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Paternoster and the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve

Leaving the industrial town of Saldanha Bay behind us, Bevan and I continued our exploration of the West Coast peninsular region, heading towards the town of Paternoster.

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Picture-perfect Paternoster

Paternoster is one of the oldest fishing villages on the West Coast. Our first glimpse of the bay was from the top of the small dune in front of Paternoster Hotel. We climbed the small hill with a few of our friends and the effect that the first sight of this view had on everyone was the same – a gasp at the unexpected beauty, and an exclamation of delight. It’d be hard not to react like that when faced with a wide bay stretching as far as the eye could see fringed by smooth boulders, white sand and white-washed houses with highlights of blue. Like one of the ladies remarked, it looks like Greece.

Bevan and I were very happy to spend a bit of time exploring this picturesque town, enjoying a fish and chips takeaway on the beachfront and breathing in the cool sea air. Unlike Jacobs Bay, Paternoster has a plethora of wonderful restaurants and you get the feeling that this seaside town must bustle during peak holiday periods. The uniform cool white and blue of the houses gives you a sense of peace and the feeling that even though it might be a popular destination for visitors, it doesn’t lose its charm even in the busiest of seasons.

paternoster bay
A view across the bay at Paternoster.
paternoster house
The picturesque blue and white Paternoster houses.
The white-washed fishing town of Paternoster.

Exploring the bay by kayak

Although exploring the town and bay on foot is in itself a great experience, Bevan and I decided the best thing to do would be to get out on the water. We joined Raymond from Gecko Kayak Adventures for a paddle around the boulders on the point.

Like Cape Town, this stretch of coastline has unbelievably cold water (for us Durbanites at least!). This provided some serious incentive to make sure that we didn’t tip the kayak or splash too much with our paddles, but luckily the kayaks were wide and stable and we managed to stay dry!

The bay is home to dusky dolphins, Cape fur seals and a wide variety of seabirds that nest on the rocks, including the endangered African penguin. We were lucky to be able to view all of these on our trip, and a watery perspective is definitely the best one! Because the swell was very small and the point provided additional shelter, we were able to silently and smoothly navigate our kayaks between the boulders, gliding effortlessly over shallow beds of kelp. All too soon Raymond told us it was time to head back to shore, making sure not to capsize our kayak in the small shorebreak in the process!

paternoster kayak adventure
Getting out onto the water on a kayak.
paternoster african penguin
African penguins keep an eye on us from the boulders.

Cape Columbine's natural beauty

The kayak adventure had given us a taste of the coastline outside of the protected bay, and we explored this further with some time in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve. This 263 ha reserve protects a rocky stretch of coastline to the west of the bay, and includes Tietiesbaai that hosts the popular annual Jazz on the Rocks music event.

If the coastline is anything to go by, the underwater topography must be full of bouldery rocks and reefs. The Cape Columbine lighthouse and reserve get their names from a ship that was wrecked 1.5km north of the current position of the lighthouse in March 1829, and in fact there have been a number of other wrecks along this coastline since then. The Cape Columbine lighthouse is the last manned lighthouse that was built along the South African coast, and it was commissioned in October 1936. It was also the first lighthouse in the country to receive all three navigational safety features, these being a light, fog signal and radio beacon.

The rocky coastline just begs to be explored and Bevan and I did just that with pleasure. Although we came across a few other cars on the reserve's dirt road, when we got out on foot to explore the boulders we were the only people around. This meant that this raw, wild coastline was pretty much ours to take in. We squinted into the afternoon sunlight and spotted seals on a distant rock, watched the kelp rise up into every passing swell and just generally had a blast!

Cape columbine coastline
The rocky coastline of Cape Columbine Nature Reserve.
exploring cape columbine
Exploring Cape Columbine Nature Reserve.
Cape columbine lighthouse
Cape Columbine Lighthouse, the last manned lighthouse in South Africa.

Final thoughts

Paternoster and Cape Columbine Nature Reserve are areas that are best explored without an agenda or timetable. The quaintness of Paternoster's white-washed fisherman cottages and long sandy beach, as well as the wealth of great restaurants in town lend themselves to slow lazy days that blend into quiet evenings, while the long stretch of coastline in the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve mean that there are lots of hidden places to discover if you give yourself the time.

Once again, we would like to thank Gurshell and the amazing team at the West Coast Regional Tourism Organization for helping us out during our visit to the West Coast.

We would also like to thank the following tourism partners:

Raymond and Louise from Gecko Kayak Adventures for a fantastic time out on the water (083 795 4198).

Marion at Farr Out Guesthouse: A unique, comfortable and tranquil guesthouse on the outskirts of Paternoster.

Frank and Dianne at the Sea Shack: The closest you can get to the water's edge in Cape Columbine, and what a spectacular sunset spot!

Use the tool below to find more available accommodation in Paternoster.

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