The Langebaan Lagoon is a large salt water lagoon, regarded as a wetland of international importance, protected by the West Coast National Park (formerly called the Langebaan National Park), 100 km north of Cape Town. Bird watchers who have booked an hotel or accommodation in Langebaan will want to explore this area as the beautiful landscape attracts numerous waterbirds, Palearctic and rare migrant Waders. As such it is one of South Africa's important bird areas. The lagoon holds Ramsar wetland status as a result. These Ramsar Sites acquire a new national and international status. They are recognized as being of significant value not only for the country or the countries in which they are located, but for humanity as a whole.
Unlike your standard river lagoon, which forms when a freshwater river reaches the sea, this lagoon has been shaped by the rise and fall of sea levels over time, and is a self-sustaining, pure salt water lagoon. Daily tides bring nutrient rich water from the ocean into the lagoon, provided by the cold benguela current flowing up the west coast. The lagoon has a series of unique salt marshes that make up the biggest salt marsh area in the country.
The lagoon supports huge populations of crabs and snails, as well as over 70 different marine algae, and serves as a nursery for juvenile fish. The intertidal areas support as many as 55 000 water birds in summer. Despite all this beauty, Langebaan lagoon is under pressure. Sand washed in by strong tides mean it gets shallower all the time. The sand cannot return to the sea because of the jetty at Saldanha. The build up of sand has killed hundreds of oysters – they line the floor of the lagoon - and most of the lagoon's seaweed.
Other than the lagoon's ecological importance, it is also a space for people who visit these waters to swim, sail and picnic along its shores. The waters are a lot warmer than the icy Atlantic and provide a safe space for families.
Langebaan Lagoon is a marine protected area and as such is divided up into three zones – in zone C, closest to the Geelbek Visitors' Centre and a couple of bird hides, is a wilderness area that allows no fishing or recreational activities; zone B, close to Churchaven, is for sailboats and board sailing (no power boats), whilst zone A, closest to the town of Langebaan, facilitates all water sports, including power boating, fishing and kite surfing.