Scenically beautiful, Langebaan Lagoon is the focal point of the wetland wilderness and the four offshore islands that comprise the park. The lagoon is also a water sports paradise where you can swim and fish and where conditions are ideal for boardsailing, yachting, snorkelling and scuba diving. Internationally renowned among ornithologists, this is one of the world's most important bird sanctuaries, providing a haven for some 256 species.
Langebaan Lagoon in the West Coast National Park (022 772 2797/ 772 2144) was registered as a wetland of international importance for birds, with the Ramsar Convention, which came into force in 1988. The West Coast National Park has a number of bird hides overlooking various areas of the lagoon.
The Geelbek Hide, situated near the Geelbek information centre (which also has a small restaurant and picnic area), overlooks salt marsh and mudflats and is one of the best spots to view migratory as well as resident waders as they feed at low tide. The visitors spend their summers at Langebaan Lagoon before making their epic journeys back to Siberia, Greenland and Northern Europe in April. These species can also be viewed from the salt-marsh hide about 1km from Geelbek and at the Seeberg hide near the entrance to the Park.
The Geelbek hide's proximity to the reed beds also allows for viewing of harriers, rails and warblers at intermediate tide levels while flocks of flamingos are often present during winter. This hide is best visited on the incoming tide, when the water pushes birds progressively closer to the hide. Many rare waders have been seen here in recent summers, including Hudsonian and Black-tailed Godwits, White-rumped Sandpiper, Broad-billed Sandpiper and Dunlin.
Salt-Marsh Bird Hides: These locations are popular roosting areas and wading birds gather there when it is high tide at Geelbek.
Sometimes as many as 300/400 flamingos can be viewed from the Seeberg Hide (near the entrance to the park, on the Langebaan side) at high tide. These birds spend time feeding in the Lagoon but do not breed there. They travel as far north as pans in Botswana and Namibia to breed. There is good wader and tern viewing from this hide on an incoming or outgoing tide.
Another feature of the National Park's birding is the important breeding colonies on the four islands near the mouth of Saldanha Bay. There are only six colonies of Cape Gannets in the world, and tens of thousands of pairs breed here on Malgas Island. Cormorants and penguins are also common. The island can be visited by boat under the guidance of a park guide. Jutten and Schaapen Islands host very sensitive breeding colonies of various bird species and can only be viewed from the water.
Marcus Island is a breeding area for penguins, cormorants and other marine birds. Due to the sensitivity of the breeding colonies, visitors may not visit the island. A protective wall is in place to keep predators out. Visitors may use binoculars and climb on the rocks outside the wall, not on the wall, to view the birds. Along the roads in the Park and in the trees around the Geelbek homestead may land/bush birds, as well as birds of prey can be seen.