South Africa: A Perfect Beach Day

A Blue Lagoon & Ostriches in the West Coast National Park

By Lauren Manuel

Tranquil Azure bay with yachts and houseboats moored. photos by Lauren Manuel.
Tranquil Azure bay with yachts and houseboats moored. photos by Lauren Manuel.

It’s no longer summer in South Africa but the sun is lending enough warmth for me to be tanning in a bikini beside the lagoon. On our little beach, there isn’t another soul to be seen. On a rock just around the corner are a group of young people fishing and swimming. It’s a touch too chilly to swim, but I wade in until my knees and look out across smooth bay.

I can make out every detail of my toes, so utterly transparent and turquoise this salty water is. I see a water-skier holding onto the back of a speedboat and yachts gliding slowly past.

When the boats disappear, the only sound to be heard is the lapping of the ocean’s water on the glistening sand. I am beside ‘Kraalbaai’ lagoon and in a total state of bliss having only had to drive two hours out of my home city, Cape Town.

Preekstoel, or Pulpit

autumn-in-kraalbaai
Autumn in Kraalbaai

Just forty minutes drive from our holiday house in Langebaan with its fishing boats, holidaymakers and kite’s flying on the beach, this National park is home to a number of various mammals, birds and indigenous vegetation. Even now as I relaxed on the secluded beach beside a rock formation named ‘Preekstoel’ (meaning pulpit) with a huge hole in it that allowed you to duck and walk beneath it, there were young, fluffy birds circling us in search of food.

I didn’t know such azure, turquoise water existed in South Africa, I had only witnessed it in Hawaii and Thailand. If only it was just as warm. Luckily for us locals, it’s just as beautiful and easily accessible. If I could have, I would have stayed right there all day, but there was quite a bit more to see, so I made my way up the wooden boardwalk and turned around to admire the view one last time.

The moored boats look glued to the sea, with the slight hills causing a shadow to finally fall over the bay. I could see two girls hitting a ball on the sand, probably also wanting to prolong their beach day.

We continued around the park to the Atlantic Ocean side. Now this looked familiar. Huge, rough waves and water beating up against the rocks. Seagulls are forming a pattern around the dirt bins and the sea breeze cooling the air dramatically. I suddenly feel quite far from ‘Kraalbaai’s’ peaceful lagoon. This side was wilder and we were no longer sheltered from the wind we are so used to.

Ostriches Ahead

A male ostrich at the park.
A male ostrich at the park.

We continued to drive slowly along the quiet roads, hardly passing anyone at all. Countless times I yelled ‘stop’ when spotting an ostrich. There were exquisite males with their bold black and white feathers and the bland females that were so well camoflaged amongst the natural ‘fynbos’ bush.

I saw a tiny tortoise actually attempt to ‘run’ away from us as we tried to catch him on camera. A large, brown ‘eland’ (antelope) with a hanging throat eyed us as we slowed the car down. He seemed to have made his way to this side of the fence, whilst all his furry friends remained on the inner side.

He however seemed totally unfazed. As the sun made its way further down in the sky, two ostriches ducked their heads towards the ground and paused, silhouetted in the low-lying mist.

better-waves
Better Waves

It was autumn at the time, so the bright flowers that everyone flocked here for had not yet begin to bloom. I passed ‘ Geelbek’ restaurant and went to have a look at Church haven.

There was nothing much there besides a white-washed church and graveyard overlooking the sea. A few private, rustic cottages were filled with families and a guesthouse sign pointed us towards the right if we so wished to find accommodation.

Choosing a Dirt Road
Finally leaving the park through the Langebaan gate, we chose a dirt road this time in the hopes that it was a shortcut.

Kraalbaai beach front: secluded and sunny.
Kraalbaai beach front: secluded and sunny.

What started as a scenic route past the sea, birds flying overhead and children on quad bikes, turned into a road with potholes you could disappear in.

My car was by no means a 4×4, but luckily it had a slightly raised body. With a regular sedan, I’m quite sure we would’ve had to be hauled out of the ditches.

One final stop before heading home was the Langebaan beach front. By now a cold wind blew over the hard sand and the only people around were getting off boats, walking their dogs or enjoying the sunset.

View from the parking lot over the bay.
View from the parking lot over the bay.

Marker poles with red and white paint stood tall in the low water to indicate to boats where to return to.

Small fishing boats named Blake and Lisa were anchored to the sand waiting for this next trip out the following day. Sea gulls are the only ones oblivious to the wind. Before the light was no more, I jumped in the car and called it a day. I looked forward to my next West Coast weekend.

Entrance fee to the Park is R30 per person. Visit the park website for more information of various accommodation, restaurants, trails and more.

Lauren Manuel

Lauren Manuel says: “When I wasn’t teaching English in Seoul, surfing in Hawaii or competing in Hiphop dance contests in Germany, I was trying to capture it all in writing and through photography. I’m a wannabe nomad, She is now based in beautiful Cape Town, but explores new bits of South Africa frequently. Her stories and photos have appeared in Getaway Magazine, Tango Diva, Travellady, In the Know Traveller and The Travel Mag. Follow me on Twitter @Lauren_Manuel and read about my adventures on www.thetravelmanuel.blogspot.com.

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