Village Life On The Coast
Papendorp is pretty much as far off the beaten track as any tourist can get, languishing at the very end of the R326 district road. To get there, you have to turn off the N7 at Vanrhynsdorp, and then cruise via the ‘bossieveld’ of the Knersvlakte region until you hit the forgotten stretch of coastline undulating here along the remote edge of the Maskam Municipality.
Diamond smugglers, kreef divers, and bokkom fishermen used to be the only visitors, but these days, die Weskus is nou die ‘beskus’.
The Olifants River estuary at Papendorp provides some of the best line fishing opportunities along the coast. Catches usually include silver cob, Angolan cob, white steenbras, West Coast steenbras, and elf.
Fish stock levels have dropped dramatically over the years, and visitors should be aware that some species – like abalone – are protected by law and cannot be removed from the sea. Permits are also required to catch galjoen and crayfish. Fishing permits can be bought at local post offices. The crayfish season begins in November and ends in April, and the daily limit is set at four per permit holder.
The Olifants Estuary has been classified as the fourth most important South African Estuary in terms of Estuarine Conservation. The estuary is permanently open, thereby creating a unique ecosystem for birds, fish, and botanical importance. It is 36km long to the low water bridge of Lutzville.
The greatest concentration of birds can be found within the Olifants River estuary, an important habitat for thousands of migratory birds. More than 200 bird species have been recorded here, and in summer the estuary’s bird population can swell to over 15 000 individuals.
Lesser and greater flamingos, African marsh harriers, African black oystercatchers, Caspian and swift terns, Hartlaub’s gull, and Curlew sandpipers can all be seen in significant numbers. Rare migratory waders such as common redshank, pectoral and broad-billed sandpipers, red-necked phalarope, and dunlin also frequent the estuary.
One of the oldest towns in the district, Ebenhaezer was founded by the Rhenish Missionary Society as a mission station in 1834. It was originally the site of a Khoi kraal. When James Backhouse visited Ebenhaezer in March 1840 he wrote that several people were living in huts built of reeds and mud, and that residents were building a windmill on a low hill outside the town. Today these old clay buildings and riethuise add to the town’s unique charm. The town’s residents and farmers benefit from the Olifants River Irrigation Scheme, and make a living farming cattle and sheep, and grow cash crops like lucerne, beans and coriander.
Salt marsh vegetation is highly threatened by anthropogenic impacts and this has knock on effects on the rest of the estuary functional zone. The Olifants Estuary has the largest supratidal and floodplain salt marshes in South Africa. More importantly they are still in very good shape and are the only good representative of salt marshes along the West Coast.
VREDENDAL (& Vanrhynsdorp) NAMAQUA WEST COAST TOURISM OFFICE
P.O. Box 1000,
3 Church Street, Vredendal, 8160
+27 (0) 27 201 3376