The West Coast is the part of South Africa’s coastline running from approximately Bloubergstrand ('Blue mountain beach'), just outside Cape Town, up to the Orange River, which forms the country’s northern border with Namibia.
It is a sparsely inhabited, arid part of the country, renowned for its long sweeps of deserted white beaches, its characteristic fishing villages whose inhabitants make their living from the abundant fisheries in the cold Atlantic waters, and its magnificent springtime flower display.
It offers many attractions for paddlers, including rich bird and marine life, the opportunity of camping on deserted beaches, feasting on a meal of freshly caught crayfish and the chance to interact with the character-bursting communities that call this place home.
Depending on which stretch of the route you are keen to tackle, access is best accomplished by vehicle, using the N7 to reach the more northerly points and the coastal R27 to reach the more southerly launch sites. There are sea kayaking base camps, which offer advice, guides, equipment rental and all-inclusive excursions, at St Helena Bay, Paternoster and Langebaan.
Paddling in South Africa has a fairly long history stretching back at least 50 years. Initially paddling developed a competitive edge with marathon events such as the Dusi Canoe Marathon, held in KwaZulu-Natal and the Berg River Canoe Marathon, held in the Western Cape, becoming popular endurance events. The surf life-saving community also produced its own marathon - the sea-based East London to Port Elizabeth Surfski Marathon, held in the Eastern Cape.
The commercialisation of river running using safe and user-friendly inflatable craft and Indian canoes introduced a recreational element to paddling in this country and increased its popularity, a trend which is rapidly being expanded by the advent of sea kayaking.
Sea kayaking has been popular in North America for many years but the first boats were only imported into South Africa relatively recently. Sea kayaks are stable and comfortable sea-going paddle craft designed for exploring and touring. They provide a stable platform to explore South Africa’s magnificent coastline and estuaries, as well as to indulge in related activities such as bird watching, fishing and photography.
This stability and ease of use is also their potentially biggest danger, however, since it is easy for the inexperienced paddler to quickly find him or herself out of their depth. Southern African climatic conditions are also notoriously fickle so it is vitally important to be well trained and equipped and knowledgeable about the trip you plan to undertake.
The Recreational and Commercial Sea Kayaking Association of South Africa (RECSKASA) is a good place to start your planning. They have collected the information used in compiling the routes featured on this site and are able to give you the detailed information and training required to undertake a successful sea kayak trip. They can also put your into contact with operators offering organised excursions.
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