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West Coast

South Africa’s West Coast is a local secret, often overlooked by tourists in favour of the lure of the Garden Route. But those who choose to explore a two hours’ drive west of Cape Town are rewarded with a wilder and natural part of South Africa that is full of eye-catching detail.

Between mid-August and mid-September, the Spring wildflower bloom blankets the landscape with an abundance of colour, including the indigenous Erika Flower, ruby-red Disa Orchids and a rainbow of wild flowers. With these comes a plethora of birdlife, particularly in September when over 200 species, such as sandpipers, flamingos, pelicans and sanderlings that feed in the salt marshes. The little town of Darling is worth a visit, especially at this time of year, renowned for its Orchid and Wild Flower show and for its locally produced wines. Out at sea on a boat trip from Lambert’s Bay you can spot migrating humpback whales (from July to January), resident scores of Haviside’s dolphins and seals basking in the refreshing waters of the Atlantic. Summer sees the slow march of tortoises as they bask in the balmy weather.

The sheltered natural harbour of fishing town Saldhana Bay makes for a relaxed stay where you can find swathes of pristine, unspoilt beaches and hiking trails through the easy-going Eve's Trail. Nearby is the renowned 16-mile beach at Yzerfontein and the popular Langebaan Lagoon. The 71,000-hectare Cederberg Wilderness Area has dramatic mountain ranges that boast an exceptional botanical diversity, delicate bushman San rock art and indigenous Rooibos tea.

Climb the Cape Columbine lighthouse in the whitewashed fishing village of Paternoster to watch multi-coloured fishing boats return from sea, and make sure you keep a look out for Dusky Dolphins trailing behind! Slightly further north of Paternoster is the sheltered bay of Britannia, which makes for an excellent location for water sports, as well as fishing, diving and cray-fishing.

Route 27 leads from Cape Town all the way up to the north of the West Coast, and dotted all along the route are delicious seafood hubs, with a number of open-air beach restaurants offering fresh fish from the sea, cooked traditionally on open fires. When diving north from Cape Town, we recommend a detour to Ceres through the valley of Koue Bokkeveld, famous for its red apples, pears, peaches and plums.

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