THE AMBER ROUTE
After you step off at the West Coast Engen on the R27, you are met by your tourist guide who will guide you for the rest of the day, with every day touching on various historical spots. Those who have booked any activities will link up with the activities at the appropriate time.
This Peninsula is well known for Langebaan, and also Saldanha Bay, Jacobsbaai, St. Helena Bay and Paternoster. Hopefield and West Coast Fossil Park is on the inland side of the R27.
The history of the West Coast Peninsula is intertwined with the whaling industry that happened in the period from 1909 to 1967, when whaling stopped. Sperm whales and Baleen whales were the common whales targeted. In Langebaan we see a harpoon that was similar to those used in the days of whaling. This area was also the furthest outpost of the V.O.C. (or Dutch East India Company) with a beacon outside Geelbek birdhide in the West Coast National Park in Langebaan.
Saldanha Bay would have been the perfect place to start a settlement in the days of the early colony, except there was not a freshwater source and the topography was not considered good for farming.
St. Helena Bay, also known as Agterbaai, is a place of historical significance. This is where Vasco Da Gama first set foot on South African soil on 7 November 1497. On the site of his arrival is a monument depicting this event. A number of battles between the settlers and the indigenous people ensued in this area.
Many activities including kitesurfing and SUPs are done on the Langebaan lagoon, while in Paternoster you can ride a dune buggy and the West Coast Fossil Park has hiking trails and mountain biking. There are beautiful restaurants all along this picturesque peninsula, where you can have the most authentic seafood you ever imagined.
Where the Khoi leaders met
Langebaan has a long history, with the lagoon serving as the central part of many stories. From fossils found on the farm Elandsfontein in 1953, it was established that its origins can be traced back to 10 million years. The Khoi leaders met here and there is a record of large "clans" of nomadic herdsmen who referred to themselves as Koina, meaning people. The Cochoqua "clan" lead by Chief Oedasoa (a.k.a. Odessa) was the dominant one in this area. To the North we had the Grigriqua , and to the South in the Cape Peninsular we had the Gorinhaiqua and Goringhaicona (a.k.a. Strandlopers or Beachcombers).
Schaapen Island is the largest of 5 islands and has an area of 29 hectares. This island is dominant in the lagoon. During the days of the early V.O.C. settlers, this island was used to repair ships damaged by storms.
On 17 October 1652 after bartering with the Chochoqua, the V.O.C. captain left sheep on the island to see whether they would thrive. There are also stories of lions on this island during the 1700s.
Hopefield, on the Eastern side of the R27 is named after the Auditor-General, Major William Hope, and Mr. Field who laid out the town. This is the oldest town on the Cape's West Coast, with the Dutch Reformed Reformed established in December 1851 after receiving donations for its construction. Langebaanweg, with the West Coast Fossil Park is approximately 25km from Hopefield, with the Plaasmol Padstal (a farmstall) being an interesting an interesting and quirky place to visit.
The natural harbour
This is a natural harbour on our shoreline and could have been the site of the settlement for the V.O.C., except they could not find a source of fresh water, and the renosterveld vegetation abundant in the area made it difficult for any form of farming. Diplomat Edmund Roberts, who visited the bay in 1833 noted: "well sheltered from violent winds, having a sufficient depth of water, but the country is very sandy and agriculture but little attended to; a few cattle and sheep are raised among the scanty herbage". He further suggested that it was an uneventful area to visit, except for a few areas in the bay where whales resided during his visit.
This port is the main export harbour for iron ore, with a direct railway line to Sishen 700km away. With the naval training base situated here, there is also deepwater jetty to accommodate the ore carrier ships. The SAS Saldanha Nature Reserve has wildflowers during the early Spring and there are southern right whales to be found in the waters around the harbour area.
Many people believe that the name of the town refers to the Latin "Our Father" prayers that were made by the Catholic Portuguese seafarers.
This area is known for the different types of marine life and seafood, such as abalone, crayfish (or West Coast rock lobster), mussels and many types of fish. This little town was where the Stephan family established the Redro factory where they developed the fish paste so well loved by South Africans. This factory was started to compete with the already popular British Peck's Anchovette. What South African will not remember the famous "Wedwo" advert?!
The Cape Colombine lighthouse is also found in this area, and the popular Cape Town jazz festival is held at Tietiesbaai every year.
ST. HELENA BAY
The story of St. Helena Bay is that of the First People, The San, and the Khoi, as well as the European explorers who arrived centuries later.
It is the story of Vasco Da Gama who landed for the first time on South African soil and his experience in this area where the rich marine environment influences the development of the area.
St. Helena Bay is authentically West Coast and the local people are rich in the storytelling heritage of their ancestors. Experience the people, the environment, and the food that make up this beautiful paradise.