West Coast National Park
Our short getaway wasn't quite finished. After a lovely B&B breakfast at the Oystercatcher, we headed out, but we weren't in a big hurry. We wanted to explore a bit more of Shelley Point first and then dawdle down the coast on the way back to Cape Town. It turns out Shelly Point has lots of wildlife. We'd seen a “watch out for wildlife” sign, but on our arrival hadn't seen a thing. We drove through the winding roads of this exclusive community on the way out and saw all sorts of critters … tortoises, lots of birds and even a fleeting glimpse of a mongoose.
We had noted a lighthouse on the point and drove closer to get a better look. The Stompneusbaai Light isn't really a lighthouse at all, but rather a leading light. Evidently, the developer of the Shelly Point Estates was a lighthouse enthusiast and built the “lighthouse” to suit his fancy.
We took a washboard,gravel road from St. Helena Bay to Paternoster, shaking a few fillings lose en route. There were a few farms along this route, some abandoned. Tumbleweeds blew across the road, reminding us of eastern Colorado. There were odd rock formations here and there, and the land looked parched and barren. We were intrigued by the number of raptors sitting on fence posts and utility poles on the look-out for lunch.
Paternoster is a pleasant, touristy little town that sits out in the Atlantic just north of Cape Columbine. We drove through, admiring the white-washed cottages and sweeping expanse of the busy beach. It wasn't time for lunch and the gas station was out of gas. We headed towards Saldanha Bay in hopes of finding some petrol there.
We'd stopped at Saldanha Bay with Nine of Cups on our last departure from South Africa to fix a furler problem. It definitely looks different from the sea. Driving through this mineral export town, the red dust of iron ore seemed to cover everything. We found gas, filled up and headed south on the coast road for Langebaan Lagoon and West Coast National Park. A very good decision.
Again, we were off-season for the spectacular aspects of the park … wildflowers. August and September are the prime months. I nicked a photo from the national park site to give you a glimpse of the flower extravaganza in season. Wow!
We weren't deterred, however. The views of Langebaan Lagoon were spectacular from our vantage point as we watched pale pink greater flamingos swinging their heads back and forth, filtering the water for food.
Not far away, wild ostriches stomped around the dry bush, looking as if they had some place important to go, but clueless as how to get there. We stopped for several more crossing the road in front of us. Obviously, there was a meeting somewhere.
There were several lookout points along the road providing gorgeous vistas of the lagoon and informational kiosks about the park, its history and its inhabitants.
We stopped briefly at the Geelbek House Restaurant and Visitor's Center. This picturesque Cape Dutch building, now a national monument, was originally built in 1744 and was the original homestead of the Geelbekkenfontein farm, named after the yellow-billed ducks that live in the area.
The highlight of our day was a bird blind in a marshy area at the foot of the Langebaan Lagoon. Accessible by a boardwalk, the hide was perfect for viewing African spoonbills, sacred ibis, ducks, dabchicks, coots … just us and so many birds. They were oblivious to us and I just kept snapping pix. Bird photography heaven.
The day was waning and it was time to head back to Kaapstad (Cape Town). No regrets … the overnight getaway was a perfect celebration and going home to Cups was a great ending to the day.