West Coast, Cape Town
You could be forgiven for not envisaging that you would ever be tempted to visit a disused mine site on your trip to South Africa, but perhaps the West Coast Fossil Park will make you change your mind!
The fossil park is located approximately 150 km north of Cape Town (a 1.5-2 hour drive) on the site of the old Chemfos mine which mined phosphate for fertiliser manufacture. During mining, a huge number of mammal bones were unearthed, which provide a fascinating insight into the ecosystem of the region during the late Miocene/early Pliocene (circa 5.2 million years ago) - a blink of an eye in terms of geological time. The mine was finally closed in 1993, and the site was deemed to be of such scientific significance that it was handed over to Iziko (the South African museum).
The phosphate deposit was laid down at a time when the area received more rainfall and supported lush, riverine forests and open grasslands. The fauna discovered at Langebaan is fascinating and includes sabre-toothed cats, short-necked giraffes, hunting hyenas and African bears.
We last visited in 2006, at which time the park was just getting going. We found the fossil excavation absolutely brilliant - absolutely bristling with bones - but at the time, the display materials were a little rudimentary. I hope that in the intervening period they have managed to upgrade this, as it is hard to envisage the beasts without seeing some sort of reconstruction or model, particularly for kids.
When we visited, there was only only guided tour a day, so best to contact them ahead of time to check, as it would be a shame to drive all that way and miss out!
There is a small restaurant and kiddies' playground on site. The website below also indicates that there are now cycle paths and opportunities to go riding in the immediate area. Bear in mind that this area is pretty exposed, with little shade, so be sure to bring a hat, sunscreen and plenty of water.
If you are interested in visiting the fossil park, it would be ideal to combine it with a visit to the stark but beautiful West Coast National Park. This park incorporates the turquoise Langebaan Lagoon, which is probably the warmest water that you'll find in the Cape (be warned that this is a relative term!)
The well kept secret is out. Paternoster used to be a small fishing village on the west coast with a hotel and a padstal.(a stall next to the road) At the padstal you could buy home-mad jams, bokkoms(dried salted fish), fresh bread etc. The hotel was the hotel.
Suddenly there is a boom in the property market and everybody wants a piece of Paternoster. Lots of new guesthouses and B&B's is a definite sign of the tourist interest in Paternoster.
Even though it is expanding it is still a tranquil, peaceful little village with beautiful beaches and interesting people.
Tietiesbaai is a few km away from Paternoster on a not so nice dirt road.
It forms part of the Cape Columbine nature reserve.
What makes it so special is that it is totally unspoiled. People camp on the beach. There is nothing else except for ablution facilities. Only cold water and no electricity.
Prices vary from R49 per night out of season to R70 per night for up to 6 people. Day visitors pay R9 per day.
The view over the bay is beautiful and there are beautiful big shells on the beach. They are not broken as on many other beaches .
People used to live there for months but these days camping is limited to 8 weeks at the most.
To get a proper feel for the west coast, whilst not travelling too far from Cape Town, Yzerfontein is the place for you. About an hour's drive north of Cape Town. The town has the beautiful 1000 mile beach, accommodation and a few small restaurants. It's also next to the west coast national park.
Club Mykonos is a very popular timeshare resort in Langebaan. On the way to Parternoster we stopped there to see what it is all about. It's on the beach and has the feel of a resort somewhere on a Greek Island. It is out of the city but not far away.
The west coast national park is something not to be missed by the nature lover.It costs a mere $2 for the day, and what you get in exchange is a day in heaven.This reserve is scattered with beautiful indigenous flowers(in the right season)the occasional tortoise crossing the road and ostriches.It is about 50km from Cape town city along the west coast highway toward a little place called Darling.After driving for about 15 minutes in the reserve, you come to a turn-off called churchaven...take it!!this is a small village built on the banks of one of the most beautiful natural lagoons in the world.The water is warm and shallow, for about 100m+ it then dips gradually and gets colder.Perfect for a day with the kids swimming in blue green waters...paradise...take care with the sand sharks when entering some parts of the lagoon, as they are in abundance in some areas, but they are harmless so not to worry!just move on....or else you will be stepping on them.....
Paternoster is the most beautiful village on the Atlantic West coast, a remote place with white-washed houses and two magnificent crescent bays.
Paternoster is one of the few places in South Africa where you find a real beach restaurant in a colorful shack. The 'Voorstrand' has great fish dishes and the best mussels in the world!!!
The Atlantic coast north of Cape Town is a wild, desolate region with very few settlements, but miles of white-sand beaches with the occasional small resort such as Langebaan.
Langebaan has a very scenic location on a lagoon with a couple of offshore islets.
If you have a day to spare, hire a car and head off up the West Coast road past Blouberg. After about half an hour turn left to the town of Yserfontein with its unspoilt beaches and natural charm for a quick refreshment stop.
Now continue back along the West Coast until the turn of to the West Coast National Park.
During the spring months one can see a blaze of colour as the wild flowers come into full bloom. Also to be seen is a good variety of wildlife and beautiful natural scenery. Situated in this park you will also come acreoo "Eve's footprints" - the fossilised footprints of early man. Once you're ready take the road to the town of Langebaan, once a whaling community but now a popular holiday village. Lunch or dinner at the Strandloper outdoor restaurant is a must.
Time allowing continue to explore the towns of Saldanha or Patenoster.
I personally recommend that you stay over at Blouwaterbaai Holiday resort where Andre & Marianne Wicht ( old school friends of mine) will host you in style and true West Coast hospotality.
Die Strandloper. A restaurant up the West Coast in Langebann. Check tourist
information centers for info, and go with a big appetite and a casual attitude. But
really, a great must see. (see restaurant suggestion above)
There was previously an excellent review on Yzerfontein with a big mistake namely that Yzerfontein has a 1000 mile beach - hopefully only a typing mistake. Just to correct - it is a 16 mile beach.
Strandloper open air restaurant is an experience you should not miss. The owner and staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome. Do not expect knives & forks, you eat with mussel shells.