A West Coast town with a strong sense of community and sea view homes at reasonable prices has a deep-water port and easy access to the growing West African oil industry
A sleepy industrial port 110km from Cape Town on the West Coast, Saldanha is awakening to fresh opportunities on the back of the promulgation of an industrial development zone and an abundance of recreational schemes in the area.
Named after 16th-century explorer Antonio de Saldanha, the booming centre is on South Africa’s largest natural bay, which provides a perfect drop-off point for much of the country’s crude oil and gives facilities for the export of iron ore. The iron ore trains from Sishen, 860km away, to Saldanha are among the longest in the world, regularly around 3780m with a mass of 41400 tons, pulled by multiple electric/diesel locomotives.
For 63-year-old retiree and resident Rob Flynn, who brought up two sons in Saldanha, the lifestyle the town offers is important. “Life’s simpler. It’s about relationships.
When you visit the post office, tellers know your name, shopkeepers ask about family, there’s no traffic, a haircut costs R80, there’s a great spirit of community among all the people. “Yet, if you have an urge for bright lights, it’s a straight drive on an excellent highway to the Mother City.”
“Medical and educational facilities are well-catered. The upgrades to roads and general beatification in surrounding towns – there are some awesome spots within a few kilometres of Saldanha – ensure the area is the best kept secret in the Western Cape.”
Saldanha has strong historical military links. The Battle of Saldanha Bay took place in 1781 and today the town hosts an SA Navy training base and the South African Military Academy, set against Malgaskop opposite the serene North Bay. On a clear day, one can see Table Mountain from Malgaskop and during spring, southern right whales pay local waters a visit.
The town verges on the desert region of Namaqualand. Its Mediterranean climate ensures a fair winter rainfall and spring sees the semi-arid landscape transformed into a wild flower kaleidoscope. The West Coast National Park is a popular venue for flower hunters.
“The deep-water port, easy access to the burgeoning oil industry off West Africa, IDZ status and government’s wish to improve business opportunities in the area is having a positive impact on the local property market – albeit still sluggish because of prevailing economic conditions,” says Seeff agent Elma Steyn.
“Older citizens are moving into retirement establishments, bringing a number of freehold homes onto the market at reasonable prices. “However, entry-level or firsttime-buyer properties remain out of reach of many in the formal employment market, especially where buyers have solo incomes.
“The most popular prices for residential properties is in the R950000 to R1.4million range.” The market picked up nicely from 369 property transfers in 2015 to 525 in 2016. However, it declined to just 301 transactions last year. Conditions are, therefore, weighted in favour of buyers.
Nevertheless, sellers need to watch their asking prices if they want to sell fast. The cyclical demand for accommodation ensures a healthy rental market. In particular, homes in the R7500 to R9 500 a month range for a three-bedroom home and furnished rentals are sought-after.
“Saldanha offers a quality, convenient, safe lifestyle at a comparatively affordable price. “Many parts of town offer fantastic vistas – sometimes excellent sea views at a fraction of the price for similar properties in saturated areas of the Western Cape in general and West Coast in particular,” Steyn says.
Rob Flynn’s favourite places and things to do
The pristine SAS Saldanha Nature Reserve is inside the military grounds on a peninsula at the north-western end of the bay. Some of the mountain bike tracks can be a bit sandy in summer but, in spring you can see some of the best flower displays on the West Coast (022 752 27180.
Water sports are abundant. Langebaan Lagoon is one of the top wind/kitesurfing destinations in the world.
Boasting spectacular views from the restaurant, Blue Bay Café offers an all-you-can-eat Monday mussels special. Mussels are harvested daily (022 714 1177.
Cup of Cake is a cozy coffee shop in the heart of Saldanha. Serving Truth coffee, they also have an impressive selection of cakes and cupcakes (022714 0696).
Sandstone Café and Lodge provides guests with excellent drinks and views.
The Sandstone Café and Lounge is ideal for a sundowner while enjoying their fare. The jalapeno poppers have earned a loyal following, and there is a variety of fresh seafood dishes. 022714 1574
Saldanha Sjiek is a coffee and gift shop with leather handbags, pottery, scarves, Saldanha souvenirs, bath products, toys and more (082 472 7579).
Just down the road in Langebaan is KatToo, a boutique store offering only locally made funky and different arts, crafts and clothing (022772 0373).