The seaside town of Saldanha lies in the northern corner of the largest and deepest bay in South Africa and is a bustling harbour town with a thriving fishing industry with fish, crayfish, mussels, oysters and seaweed. Any visitor taking a walk amongst the fisherman when they bring in their catch is in for an impromptu lesson in local culture.
The banter amongst the fisherman goes on in regional speech with words and gestures that belong to the West Coast alone.
Many travelers have the impression of vast, grey open spaces when they think of the West Coast, of a country side that only blooms for a short period each spring … This is true, but the Cape West Coast is not just about the climate or the region; it’s about the people. Their incredible sense of humour that allows them to laugh at themselves and face adversity with the same courage and determination as did their ancestors hundreds of years ago make the people of the West Coast as interesting and unique as the landscape.
Saldanha Bay and the Langebaan Lagoon both draw game fisherman in droves with good catches of yellowtail and tuna and the famous Cape snoek in the winter months. The South African Naval base, the SA Military Academy, is in Saldanha, so the harbour teems with fishing boats, naval vessels and private yachts. The Saldanha-Sishen rail is known throughout South Africa as this was especially built to carry iron-ore for the Steel Works. The steel works and the fishing industry are what drive the economy of the region.
Saldanha has much to offer tourists and is particularly popular with all types of water sports enthusiasts who come here to water-ski, fish, dive, surf and sailboard. Eco-tourism is popular here with innumerable seagulls, Cape gannets, duikers, terns and cormorants that thrive in this unspoilt region of South Africa.
Saldanha has great 4×4 trails, mountain biking opportunities and numerous hiking trails, thus making this a popular visiting place for outdoors enthusiasts as well. In early Spring each year the rather drab West Coast is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour and many people make the yearly pilgrimage to see this spectacle of nature for themselves when the spring flowers bloom and the West Coast National Park is a definite for all visitors.
For those visitors who must get to places in a hurry there is the Saldanha /Vredenburg Aerodrome situated on the main access road to Saldanha Bay that caters for small civilian aircraft.
Saldanha is a town of contrasts with upmarket accommodation on offer for visitors varying from resorts, bed and breakfast places, charming guest houses and backpackers dormitories to the whitewashed cottages of the traditional fishermen.
Yet the people of Saldanha have created harmony between the traditional way of life, the sleepy village, the smart naval uniforms of the training cadets and the laid-back holidaymakers, with more discovering the many attractions of Saldanha and the surrounding region each year and come to experience the warm friendliness of the people, the good food, the pristine open spaces and subdued beauty of this West Coast town.