The Cape West Coast Biosphere Trails
Say the word Biosphere and my mind conjures up images of science nerds, serious folks in lab coats carrying clipboards, and fervent chaps in conservation khaki tying themselves to trees to save the lesser spotted puddle newt.
The Cape West Coast Biosphere is a little different, and while serious work is being done by them, they have found a way to make Biospheres an everyday, normal word by embracing the tourism industry. Book Cape West Coast Biosphere Trails of your choice and see the West Coast like never before!
What is a Biosphere?
Biosphere reserves are areas of natural beauty rich in fauna and flora. They aim to find a balance between development in the area and the preservation of the cultural diversity and indigenous treasures. Biospheres seek ways to grow sustainably, create employment and work within a dynamic framework that ensures better lifestyles in an earth friendly manner.
Where exactly is the Cape West Coast Biosphere?
It starts in greater Cape Town a mere 14km from the city centre at the Diep River in Milnerton and extends 140km north to the Berg River at Laaiplek. It encompasses numerous small towns and coastal villages as well as vast areas of Renosterveld, Sandveld and coastal dunes and beaches. The West Coast National Park is the heart of the Biosphere Reserve, and attractions like the West Coast Fossil Park and quirky town of Darling are in the buffer zones.
There are 598 biospheres is the world, 74 of them in Africa and 6 in South Africa.
Q: What can I do for fun in this Biosphere? A: Go on the Cape West Coast Biosphere Trails!
You can start with any or all of the five trails that have been created by the Biosphere. The Cape West Coast Biosphere Trails cater for walkers, hikers, cyclists, paddlers and anyone in need of a break from the city.
These trails are a little different to most. While slack packing is nothing new, wine and olive tasting on a walk is certainly unusual, as are breaks for huge West Coast meals, mid walk swims or being halted by the guide to allow a tortoise to cross the path.
The Cape West Coast has always known how to live slowly. Life is to be enjoyed and savoured at a comfortable pace, not rushed through with our eyes fixed firmly on the future, rendering us incapable of enjoying the moment we are in. This is the ethos of the trails. Designed for fun, relaxation and perhaps a little education if you so desire. You will eat well, drink well and be transported to comfortable or luxury accommodation.
Even better is the flexibility allowed. You can book a standard trail or you can mix it up, add activities, skip others or custom design your personal dream West Coast experience.
The standard Cape West Coast Biosphere Trails are as follows:
EVE’S TRAIL is a 2 day, 30km wilderness hike in the West Coast National Park. Little creatures and sandy beaches, wild flowers and ancient memories, this walk is about getting back to the basics of life and finding harmony with the earth. Pure soul food.
THE WHEELS OF TIME TRAIL
This ride is about 100km over two days and is aimed at recreational cyclists and those who enjoy the back roads and byways rather than super smooth tar and high speeds. No need for those odd lycra outfits here.
As it is all about the enjoyment, a support vehicle offers not only food and drink, but also a break should you decide to rest in the car for a couple of k’s.
THE DARLING STAGGER
Here is a little taste of my experience.
Walking in single file on the hard shoulder of the R27, a major road linking Cape Town and St Helena Bay, drew a few hoots and a couple of curious looks from passing motorists and a noisy tractor. We soon moved off the road and bundu bashed for about a kilometre until we reached a rich red gravel road. It was perfect walking weather, fresh, cloudy, but not actually raining yet.
We covered about ten km on this gravel road, pausing to inspect unusual fynbos plants, spider’s nests and a killing field full of dead tortoises. A variety of antelope made brief appearances in the distance and our guide told us of the leopards that live here but are rarely seen. We might have quickened our pace a little at this point.
Finally the path brought us to the sand dunes and the beach. Walking in soft sand is heavy going. A gale force wind had us bent double and covering all but our eyes with scarves to avoid being sand blasted beyond recognition.
The sea was the most peculiar soupy green, and the waves left vivid patterns of lime coloured foam on the beach. This was apparently a phenomenon known as an algal bloom.
The crazy green, the wild wind and the remoteness of this beach made me a little mad and I decided to take off my shoes and paddle a little for a close up photo of this peculiar sea.
Never turn your back on a wave.
Of course I got drenched and obviously it started raining.
But guess what? I was having a great time.
We were collected a few kilometres on and driven back to Darling where we feasted at The Flying Pig before going back to our hotel to thaw out and change and off for another feast at Bistro 7.
The following morning we really did stagger around the interesting town of Darling, taking in the museum, the Darling Sweet, Evita se Perron and other quirky shops before heading to Darling Brew for some serious beer tasting, food feasting and a brewery tour. A return visit is on the cards as Darling alone is worth staggering about in for a whole weekend. There are great wineries to be discovered and tasted and of course there is the beer.
Darling is just one of the towns on these trails, so if you love to relax, eat, drink, cycle, walk, explore and throw in a bit of nature, go to Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve and start browsing, planning and booking your next country break.
Fast Facts about the Biosphere.
- It is the only biosphere that has a nuclear power station, an oil refinery and a toxic dump site.
- It is the only biosphere that encompasses a city boundary.
- It is an excellent venue for shore-based whale watching, and is not overcrowded like most other spots.
- It includes a RAMSAR site (Langebaanlagoon) with a deep-sea harbour to accommodate ore carriers.
- It includes Dassen Island, one of only two breeding sites in the country for Pelicans, as well as the largest penguin colony.
- It has the largest colony of gannets, based at Lamberts Bay.
- It has a Fossil park: West Coast Fossil Park, a National Heritage Site.
- Groote Post vineyard produces Chardonnay of choice for SAA business class and has won many awards.
- Darling Cellars, the largest local producer of a fine selection of wines is based in the Biosphere.
- Most large industries in the area are currently BEE compliant.
- The Swartland wheat fields described as the “Breadbasket of South Africa” are part of the Biosphere.
- Langebaanhosts the largest hobie cat sailing regatta in the country every Easter weekend.
- The World championship sailboard competition is annually held at Big Bay.
- Blouberg is one of the top five kite surfing venues in the world.
- The Berg River estuary is one of the largest salt producers in country (Cerebos).
- It is the home of the dried fish industry (Bokkems).
- It has an excellent climate, lower rainfall and warmer winters than Cape Town; and cooler summers owing to the cold Atlantic
- It still has large open spaces and a BIG blue unpolluted sky.
For more information or to book visit: www.capebiosphere.co.za/trails
Contact them on [email protected] or 0861 872 457
Follow them on Facebook Cape West Coast Biosphere Trails and Twitter: @CWCBioRes
For more information on West Coast Way Routes and the list of 101+ Things To See And Do in the Cape West Coast, visit their events page. Choose to go on a self-guided adventure drive by following the routes, or book an air-conditioned trip to top West Coast attractions in South Africa.