West Coast Fossil Park

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14km from Vredenburg

-32.9585, 18.1186

 

+27 22 766 1606 www.fossilpark.org.za

About

The West Coast Fossil Park protects what is possibly the greatest diversity of five-million-year-old fossils in the world. These fossils were discovered during phosphate mining operations near Langebaan during the late 1950s.

The bones of about 200 different kinds of animals, such as bears, sabre-tooth cats and short-necked giraffes, have been excavated. Some of the fossils recovered were of species that were previously unknown to the world of science and more than 70 scientific papers have been published about the fossils.

In 1993, a 14-hectare area within the original site of the mine was declared a national heritage site. Today it is run by the Iziko Museums of Cape Town.

For visitors, a highlight of the West Coast Fossil Park is the “live” exhibit of an ongoing excavation of early Pliocene fossils from five million years ago. There are also daily guided tours of the park that explain the fossils finds and the climatic changes that happened in the region millions of years ago.

The park also has a number of mountain bike trails covering varying distances and degrees of difficulty. It is a great way to appreciate both the prehistoric aspects of the park and the views from the northern end over Saldanha and Vredenburg.

There is also a three-kilometre self-guided walking trail that takes walkers past bodies of water where aquatic birds may be spotted, through indigenous flora and fauna and an area where alien vegetation is being monitored by the University of Cape Town Plant Protection Unit to assess the success of using introduced insects to eat the seeds of alien vegetation.

The children's play park is situated in a garden area, which is also an excellent venue for picnics. You may bring your own or arrange to collect one from the coffee shop.

Photography: Chris Marais/Mainline Media