Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

Winona Griggs

Exploring Velddrif: Unveiling the West Coast’s Hidden Gem

Velddrif, oh Velddrif! A small town tucked away on the sublime West Coast of South Africa. Let me tell you, my friend, this place is a true treasure. It may not be as famous as the big shots like Johannesburg or Cape Town, but boy, does it hold its own charm. Today, I want to take you on an adventure through the streets of Velddrif, exposing all the wonders this town has to offer.

A Glimpse into Velddrif’s History

Can you believe it? Velddrif has been around since the early 1800s. It’s steeped in history, and you can still catch a glimpse of the past as you wander through its streets. The town has witnessed the ebb and flow of the Berg River for centuries, which played a major role in shaping its character. Oh, the stories this river could tell!

Embracing Nature’s Finest

Picture this: tranquil waterways winding through vast wetlands, bird sanctuaries that will make your heart flutter, and beautiful pink flamingos dotting the landscape. Velddrif is a nature lover’s paradise. Grab your binoculars, because you’re in for a treat. This town lives and breathes with the rhythm of the tides, offering endless opportunities for exploration and birdwatching.

Where the Foodies Rejoice

Are you a foodie? Good news, my friend! Velddrif has some delightful treats in store for your taste buds. From fresh seafood delicacies to hearty traditional dishes, this town has it all. The local restaurants serve up a storm, and you shouldn’t miss the chance to indulge in the flavors of the West Coast. Trust me, your belly will thank you.

Thrills and Spills for Adventure Seekers

Calling all adventure enthusiasts! Velddrif is the place to be. Whether you’re into water sports, fishing, or simply seeking a dose of adrenaline, this town has got you covered. Hop on a boat and explore the meandering waterways, try your hand at angling, or get your heart racing with some kite surfing. Velddrif is an adventure waiting to be explored!

The West Coast’s Hidden Gem

In conclusion, Velddrif may not be the most well-known destination, but boy, does it have its own unique character. This hidden gem has a rich history, picturesque landscapes, mouthwatering cuisine, and thrilling adventures. So the next time you’re planning a trip to South Africa, why not consider venturing off the beaten path and discovering the beauty of Velddrif? I promise you won’t be disappointed. Come and experience the magic for yourself!

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

When it comes to talking about the West Coast, it’s hard to do so without using some colorful language. Words that usually only slip out when you’re really angry or emotional are just a part of everyday conversation in Velddrif and the neighboring Laaiplek. And that’s what I love about it.

If you ever find yourself in Velddrif, chances are you’ll end up in one of the town’s 26 bars, listening to a local tell a story. Sure, the language might be a bit rough, but this town wears its heart on its sleeve. Well, its rolled-up sleeves, at least.

When you immerse yourself in this tiny West Coast town, you won’t find those perfectly manicured images you might see on postcards. Instead, you’ll get an authentic glimpse of life on the coast, where the idyllic facade has faded away, just like the paint on the old fishing boats.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

When I think of this place, it’s the distinct smells that come to mind first. The pungent scent of the fish factory and the overwhelming presence of cormorants perched across the bay. It’s not exactly a pleasant fragrance, but somehow, the locals here have learned to embrace it.

This town is a charming contradiction. The shipyards and factories, despite their disarray, breathe life into the community. And in turn, the people pour their hearts and souls back into their beloved town. It’s a beautiful symbiotic relationship that radiates throughout the entire West Coast.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

If I had to describe the West Coast as a country, I would say that Velddrif is its capital and snoek is its national animal. Velddrif is situated right at the mouth of the beautiful Berg River. This river estuary is home to a stunning array of bird species and has a fishing industry that dates back to the early days of Cape Town. It truly showcases the unique character of this special region.

Exploring the banks of the Berg River

Velddrif’s reputation depends on who you ask. If you ask a bird enthusiast, they will gush about the incredible diversity of birdlife found in the estuary. But if you ask a fisherman, they will regale you with stories of the distinct smell that wafts from the fish factory when the wind is just right.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

Just outside the Riviera Hotel is one of the best spots to catch the sunrise. It’s an intriguing mix of nature and development that defines this town. The land is like a delta, and the farms in the area are isolated. These factors made it the perfect place for a settlement. In fact, boats used to bring grain from the interior, and that’s how the town got its name – Laaiplek, which means ‘loading place’ in Afrikaans.

This loading place holds the origin of a famous song in local culture called “Die Alibama.” The CSS Alabama was a transport ship that was known for carrying thatch reed, specifically ‘rietgooi,’ which was traditionally used for making bridal mattresses in the Cape Malay community.

Now let me tell you about meeting Juffrou.

When I first arrived in town, I had the pleasure of meeting a remarkable local named Felicity Strohfeldt, or as many people in town know her, ‘Juffrou’.

Juffrou is no longer a teacher, but she manages the South African National Fisheries Museum in Laaiplek. She is incredibly knowledgeable about the fishing industry in South Africa and the museum is a treasure trove of information about its history and importance to the country.

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One fascinating tale she shared with me was about the fishing factory located right next to the museum. This factory played a crucial role in the early days of South Africa’s canned food industry, producing the now-famous Glenryck canned sardines that have become a household name worldwide. These days, the factory is home to another beloved South African brand, Lucky Star pilchards.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

When I visited the museum, I found myself captivated by an unexpected exhibit – the history of South Africa’s canning industry. It may not be the most prestigious display, but it held a unique fascination for me.

As Felicity gave me a comprehensive tour of the museum, I was enthralled by her wealth of knowledge. This background information proved to be invaluable, as it helped me understand that the lives of the townspeople were intertwined with a larger narrative that celebrated this cherished region. Thanks to Juffrou, I had the opportunity to meet the individuals who contribute to the colorful and heartwarming stories of Laaiplek-Velddrif.

Preserving our national heritage

The CSS Alabama, a legendary ship, had once graced the shores of South Africa. The art of constructing wooden boats has sadly become a dying trade, nonexistent in this part of the world. However, the fishing industry still relies on these magnificent vessels, which are in dire need of maintenance. The craft of shipwrights, although fading, is being kept alive in this West Coast town.

‘All of these boats will outlast steel or fibreglass boats,’ Keith Goldschmidt of Keyway Shipwright shares with me, as we stand in his shipyard. He appears more comfortable speaking to me here in the workshop, compared to when I first met him at his office. He goes on to explain that steel and fibreglass boats lack the flexibility required to withstand the rough sea conditions. Over time, these materials become soft and get damaged.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

As I glance outside my workshop, I see the Slipway stretching before me. The sight of those old wooden boats mesmerizes me. Their ability to twist and turn with the ebb and flow of the waves is truly remarkable. It reminds me why I can never imagine retiring.

Day after day, my company is solely focused on training employees in South Africa. It’s a responsibility I hold close to my heart. The knowledge that I am shaping and molding the skills of these individuals fills me with a sense of purpose and fulfillment.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

When I think about the Keyway Shipwright team working diligently to maintain the boat, it amazes me. They possess a unique set of knowledge and skills that are incredibly rare in today’s world. In fact, Keyway Shipwright is the last place in the entire country where you can find experts with this level of expertise.

Keith, the owner of Keyway Shipwright, takes great pride in his business and what it has achieved. He always emphasizes that his company has accomplished everything on its own, without any outside help. This is truly impressive, considering the complexity of the work they do.

Keyway Shipwright is not just another service provider. They are custodians of a significant tradition, and they have taken steps to ensure that this trade will continue for generations to come. They have established a trust to preserve their knowledge and skills, ensuring that future shipbuilders can learn from their expertise.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

I’m just putting the finishing touches on the interior of the Silver Dolphin. It’s amazing how the little details can really bring a place to life. And let me tell you, all of my employees are trained right here by my company. Take that young kid over there, for example. He’s probably not even 20 yet, but he’s already supporting his mother all by himself. It’s really inspiring.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

When I arrived at Keyway Shipwright, I was amazed to see the Silver Dolphin docked there for maintenance and repairs. It made me realize that this place might be the only one in the entire country with the expertise to fix wooden boats.

But what struck me even more was the realization that a cultural treasure like the Silver Dolphin is always at risk. Despite its importance, the industry itself must take responsibility for its preservation. These boats require regular servicing every few years, and it’s a highly specialized skill that can only be learned through a living tradition. It’s not something that can be taught in a classroom.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

Hear the Chirping Birds in Velddrif

Oh, how the birds sing and dance in Velddrif! This charming town is nestled near the estuary of the Berg River Mouth, creating the perfect haven for bird enthusiasts like me. Just imagine, the river’s headlands rest peacefully in the Wemmershoek, high up in the majestic mountains above Franschhoek. It’s a place where the clouds shower the land with over 3,000 milliliters of rain each year – the highest rainfall in the whole country! And all that precious water has to find its way somewhere.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

When I visited Rooibaai along the Berg River estuary, I was mesmerized by the breathtaking sunset. The sky was painted in vibrant hues, creating a picturesque backdrop for the incredible bird life that calls this place home.

As the sun began to set, something magical happened – the cormorants started returning to their roost. It was a sight to behold! Local estimates suggest that there are over 200,000 cormorants in this area, and I can believe it. The sky was filled with a constant stream of these magnificent birds, creating a spectacle that I will never forget.

But there’s more to Rooibaai than just the cormorants. To fully appreciate the wonders of this wetland, I had the privilege of joining Wendy and Nico on their trusty boat, the ‘Cracklin Rosie.’ They graciously showed me the abundant beauty of nature that thrives in these waters.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

As I step onto the Jetty to board the Cracklin Rosie, I can’t help but marvel at the tranquil beauty of this place. The river stretches out before me, inviting me on a journey of discovery.

Although I’m not an avid birdwatcher, I’m lucky to have Wendy and Nico with me. They are experts at spotting the incredible variety of birds that call this region home.

This estuary is teeming with life. In fact, it’s known for having the highest concentration of shorebirds on the entire west coast of Africa. Can you believe that? Over 60 different species have been spotted here at once!

It’s no wonder that the Berg River, the very river we are about to explore, is considered one of the most important estuaries in South Africa. In fact, it’s part of a select group of 50 estuaries that have been identified as crucial for protecting the country’s rich biodiversity.

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Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

As I gaze at the bridge in front of me, birds rest on its beams. It’s a peaceful scene that captivates me, even though I’m not really into bird-watching. But this boat trip is a must-do, regardless of your interests. You can sip on a hot cup of coffee and just take in the beauty around you.

As we glide down the river, we pass under the Sishen-Saldanha railway bridge. It’s an impressive sight, and it reminds me of the immense train that travels across it. They say it’s the longest train in the world! It’s a reminder of the river’s role in transporting iron-ore, as those massive cargo trains pass by. And in that moment, the familiar tune of ‘Daar Kom die Alibama’ starts playing in my head.

Here on the boat, I feel completely at ease. It’s a soothing experience to quietly float down the river. Our boat captain, Nico, is at the helm, enjoying his own cup of coffee and a cigarette. His relaxed presence adds to the tranquility of the moment. I find myself lost in the gentle sounds of the river, letting it wash away any worries or distractions.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

I’m standing on the historic Bokkomlaan jetty, a place that plays a vital role in the production of 95% of the world’s ‘bokkoms’. It’s a shame that I couldn’t witness this traditional process due to the fish not being caught and a recent Covid outbreak in one of the Bokkom houses.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

As I sailed back on the boat, the sight of Bokkomlaan caught my eye.

A Story of Steunvarkie

Right on the corner of Bokkomlaan, I had the pleasure of meeting Lokkie Van Zyl, a local historian from Velddrif. Lokkie shared with me the fascinating tale of the Berg River’s very own Loch Ness Monster. When I sat down with the delightful Tannie Lokkie, she revealed that her house was once an old shed for tractors. I couldn’t help but admire the deep affection this town holds for her, which in turn sparked a newfound enthusiasm for her enchanting stories.

Let me tell you a story about where they live now. Years ago, this place used to be a farm. Can you imagine that? And at night, there was this task that had to be done – bringing the cattle from the well by the river. It was quite scary because the town wasn’t as developed back then, so it would get really dark after the sun went down. And you know what? There was a story going around about a monster that growled in the water. They called it the ‘Steunvarkie’.

But guess what? It turns out that the monster was just a fish called kob. This fish is famous for making a lot of noise. In fact, it once disrupted a performance by an orchestra at the Cape Town Aquarium. The musicians were so bothered by the noise that they refused to play in front of the predator exhibit until the Aquarium fixed what they thought was a mechanical problem.

I had been puzzled by a strange noise coming from the mechanical system for quite some time. But now I know that the culprit behind the noise was none other than a male kob. It turns out that the kob uses this drumming sound to attract females and ward off other males during spawning. If you want to hear the eerie drumming sound of the kob for yourself, you can check out the video below from the Cape Town Aquarium.

‘Bokkom & Voetsek!’

No trip to the West Coast would be complete without indulging in a delicious seafood feast. Watching pied kingfishers dive into the water had whetted my appetite, and when I returned to the hotel, I was in for a treat. Rick and Gerber went above and beyond to ensure I had a truly satisfying meal. The Riviera hotel possesses the nostalgic charm of those small-town establishments that you only hear about nowadays. And Rick Thiart perfectly personifies that genuine hospitality.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

I’m Rick Thiart, and I’m right in the middle of cooking, telling a story, and feeling completely at home.

When you drive into Velddrif from Cape Town, the first thing you’ll spot is the hotel. It sits right by the west coast road, on the banks of the estuary, right where the bridge crosses over the Berg River. It reminds me of those cozy night lodgings you find on the side of the road – full of tales from all walks of life.

The Riviera Hotel definitely lived up to my expectations as I stepped inside the ‘Fok Sl,’ a clever play on words for the forecastle of a ship. It’s the front part of the ship, below the deck, that takes a beating from the rough waves.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

When you step into this hall, stories swirl around you like dancing flames, while the enticing aroma of seafood fills the air. Rick and Gerber, masters of the art of storytelling, hold court by the crackling fire, regaling you with their captivating tales.

Meet the mischievous duo known as ‘Bokkom & Voetsek’ – Rick and his friend Gerber Basson, a local fishmonger. Together, they bring their culinary skills to the forefront, preparing a mouthwatering seafood feast, all the while teasing and joking with one another, making sure your glass is never empty.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

As I watched Rick and Gerber in action, I couldn’t help but admire their expertise. They truly excel at what they do.

Our dining experience began with a delightful creamy mussel soup served with vetkoek. This starter set the stage for what was to come – a tantalizing feast of fresh fish, prawns, crayfish, and perlemoen (legally sourced abalone). It was a treat to witness the fish being prepared right in front of me.

This not only showcased the authenticity of the region but also highlighted the resourcefulness of our hosts. Nothing went to waste as they skillfully cooked the entire fish, head and all. They even cooked up the ‘kuite’ – the fish eggs that I would have otherwise overlooked. Thanks to their encouragement, I gave it a try and was pleasantly surprised.

As I sat down at the table, eager to indulge in a fish feast, I was surprised to find that I would only be served the main course. It was called the ‘visstok,’ which seemed fitting since it didn’t actually contain any fish. Instead, what arrived was a mouthwatering skewer loaded with succulent prawn and perlemoen, all generously coated in a rich garlic butter sauce.

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Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

You won’t find any fish in the ‘vistok’. Rick’s wife made it clear that I would face consequences if I didn’t feature this place. Luckily, the dish speaks for itself, so I didn’t need any threats to appreciate it.

The night could have lasted until dawn, but curfew saved us from extending the festivities. While Rick cleaned up, he invited me to his house on the hotel property for a drink. That’s when the beauty of the West Coast really hit me. I had come alone for a weekend getaway, but ended up spending late nights in the dining room of a Velddrif family.

A Flower Says Goodbye

Before driving back to Cape Town, I met Elsje Van der Linde, a self-taught botanist. She plays a vital role in maintaining a garden in the town center.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

As I walked into the garden, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the transformation that had taken place. The municipality had approached Elsje with a unique request – to turn a neglected plot of land in the center of town into a beautiful garden. And boy, did she deliver!

When I arrived, Elsje was hard at work, tending to the garden. She had mentioned that I could find her amidst the vibrant blooms near her trusty blue bus. And let me tell you, that bus was a sight to behold. A vintage VW bay window kombi that she used for transporting plants. It was the perfect fit for her green thumb.

As Elsje guided me through the garden, it was clear that she had poured her heart and soul into this project. Her knowledge of each plant species was remarkable – she knew them all like the back of her hand. And what’s more, she had taught herself about the additional uses of these plants. Talk about impressive!

I spent a whole hour strolling through the garden, taking in the beauty of the Cape Floral Kingdom. It was a bittersweet moment, knowing that it was time to say goodbye to this town. But thanks to Elsje and her gardening prowess, this forgotten street corner had been transformed into a blooming paradise.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

I was lucky enough to meet Elsje and Felicity during my time in the town, and they showed me what it truly means to live on the West Coast. Their connection with nature and the region’s beauty is undeniable, but they also understand the hard work it takes to build a thriving community. To fully appreciate the West Coast’s true beauty, you have to see it through the eyes of the locals.

Experience Velddrif’s Charm at the Riviera Hotel

During your visit to Velddrif, the Riviera Hotel is the perfect place to stay. The hotel has a special charm, and they go above and beyond to ensure their rooms are top-notch. Each room comes with its own private balcony, offering beautiful views of the estuary. And don’t miss the chance to watch the sunrise from the jetties or enjoy breakfast on the restaurant’s deck – it’s a truly unforgettable experience.

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

Hey there! I’m so glad you’re here. Let’s talk about something super important – finding the perfect place to stay for your next adventure. Because let’s be honest, choosing the right accommodation can make or break a trip. And that’s not something we want, right?

So, let’s dive in and explore all the factors you should consider when searching for your dream accommodation. First things first – location, location, location. It’s all about finding a spot that suits your needs and interests. Do you want to be close to the beach, in the heart of the city, or surrounded by nature? Think about what kind of activities you want to do and what’s important to you in terms of convenience and accessibility.

Now, let’s talk about the budget. We all have different financial situations and it’s essential to find something that fits within your means. Don’t worry, there are options for every budget out there. From affordable hostels to luxurious resorts, the world is your oyster.

Next up, amenities. What are the must-haves for you? Do you need a pool to cool off in after a long day of sightseeing? Or maybe a gym to get your workout in? Make a list of the amenities that are important to you and look for places that offer them.

Oh, and don’t forget about reviews! It’s always a good idea to see what other travelers have to say about a place before booking. Their experiences can give you insight into what to expect and help you make an informed decision.

Lastly, we have to talk about rates. It’s essential to know exactly what you’ll be paying for your accommodation. Some places have additional fees or hidden costs, so make sure you read the fine print before confirming your reservation.

So, there you have it – the key factors to consider when choosing your perfect accommodation. Remember, it’s all about finding a place that meets your needs, suits your budget, and adds that little something special to your travel experience. Happy searching!

Rates: From R980 per room

Velddrif Getting Intimate With The Capital of the West Coast

Discovering Velddrif: Explore These Exciting Attractions!

When it comes to things to do in Velddrif, I’ve got some fantastic recommendations for you! Let’s dive right into the fun.

Cracklin Rosie River Boat Tours, Velddrif

If you’re looking for an unforgettable experience, a boat trip on the estuary is an absolute must. Trust me, the two-hour excursion will go by in a flash as you spot countless fascinating birds at every turn. And the scenery? It will take your breath away! Just remember to book in advance so you don’t miss out on this incredible adventure.

Contact: 071 897 9611

For more information click here.

South African Fisheries Museum, Velddrif

Step back in time and explore the captivating history of South Africa’s fishing industry at the South African Fisheries Museum. Housed in a charming old building, this museum is filled with intriguing artifacts that illuminate the past. In a world where museums sometimes take a backseat, this hidden gem reminds us all why they are such cherished places to visit. You don’t want to miss out on this unique experience!

Pictures: David Henning

Featured image: Christal McFarlan


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