Namaqualand, an area that for the majority of the year can be described as semi-arid and desert like, with little colour, and few tourist attractions, is transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour and tourist hype when spring arrives.
In the months of August and September (predominantly, but also sometimes into October), the usual wilderness of dirt and grass is hardly recognisable: flowers in their thousands, and in their varying colours and sizes, fill fields and mountainsides, often for as far as the eye can see. My grandfather described this phenomenon as the “best thing” he has ever seen in his life- from someone who has travelled the world over, I thought it was wise to heed his words and find out for myself what all the hype was about. My first mission into the area took place last year on the 25th of August 2012. The day is forever etched in my mind for it surpassed my wildest expectations. The wild flowers of Namaqualand are without a doubt one of the greatest and most spectacular natural phenomena that one will ever witness.
Although the official Namaqualand Flower Route lies approximately five hours’ drive north of Cape Town, those in search of a ‘kaleidoscope flower adventure’ closer to the city can head off to Postberg – a small section of the West Coast National Park found close to Langebaan (Read a blog about spring flower spotting in the West Coast National Park). A day trip here gives a small taste of the extreme beauty and rarity of these Namaqualand Wild Flowers – it is certainly a good start.
For those who have the time and desire to adventure further north, the real flowers can be found far up the N7 on a series of drives around the towns of Garies, Kamieskroon, Springbok, and Port Nolloth in the Northern Cape. However, the following towns themselves, and areas surrounding them also promise to offer good flower-viewing opportunities: Citrusdal, Clanwilliam, Lamberts Bay, Niewoudtville and Vredendal.
Where to find spring flowers
From a recent trip into the area, I can give the following pointers:
1. Be sure to visit the Namaqua Nature Reserve – in this arid semi-desert area you will find beautiful rock formations and a spectacular display of wild flowers of all colours and varieties.
2. In particular, the Skilpad Nature Reserve, near to Kamieskroon, and part of the bigger Namaqua Nature Reserve, offers magnificent displays of Namaqualand daises.
3. If you are near to Clanwilliam then visit the Biedouw valley - here one finds many of the bulbous varieties of wild flowers – although much of the prior ‘wild-flower’ land has now been cultivated it is still well worth a visit.
4. Also, in the town of Clanwilliam itself, one finds the Wildflower Show - it is quite small and certainly does not do justice to the flowers in their natural habitat, but it does showcase all the different wildflower species that are to be found in the Western Cape.
Obviously all of this is weather dependent as the flowers only come out in the sun – what was fascinating to me was that if you don’t approach the flowers with the sun behind you, fields that are actually massed with colour, seem grey. This is because the flowers all face the sun. You don’t, however, have to approach the flowers by car alone as there are numerous hiking and cycling routes that also provide picnic spots and overnight facilities.
Spring flower accommodation
Accommodation in the form of B&Bs and Guesthouses are to be found in all the neighbouring towns in the spring flower region.
We stayed over in the Wapad Guesthouse in Niewoudtville as this is a very central area to view the flowers. The guesthouse is 100 years old and was used as a prison and school in the old days.
Another lovely old place that is very well run is the Rooidakhuis – here delicious and wholesome meals can be had here under the personal supervision of the owner, Carla.
Making this trip will allow you to understand why these wild flowers of Namaqualand are seen as being such a spectacle. You will need a minimum of two to three days to take in the torrent of colour and extent of the floral display.