A trek along Cape West Coast, South Africa, delivers scenic locations, cultural diversity, and culinary experiences found nowhere else in the world.
Guest Post by Bianca Knauf
The first thing you notice about trekking up the Cape West Coast, South Africa, is the stark contrast between the infinite blue ocean and the vast open land, mottled by shallow vegetation known as fynbos. Directly translated, this means “fine bush,” and it is a low shrub-like collection of over 9,000 species of plants not much taller than your knees and found nowhere else on the planet.
There are few trees in this spectacular boom, and the sense of open, limitless space almost leaves you feeling intoxicated.
Living in such a beautiful and untouched environment, it is no stretch to see why it has become so much a part of who we are. The Cape West Coast is a hiker’s paradise with inviting trails and lookout points scattered along the coastline.
This article is a play-by-play route along one of the most incredible coastlines of the wild African Atlantic.
Tableview & Big Bay
View of Table Mountain from Bloubergstrand
Known for its perfect view of Table Mountain, the small town of Tableview is the first step in the start of your journey.
Stop over at Moyo Restaurant, a truly unique African experience where face-painting and Zulu dancing ensues while you devour your Bobotie (a traditional Cape Malay mince and chutney dish with yellow rice) or Gramadoelas (shaved Biltong and avocado).
The South Easter, affectionately known as the Cape Doctor, is one of the most consistent windstreams on Earth and makes Big Bay the perfect spot for international kitesurfers who come from far and wide to experience the consistency and power of the wind. In the summer months, it funnels past Table Mountain and carries on for hundreds of miles up the coast, leaving any kitesurfer in awe of its ceaseless tenacity. The Red Bull King of the Air competition takes place once a year, and during this window, winds can lift a pro kitesurfer over 60 feet in the air!
Enjoy cocktails on the lawn of the Blue Peter Hotel as you watch daring kitesurfing right in front of you in the Big Bay Cove, until the sun finally sets over Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years.
After a night of culture and warmth of the South African people, you can head further up the road to a little coastal village called Melkbosstrand.
Seafood Restaurant at the Beach – Die Damhuis
This sleepy town is a mere ten minutes from Big Bay and features a 1785 traditional fishing shed turned restaurant, known as Die Damhuis (The Dam House). It played a modest role in the Battle of Blaauwberg where British Troops quenched their thirst in 1806. Die Damhuis serves delicious seafood and great Cape wines, with warm West Coast hospitality.
The Koeberg Nature Reserve borders Melkbosstrand and has an easy one-hour hiking trail. It offers you the chance to see zebra and springbok which used to roam the region in droves. The San Bushmen who inhabited the sand dunes and nearby koppies (hills) lived well off the land. With such abundance, they were able to trek large distances following migrating game.
Atlantis Dunes & Bushman Village
Atlantis Sand Dunes
Now things get a little serious . . . .
Atlantis, located just half an hour from Melkbos, has hundreds of spectacular sand dunes where even Bill Gates has recently “bitten the dust” sandboarding.
You can hike the dunes that seem to go on forever as they rise and fall over the horizon while Table Mountain sneaks its last peak in the distance. You’ll need to arrange a permit at the municipal office in the nearby town of Atlantis, but it is easy to do and well worth experiencing.
Along the coast, the San Bushmen tribes lived off the land, hunting kudu and extracting water from hidden plant roots. With a language like no other on earth, their click and clack sounds take a western tongue years to emulate correctly. You can learn the rich history of the tribes and peruse the artifacts of their culture at the !Khwa ttu Reserve.
Langebaan Lagoon & The West Coast National Park
Just a little further north and you will turn into the West Coast National Park, which leads around the back of the Langebaan Lagoon to a little hidden bay called Church Haven. Watch the road for turtles and Cape cobra as you meander through a seemingly endless winding route at a snail’s pace, all the while glaring at the beauty outside. Wild ostriches will notice you, and you will notice them. If you are lucky, you may witness their insane speed as they run through the fynbos.
The Langebaan Lagoon resembles the clear shallow beaches of a Mediterranean fishing village, and the lagoon is a vast turquoise basin, sprinkled with houseboats and flocks of flamingos.
From Church Haven you can drive back around toward the town of Langebaan itself. There are quaint shell shops and beach bars like Pearly’s which are traditionally Langebaan haunts. Give the calamari a try.
For the truly adventurous, you have to experience Die Strandloper. It is a makeshift restaurant built up with, what looks like driftwood from sailboats and fishing nets. Crayfish and oysters, freshly caught earlier in the day, are cooked on an open fire while you use shells as cutlery to eat your entrées and sip on traditional Cape wines. The nights get cold, so bring along an extra jacket.
Paternoster Fishing Village
The last stop on our pilgrimage into the heart of the Cape West Coast is a town called Paternoster. Translated it means “Our Father” which is the well-known prayer of Jesus to God.
One of the oldest fishing villages in the country, it is a scene from years gone by, where all the Cape Dutch style houses are painted white and magnificent people give the town its color.
It is perfect for a midday lunch of Seekos Potjie, seafood stew, similar to Paella, cooked and served in a small, hanging cast-iron pot.
After that, you can take a leisurely hike along the shelly beach while the mussels crackle under your feet. On a hot African day, the Arctic currents bring ice cold water right to your feet.
The West Coast is a magical part of South Africa, affectionately known as the Rainbow Nation for its cultural diversity. No matter whether you plan to hike every mountain, explore every location, or taste every exotic dish, this vibrant country delivers in abundance.
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