The West Coast National Park is much loved by bikers, hikers, birders, whale-watchers, plant-lovers, kite-boarders, kayakers and anglers. But if you’re not into all that action, just spend a little time following a tortoise around. Or sit and gaze at the antelope picking their way through spring flowers.

Did you know?

The lagoon was used as a runway for giant Catalina flying boats during World War II.

There are times at the West Coast National Park when you may feel a case of sensory overload coming on.

For photographers, that's usually in the first flush of spring. The waters of the Langebaan lagoon are a delicious turquoise fading to white at the shoreline. The wild flowers have turned the land orange, purple, yellow and pink all the way to the horizon.

And then, entering stage left, a herd of eland and bontebok, striding over the flowers as if they were pacing out the world's biggest and most colourful Persian carpet.

If you're also a birder, that's when you might just slip over into ecstasy. Around 200 species can be seen here, just around the lagoon. Many are from far afield. The curlew sandpiper, for example, makes a pilgrimage to the West Coast National Park all the way from the Arctic every year.

Flamingoes, knots, whimbrels, sanderlings, godwits and gulls all come to feed in the life-giving waters.

Apart from eland, you could also see springbok, kudu, gemsbok and the rare mountain zebra. In summer hundreds of tortoises patrol the flowering land.

It comes as no great surprise that people have been drawn to this area for hundreds of thousands of years. As proof, a geologist found the famous footprints of Eve on a rock in 1995. Palaeoanthropologists calculate that 117 000 years ago, an ancient woman about 1.5 metres tall left the imprints while walking up a steep, damp dune. The indentations were preserved by blowing sand that later hardened.

The rock has been removed to Iziko Museums' South African Museum in Cape Town for safekeeping from erosion.

You can't help but wonder what 'Eve' would have made of this colourful park - and the modern humans kite-boarding, kayaking, cycling and whale-watching near the dunes she once walked.

For those who enjoy watersports, it should be noted that the lagoon is zoned into three recreational areas. Zone A is a multi-functional area that allows most watersports, Zone B is for sailing and board sailing only, while Zone C is a wilderness area.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

SANParks reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
Email: reservations@sanparks.org

West Coast National Park
Tel: +28 (0)22 772 2144

West Coast Fossil Park
Tel: +27 (0) 22 766 1765

Schaafsma Yacht Charters
Tel: +27 (0) 22 714 4235
Email: slipway@mweb.co.za

How to get here

Drive north from Cape Town for nearly 100 km. At Langebaan turn left, following the signs to West Coast National Park.

Best time to visit

Spring and summer are ideal, with spring being particularly beautiful due to the flowers.

Around the area

While here, visit the fascinating West Coast Fossil Park which is close by.

Get around

Self-drive or on your bicycle

What will it cost

In flower season it will cost an adult international visitor R96 to enter the park. Off-peak it's R48.

Length of stay

If you're sporty and enjoy kayaking, kite-boarding or cycling, it would be a pity to stay less than two nights. Otherwise the park works well as an overnight stay or even a day visit destination.

What to pack

Sunscreen, good walking shoes, binoculars

Where to stay

There are a number of self-catering cottages and chalets within the park. There are also houseboats available at Kraalbaai.

What to eat

Book to eat at Geelbek, the park restaurant which serves traditional fare like chicken pie and bobotie.

What's happening

The best time to visit the park is in spring when the wild flowers are blooming.