Every year a semi-desert area in the Northern Cape in South Africa becomes splashed with colour as nearly 4000 different species of wild flowers bloom during the spring time.
Fertile valleys contrasted with high mountains, semi-desert plains and the Sandveld area near the coast with vlei areas all combine to create this large and diverse flower display.
What is known as the Namaqualand Flower Route is about 5 hours north of Cape Town. On your drive there you might catch glimpses of what is to come in areas around Cape Town and Postberg. For the most impressive displays of flowers it is advised that you plan a trip around Garies, Springbok, Kamieskroon and Port Nolloth. While flower-viewing you could visit the Richtersveld National Park, Goegap Nature Reserve and Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve- all sure to amaze!
Some places like the Goegap Nature Preserve offer hiking and cycling trails through the fields of flowers, with picnic spots and overnight facilities available. Niewoudtville offer many flowers, bulbs and orchids that are indigenous, there are also a number of farms that allow the public to enter to see the flowers. They also have some curio shops and have pop-up coffee shops during flower season – adding to the charm of the trip!
The flowers bloom between August and September with peak season being August, after the winter rains in May – July. There is a chance that the flowers can be seen in July and October if you are lucky. Flowers include gousblomme, bygies, nemesias, lachenalias, babiana and ixias. There are even indigenous flowers (specific only to this area in the world) like Leucospermum refelxum, the Snow Protea, blue Lachanaea filamentosa, pink Cyanella alba dn the Clanwilliam Cedar. If you don’t know what any of those mean, don’t worry, we assure you they are very impressive!
The best time of day to see the flowers are between 10:30 – 11 AM and 4 PM on sunny days. The flowers always face into the sun so it’s best to travel in a westerly direction in the morning, south during the day and east in the afternoon.
As with anything ‘nature’ the flower display is dependent on the weather, and where, when and which flowers bloom each year differs. It is advised that you contact the local tourist information bureau to find out where the best places are to see the flowers.
Generally the best times of the year to see flowers is early to mid-August for Namaqualand, mid to late August for Cederberg and late August to early September for the West Coast.
You can do self-drive trips, take an escorted flower tour with a guide (knowledgeable on the flowers and the routs that might offer the best viewing) or even do a day tour from Cape Town. Alternatively you can use Cederberg as your home base and travel through the various flower fields and routes from there.
Besides the flowers, the area offer a variety of other activities and spectacular sights. The Cederberg mountain pass is especially scenic and you can view rock art or visit a Rooibos tea farm in the area. A mix of old school charm and spectacular natural beauty, a trip to see the Namaqualand wild flowers is surely one that will never be forgotten.
*A version of this article first appeared at www.zafigo.com