on the vlei's northern shore and is, as its name suggests, a bird sanctuary and conservation area not open to the public. Over 130 bird species have been sighted on the vlei.
People make good use of the grassed area of the park, a little further along Promenade Road where there is a braai and picnic space in which to relax and unwind, particularly over weekends.
To the south is the mouth of Zandvlei, where it connects to Muizenberg beach. The mouth is an important fish nursery, particularly during winter when the mouth is open.
The level of the vlei is controlled by bulldozing the sand to either side of the channel at the mouth of the vlei, allowing fresh water out, when the levels get too high (during winter). Just when is governed by a series of rules that include the full and new moon.
The route is really easy to follow, simply keep to the edge of the vlei, following a southerly direction. You will notice that birds are plentiful along the vlei's banks and one can easily spot ducks, coots, moorhens, sandpipers, white-headed gulls, plovers and sacred ibis.
Occasionally, especially when the water is low as it is in summer, you'll spot the odd flamingo and pelican on the northern edges of the vlei.
About 500 metres from the start you will pass a concrete launching ramp, and once you reach the braai areas, look out for the gravel path that will take you between the sports fields and the vlei.
The trees alongside the banks of the picnic and braai areas are manatoka trees, seriously good for coastal gardens as their thick, hard, glossy leaves can withstand the winds (and yes, the name does sound New Zealand-like, the trees originally came from Australia).
Look out for the old horse stables, on the other side of Main Road, that used to house the horses that drew municipal rubbish carts. Back then the refuse site was where Marina da Gama now lies. At one stage, Rotary took over the running of the stables and Scouts used to operate here.
The next landmark along the route is the old bowling green, and shortly thereafter a footbridge, which takes pedestrians across to the eastern edge of the vlei.
Most people use the Royal Road Bridge, close to Muizenberg, as a place to turn around and return.
But it is also a nice idea to keep walking on past the Supertube to the beachfront area where there are a series of coffee shops, surf shops cum coffee shops and restaurants, including a Knead, where you could pick up a loaf of bread and a good cup to go, before heading back.
Look out for Vergenoeg (42 Royal Road) a beautiful heritage building (Flemish revival style) designed by Sir Herbert Baker for Alpheus Williams, the then GM of De Beers.
If your walk ends here, head up to Main Road where you can catch a local minibus taxi back to Lakeside and the start of the walk. You can raise your hand for them to stop, and they hoot if they still have space.
Or take the train (the station is just beyond the beachfront area, on Main Road) to return to Lakeside (the station is not far from the yacht club).
Muizenberg's station building was erected in 1912 and is a beautiful example of the Edwardian era. Together with Post Huys (not far from the station), the old Carnegie Library (now the police station) and the Court House next door, they present a wonderful historical feature on Muizenberg's Main Road.