If you enjoy fresh coastal breezes, the feel of sand under your bare feet and a sense of complete freedom, you’ll love coastal camping in Namaqua National Park. By Scott Ramsay
The spring flowers of Namaqua National Park make it one of the most popular places in South Africa for nature lovers, but in summer when temperatures soar and drought sets in, most people head to the coastal section, which stretches about 45km from the Groen River in the north to the Spoeg River in the south. Formerly owned by De Beers, the land was donated to national parks by the mining company, and fortunately the land is largely pristine, unlike large sections of northern Namaqualand’s coast which is dotted with mines.
I spent a few nights at several of the park’s campsites along the Atlantic Ocean coast, as part of my Year in the Wild project in 2013-14. You must have a 4×4 to drive the sandy tracks through the sandveld fynbos, and because the coast is so isolated and undeveloped, it’s probably one of South Africa’s wildest beach holiday destinations.
The sight of the cool, blue Atlantic Ocean is most welcome after driving through the heat and dust of Namaqualand’s interior. The sandy jeep tracks through the strandveld fynbos are fun to drive, just remember to deflate your tyres to about 1 bar, otherwise you might get stuck.
There are nine campsites along the coastal section, each spread several kilometres apart from each other, and each with four or five individual sites, so the chances are good that you can have a whole campsite to yourself.
The campsites are basic, with only a stone wall as protection from the southerly wind, a braai area, and enviro-loos (which are basically fancy long-drops). So remember to take your own fresh water. Showers are superfluous when you have the biggest bath in the world right next to you; the Atlantic Ocean here is beautiful to swim in, with many coves and bays that are protected from the ocean swell.
My favourite campsite was Kwas se Baai, which is in the southern part of the coastal section, located at S30 41.739 E17 29.152. It is slightly elevated above the coast, and has a superb beach and protected bay. When I arrived, there wasn’t a breath of wind, the sea was flat as a lake, and there was no-one else for miles around.
There is a Cape fur seal colony near Boulder Bay in the northern part of the coastal section, so be sure to have a look if you’re in the area. Just remember to keep a respectful distance. There are plans to declare the coastal section and adjacent ocean as a marine protected area, which would do much to conserve this highly productive ocean environment. If declared, it would be the most northerly marine protected area on the west coast, and the only one north of West Coast National Park near Langebaan.
Because De Beers never mined in the coastal section, the beaches and fynbos are in excellent condition, and there’s plenty of natural life, including African black oystercatchers, which are surprisingly tame. I lay down low on the beach to take this photo as the bird came walking nearby.