Set on the northern side of a large, natural sheltered harbour about 110km from Cape Town, Saldanha is a favourite destination for watersport enthusiasts, sailors and holidaymakers.
As a working town that houses one of the biggest exporting ports of iron ore on the African continent, the town is also dependent on its vibrant commercial fishing industry revolving around crayfish, fish, mussels, oysters and seaweed.
Saldanha Bay was named after the 16th-century Portuguese sailor Admiral Antonio de Saldanha (who had in fact never set foot in the area but rather anchored in what is now known as Cape Town’s Table Bay).
Two massive granite vertical rocks on the hill above the town, with views stretching as far as Cape Town on a clear day, are affectionately known as Adam and Eve. For more vistas, visitors can head to the vantage point in the Hoedjieskop reserve in town, where quaint traditional cottages can also be seen.
The Saldanha Bay Yacht Club is a family-orientated facility hosting racing once a month, with different classes of keelboats participating. The club also organises cruises around the lagoon, to Paternoster, to Dassen Island off Yzerfontein or out to sea, depending on the prevailing wind direction.
The town is also home to the SAS Saldanha naval base, the largest training unit for the South African Navy.
In late winter and spring, the SAS Saldanha Nature Reserve is a floral wonderland of spring flowers with a marine backdrop. Visitors can see a range of wildlife, including steenbok, duiker, grysbok and bat-eared foxes in the reserve, where larger animals such as bontebok, ostriches and springbok have also been introduced.
There are a number of hiking and walking trails in the reserve and around the town for visitors to immerse themselves in the unspoilt natural surroundings, home to many seagulls, cormorants, Cape gannets, terns and other birdlife.
Things to see
North Head lighthouse – painted in black and white diagonals – and South Head lighthouse – painted white and red – on the northern and southern sides of the entrance to the bay warn boats and ships of the treacherous rocks in the area. The imaginary “line” between the two also acts as the arrival line for ships in the bay.
The Hoedjieskop Museum, part of the Saldanha Cultural Village, offers a fascinating glimpse of life along the stretch of coastline in and surrounding Saldanha.
If you’re lucky, you may spot majestic Southern right whales in the safe waters near the SAS Saldanha Nature Reserve.
Things to do
- Enjoy fresh seafood at one of the restaurants on the water’s edge
- Spend a day sailing, kitesurfing or waterskiing
- Go mountain biking along the trails in the SAS Saldanha Nature Reserve