The ‘jewel of the west coast’ is situated on a stunning lagoon just north of the West Coast National Park, making it an ideal location for kitesurfers and nature lovers alike.
Words by Tom Oswald
This article was originally published on wildbounds.com.
An hour and half drive up the South African west coast from Cape Town lies the laid back holiday town of Langebaan. About 35k south of the town, rather than sticking to the R27, we turned left into the West Coast National Park, at the West Coast Gate. This route takes you through the interior of the park, and although it adds 20 minutes to driving time and sets you back R68 (~£3), it is well worth it. Tortoises and ostriches are commonly spotted. Less commonly spotted and much less friendly are the fierce cape cobras. The panoramas over Langebaan Lagoon from the Seeberg view point are absolutely stunning.
We exited the national park along Park Street just near the Langebaan houseboats and passed by the white sands and crystal blue waters of Shark Bay before entering Langebaan itself. The left turn onto Sunbird Drive takes you past The Farmhouse Hotel and to the junction with Oostewal Road – this is Langebaan’s main drag. Two kilometres down the road you will see kites in the air and smell the aroma of fresh fish cooking. You have arrived.
Langebaan effortlessly caters for kitesurfing – consistent and prevailing cross-shore winds, shallow and flat to mildly choppy water, loads of space to spread out, blazing sun with 25+ degree heat, braai’s (South African barbecue), cheap beer and the built-in South African friendliness and laid back demeanour. What’s not to like? Almost like clockwork, the wind begins to build just after midday and by early afternoon a clean, consistent wind settles in.
November to early February sees 70% of days at or greater than 4 Bft (Force 4 on the Beaufort scale). Although the height of the season is December and January, Langebaan has good learning conditions October to March. The winter months bring lighter, more northerly winds, with fewer than 1 in 4 days’ kiteable.
Shark Bay is perfectly suited for beginners with large expanses of warm, knee-deep water stretching out towards the peninsula opposite, which protects the bay from the waves of the Atlantic. We parked the car along the private road just off of Park Street. From here it is a 100-meter walk down to the southwest-facing beach which extends for half a kilometre, leaving plenty of room for set up and launch at low and mid tide. At high tide space on the beach is at premium, but the kiteable area on the water really opens up, extending all the way to the Marine Protected Area at the southeast end of the lagoon. Things you won’t find at Shark Bay: sharks, concessions, facilities.
Main Beach at the end of the high street village road, is better suited for intermediate and advanced kitesurfers with choppier water and a bit less space to play with. It does get busy here with most kitersurfers staying in the immediate vicinity between the beach and Schaapen Island, just 500 meters out.
Downwind of the crowd, however, on the north and west side of the island, the water is beautifully flat with plenty of room. If you come off your board and lose sight of it (as I did) – fear not. Locals armed with binoculars and a power boat do a brisk trade spotting, retrieving and returning lost boards to their owners, for a small fee of R200 (~£10).
Main Beach is where kiters typically meet up pre- and post session. The high street village road just opposite is lined with kite schools and shops, a few small hotels, and bars and restaurants serving a mix of surf and turf. Pearly’s and Driftwoods are always packed for après-kite.
Kitesurf schools and shops abound in Langebaan. Almost all offer lessons for beginners and essential gear, with some also focusing on advanced lessons and accommodation. KiteLab is one of the best-reviewed schools. Owned and run by internationally competitive kitesurfer Alan Steele, they offer group lessons for beginners and private lessons for all levers. Their shop sells all the essentials including wet suits, harnesses and water sport sunglasses. Kites and boards can be rented by the day (though not cheaply). Other schools and shops include Constantly Kiting and Windchasers.
Just 200 meters up from Main Beach, Windtown is a small, trendy and by now, well-established hotel catering to kitesurfers. The 28 rooms are clean and comfortable, but not large. Poolside bean bags attract lounging kitesurfers waiting for the wind to pick up. We got the sense that Windtown has everything you need and nothing you don’t. The large stone water troughs for rinsing your gear post session exemplify their attention to detail.
If you are looking for something with a bit more character and off the main village drag, head for The Farmhouse Hotel. Here the grounds are stunning, the rooms large, the staff exceedingly friendly, and the food absolutely amazing.
Die Strandloper is a bit of an institution in Langebaan. Right on the water with sand underfoot, the open air seafood restaurant is always busy and for very good reason – the food is as amazing as the atmosphere. Perhaps more so. Bongos and live guitar music hums in the background as dishes including fish curry, snoek, black mussels and smoked angel fish are prepared over the open braai. Nothing here is rushed. It’s the sort of place you want to spend the whole afternoon in. There is no better place in Langebaan for chilled out downtime plus beautifully cooked fresh fish. We also really liked Friday Island, a beachside restaurant with both indoor and outdoor seating, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. It rests on a lovely perch of land overlooking the lagoon, with deck chairs and well-manicured grass. They do it all well – morning eggs and bacon, salads, fresh seafood, steaks and pasta dishes.
No wind activities
SUPing – You can hire a SUP board from just about any one of the kitesurf shops and schools along the village high street leading to Main Beach. A great paddle is around Schappen Island, which takes about an hour.
Cycling – The West Coast National Park mountain bike trail is not particularly challenging but offers stunning vantages in the park and over the lagoon. The Red route is a bit more difficult, with a short but steep climb up to Seeberg view point. The Langebaan Challenge take place annually each November.
Wine Tasting – Darling, a 45 min drive south from Langebaan, is an internationally acclaimed wine region with estates including Cloof and Ormonde. The landscape in and around Darling is stunningly beautiful and the wine is world class. We highly recommend a visit.
Fishing – Head to Shark Bay for lagoon fishing, or for boat fishing trips, check out one of the several charters.
Yacht Charters – Group and private yacht charters on the lagoon.
Game and Wildlife Drive – This is South Africa after all. Near Darling, the Buffelsfontein Game & Nature Reserve is home to a wide range of large wildlife including lion, buffalo, rhino, leopard, cheetah, giraffe, zebra, kudu, eland, oryx and blue wildebeest, to name a few. They offer several game drive packages.