Port Owen, Cape West Coast

The beautiful West Coast region is a necklace of loosely strung villages that hug the rough coastline north west of Cape Town. Port Owen lies just a little closer to the coast than Velddrif, where the R27 appears to peter out and the R399 continues at an abrupt right-angle inland.

St Helena Bay is a little west of here and Dwarskersbos lies just a little further up the coast. More often than not, Port Owen, St Helena Bay, Laiplek and Dwarskersbos are spoken about in one breath, as they lie so close together.

Essentially Port Owen is as its name suggests - a port, with a marina and the accompanying lifestyle. A series of admittedly pretty cabanas and apartments would have a little to recommend them but a resort type feel, if it weren't for the surrounding wetlands and bird sanctuary that prevent it from being so. Instead a vlei and a network of canals give boats access to both the sea and the river, and boats of all descriptions are moored here, giving the marina a real feeling of peace and stillness. Rowing along the 3.2 kilometres of private canals comes close to making this a little piece of heaven.

The marina is developed right on the vlei, between Velddrif and Laaiplek, just where the Berg River flows into the sea, and this particular estuary is an important bird area and proposed RAMSAR site. Just opposite the Caltex petrol station there is a bird hide and boardwalk (the key is available from the Flamingo Koffiehuis).

More than 200 species of birds are viewable from the hide, which looks out onto intertidal mudflats and salt marshes where migratory waders include pelicans. The lower Berg River too is inundated with birds and is regarded as a 'hot spot' for rare waders like the little blue heron, Hudsonian godwit and lesser yellowlegs.

Definitely a place to hang your hat for a while!

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