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FABULOUSLY AUTHENTIC

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Awash with humour, a cornucopia of seafood and life measured in unhurried strolls: that’s Velddrif.

Known affectionately as the bokkom capital of South Africa, a trip to Velddrif promises much more than these pungent, salty delicacies for acquired tastebuds. In this colourful sample of river and maritime life along the West Coast, old salts still work the trawlers and fishing boats, while several restaurateurs and artists provide sustenance for body and soul.

On a day trip, you can toss a line from the river bank at Bokkomlaan, the Carinus bridge or the Sishen-Saldanha bridge (permits from the Post Office in Voortrekker Street), pick up the day’s catch at Laaiplek harbour, or hop on a boat for a Berg River cruise.

Tollie Bezuidenhout (ph 079 7636966) has been having a gas in the river cruising business for the past 12 years. Weather depending, his 90-minute long cruises depart twice a day and are quite the jol! Disabled-, child- and pet-friendly, guests are welcome to bring their own refreshments.

There’s a toilet on board and blankets are provided when the river chill sets in. Even better still, you can choose your type of cruise: be it fishing, a hectic party or just plain old R&R. Cost is R150pp and R70 for children under 10. Pets cruise for free. Capacity is a maximum of 32 passengers.

Rob Gortmaker (ph 073 8322923) specialises in bird-watching cruises on his tri-pontoon boat with pick-ups along the river and Port Owen Marina. The more than 127 water bird and 93 non-passerine species make for some good bird therapy. Rob also customises cruises for team building, bachelor/bachelorette parties and any other celebrations. Prices range from R200pp ph with a maximum of 10 passengers per trip.

Back on dry land, visit one of the 12 fish houses along Bokkomlaan. Around 95% of South Africa’s bokkoms are produced in these small factories – each with its own jetty. In the past, large schools of mullet were caught in the river where the fishermen tied their ‘bakkies’ (small boats) to the jetty for offloading the catch. Alas, no more. Catching mullet in the river is now prohibited – they must be netted in the open sea just off Laaiplek. Remember to place your bokkom order at Die Bakkieriem (072 4333346) or Mappie Visserye (073 2612626) before visiting Velddrif.

Bokkoms are prepared as per a 200-year-old West Coast tradition. The small mullets are placed in a large brick tank filled with a strong pickle of local Khoisan salt and firmly weighted down with a wooden press on the second day. On day three, the fish is taken out and strung up with rope five-a-side in bunches of 10. The bunches are dipped in fresh water and then hung out to dry for up to 21 days.

Round off your day with a meal at seafood mainstay Die Vishuis (ph 022 7831183) at the end of Bokkomlaan where hosts Herman en Ansie Lambrechts will see to parched throats and hungry tums.

A day in Velddrif is nothing short of good quality time – sorely needed in busy lives.