Spring. What a beautiful time. Sunshine, birdsong and new life all around. No need to be constantly wrapped up in jerseys, and when you wear a t-shirt in the morning you don't catch a cold. After spending the last few months indoors, spring gives you a chance to get out of the house and back into the beautiful outdoors.
Spring also brings with it the beautiful Namaqualand daisies. A desolate and dry landscape gets covered in a carpet of flowers becoming a kaleidoscope of colour. The Namaqualand is the quintessential celebration of spring; an area that has become an inspiration for many an author, poet and artist.
We've put together a basic guide of the Namaqualand so that you can get the most out of this natural spectacle.
Where To Go
The flowers are visible along the West Coast from the West Coast National Park near Langebaan, and stretching up to Springbok. Although you can go up to Langebaan for the day, why not spend a weekend up the coast, taking in the flowers and exploring the many interesting and beautiful towns in the area.
Springbok is the capital of Namaqualand. There is only one main road north from Cape Town to Namibia and Springbok is the last major town on the road before the border which is hundreds of kilometres away. Springbok is a peaceful and colourful town enfolded in a vast expanse of space and silence. The area is commonly called 'The Garden of the Gods' because of the spring wildflowers. The weather here is hot but blissful with an average 300 days of sun a year.
For a place to stay in Springbok go to Springbok accommodation.
Lying in a well-watered and fertile valley, Clanwilliam is one of the oldest towns in South Africa and offers a variety of activities and attractions to the visitor including hiking, camping and watersports.
To the east the valley is overlooked by the magnificent Cedarberg Mountains - renowned for its bizarre rock formations and giant boulders and home to ancient sites of bushman rock paintings, caverns and tunnels. Wild flowers abound in the valley and the landscape becomes a mass of brightly blooming flowers.
Clanwilliam is also at the centre of Rooibos (redbush) tea production. This herbal tea, which is tannin free and rich in Vitamin C, is enjoyed in most local households as well as being exported extensively overseas. The Clanwilliam Dam on the Oliphants River is a popular weekend destination for locals and offers excellent fishing grounds, as well as watersports such as boating and water-skiing.
For a place to stay in Springbok go to Clanwilliam accommodation.
Situated at the foot of the Cedarberg, Citrusdal is known for citrus fruit farms. The town is charming and quaint with an interesting museum located in an old church building featuring the cultural and natural history of the surrounding area. Located 16 kilometres from Citrusdal are natural warm baths with hot springs, Jacuzzis, and outdoor pools.
For a place to stay in Springbok go to Citrusdal accommodation.
The Matzikama Mountains form a beautiful background to this historic town which was founded in 1751. When you're in the town, be sure to check out the Latsky Radio Museum which houses many historic and interesting radio sets, both domestic and military. Stop by at the nearby town of Nieuwoudtville and view the beautiful waterfall, and head to the Church Hall to see if they have pancakes on sale.
For a place to stay in Vanrhynsdorp go to Vanrhynsdorp accommodation.
Situated amongst patchwork fields of wheat, green vineyards and yellow canola the small town of Piketberg is overlooked by the sandstone peaks of the Piketberg mountain range. These mountains were once home to the local San people and there are many well preserved examples of rock art in the surrounding mountains.
This is a retreat for peace and solitude where you can enjoy various outdoor activities including hiking, fishing, horse riding and bird watching. A scenic drive to the top of the Versveld pass offers spectacular views of the flowering landscape, as well as the valley's farms and countryside below with its fruit and citrus orchards, fynbos and proteas.
For a place to stay in Piketberg go to Piketberg accommodation.
Established in 1854, Garies is the original Nama Khoi word 'xharis' which refers to the grass that grew along the banks of the stream that runs past the town of Garies. The town is a very popular stop for tourists heading to look at the flowers. The town consists of one long street with houses, shops and a church.
Take a hike into the nearby mountains up the Rooiberg hiking trail. Call (027)652 1014 for more information about the hike. Or go to Letterklip where large megalithic boulders carry the names of the early Namaqualand travellers.
For a place to stay in Garies go to Garies accommodation.
The picturesque town of Langebaan is located 120kms from Cape Town on the West Coast. The lagoon is home to a variety of watersports including yachting, skiing, and fishing. In the spring and summer months the weather is still and tranquil with the sun glistens off of the calm Lagoon. The town does get spring flowers, however not as prolific as it is further north.
For a place to stay in Langebaan go to Langebaan accommodation.
What To Do
Go to the Namaqua National Park
Head to the Namaqua National Park to enjoy the beauty of spring while butterflies and birds dart across the daisy covered landscape. Winding roads allow you to really get amongst the fields of flowers and enjoy the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world. Look out for klipspringers, quiver trees, and the unspoilt coast that runs along the side of the park.
Located in the Namaqua National Park, near Skilpad, is the Pannekoek Paleis (Pancake Palace in English). Stop off here to eat some homemade pancakes and chat with the wonderful ladies who own this road-side stall run out of an old-stone building. They have been running the stall for over 15 years and are a popular stop on the way to the flowers.
Clanwilliam Wild Flower Show
The Clanwilliam Wild Flower Show is a ten day event showcasing the beautiful flora of the area surrounding Clanwilliam and raising awareness about the conservation of these plant species. Around 360 different species of wild flowers are exhibited every year attracting flower enthusiasts from around the country.
Every year a group of volunteers set out to create a landscape of flowers inside an old Dutch Reformed Church. The festival is a great family event with live music, art competitions, a street carnival and numerous art and food stalls. Tel 027-482-2024 for more details.
Take a Tour of the Flowers
Book a flower tour and learn about this unique biome. A tour runs through the Elandsberg Farm's Eco-Reserve near Lambert's Bay, and includes a tour of the Namaqualand daisises as well as a rooibos tour. The cost ranges from between R65 to R110. Call 027-482-2022 to book.
Explore the Cedarberg
The Cederberg is famous for its spectacular rock formations, some of which were deposited in the area between 500 and 345 million years ago. Years of erosion have created unusual rock formations, crevices and outcrops and a variety of well-laid out hiking trails traverse the reserve leading to points such as the Maltese Cross, the Wolfberg Arch and Wolfberg Cracks amongst others.
The mountains also provide excellent opportunities for rock climbing, and the caves and overhangs are home to some fine displays of San rock art, reminders of the lives led by the early Bushman inhabitants of the area.
West Coast National Park
Enjoy a series of scenic drives throughout the reserve stopping for a picnic at one of the many viewpoints. The West Coast National Park is just inland from the secluded harbour of Saldanha Bay, and is particularly popular amongst outdoor enthusiasts, particularly bird watchers. The park is home to impressive numbers of seabirds, including thousands of migrant seabirds which flock to the area each year.
At the heart of the park is the Langebaan lagoon which is a registered wetland and one of the richest masses of water in South Africa. The lagoon and surrounding salt marshes are home to about 60 000 birds. A number of well-constructed bird hides within the park allow for excellent viewing and the Geelbek hide in particular offers excellent viewing at low tide.
Birds to look out for include flamingoes and pelicans, sandpipers, gulls, cormorants and plovers to name a few. The coastal dunes and fynbos within the park are also home to a variety of wildlife including mountain zebra, bontebok, gemsbok, kudu and eland.
During spring the landscape receives a good covering of the multi-coloured wild flowers. During the months of August and September the Postberg section of the park is open to the public for flower viewing.
- If you're looking for early blooms, look at the Biedouw Valley in the Cederberg. The warmer valley receives earlier blooms than the rest of the West Coast.
- The best time to view the flowers is between 12:00 and 15:00 when the temperature has increased and the flowers have opened. They don't open on wet and very cold days.
- Walk or drive with the sun at your back so that the flowers will face you.
- Get off the beaten track. Look for side roads and explore the countryside, and enjoy being completely surrounded by this magical landscape.
- Go to http://south-north.co.za/flowers/ for the latest flower report. Find out where and when the flowers are coming out.
- Namaqua National Park tel 027-672 1948 and http://www.sanparks.org/parks/namaqua/.
- West Coast National Park tel 022-772-2144, www.sanparks.org/parks/west_coast/.
- Namaqualand Garden of the Gods by Freeman Patterson (Key Porter Books, 2002)
- Ecoguide: Namaqualand by John Manning (Briza, 2008) includes descriptions and photos of commonly seen mammals, birds, and reptiles, as well as plants in the Namaqualand.