When we picked Langebaan as our South African weekend destination, I didn’t honestly know what we’d do there. Strike that; my plans actually were twofold: to eat good food and catch up on so many nights of missed sleep. So the fact that the area might very well be one of the more beautiful places I’ve visited in my recent travels was just the icing on the cake.
When reading up on Langebaan, I kept hearing all about the wild flowers. And lucky us, we were arriving at the beginning of the season. Only the manager at our B&B warned us to be sure and visit West Coast National Park before 3pm, otherwise “the flowers close.”
WHAT? How do flowers close, I pondered? I thought she was pulling my leg, only to find that yes indeed the flowers literally close up every afternoon as the cool coastal temps set in.
(We made sure to get there very early in the day so we could frolic in the fields while the flowers were still open for business.)
Of course one thing that accompanies flowers is the one thing that turns me into a huge screaming girl, and that’s creepy crawly insects. These weren’t just any insects either, but mutant horse flies that dive-bombed your head the second you got out of the car, biting at your ankles and leaving behind painful welts. Every time we pulled over for a photo stop, we’d all jump in and out of our Fiat in under five seconds to prevent our car from being swarmed.
Needless to say, our photos stops were brief, until we reached higher altitudes in the park and the density of bugs decreased significantly.
As Bernardine had not steered us wrong before, we took her dining advice yet again and had lunch at Geelbek, the only restaurant in the national park. Not only was the restaurant outdoors at the banks of the lagoon, but I will dream about that food for years to come. In fact, Kristin went as far to say our roti wrap was the best meal she’d ever had in her whole life. Bold claim, but I’d say it lived up to the hype.
The whole area is rife in wildlife, but the park is particularly known for its wide array of birds. We didn’t even have to venture away from our table to do a little bird-watching either, as dozens of these little yellow sprites burrowed into nests hanging in the trees that dotted the patio.
After we rolled ourselves out of Geelbek, our self-guided driving tour continued. While I’ve been on a true South African safari before, I still saw many insects and critters I’d never seen before. First, there was this rodent-like animal (I’d like to think it was a honey badger) whose name now escapes me. We didn’t get a close-up view of these guys, but they were sunbathing in clusters on rocks below us. While they most closely resemble a marmot in looks, their DNA is most similar to…an elephant! (I know, right? That blew my mind, too!) And they’re only found in the Western Cape.
Then, there were the man-eating grasshoppers. These suckers were massive, and as District 9 had been playing on a loop on the ship all week, I couldn’t help but think of them as prawns.
There were two animals we did know already. There was my friend the ostrich…
…of which we saw several darting frantically among the brush. But the second was the hare’s good pal, the tortoise. We couldn’t drive 500 feet without creating a surprisingly quick road block.
That old folk tale is completely inaccurate as those suckers are fast.
We stopped a couple of times so Brian could take some video footage, and he had to jog to keep up with the little guys!
We left the park as the flowers were closing and the surf was getting frenetic and our stomachs were starting to rumble. It was the best of weekends, and if ever I make good on my dream of picking up and moving my life to a sleepy coastal town, I’d say Langebaan will be a serious contender.
If you’re hunting for a coastal retreat elsewhere, one of my favorite national parks from my days living in Edinburgh is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. Consider a holiday cottage in Scotland near this popular seaside area for your next vacation.