The Flower Carpets of Namaqualand
Each Spring, Namaqua, the land of the Nama and the San, shakes off Winter's bite and covers the vast arid spaces with symphonies of floral splendor. The sunbaked desert comes alive with a multitude of wild flowers and unique plants.
During the months of August and September, the barren wilderness is temporarily transformed. Flowers in their thousands in varying colours, sizes and guises fill deserts, fields and mountainsides, often for as far as the eye can see.
This year a few of us at Lekker Camper decided to jump in a campervan and head up north west from Cape Town to see what all the hype is about. We were told that we had missed the best of the flowers, but we can only think the people who told us that were colour blind 'cause it was flowertastic!! The flowers surrounded us with a euphoric air. The natural and simple beauty of the area was intoxicating and we will most definitely be back to get blooming drunk again. So here are just a few photos and recommendations from our little trip.
For those short on time then head off to Postberg – a small section of the West Coast National Park near to Langebaan. 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 myriad of flowers can be found by travelling up the N7 on a series of drives around the towns of Citrusdal, Clanwilliam, Lamberts Bay, Nieuwoudtville and Vredendal in the Western Cape and Garies, Kamieskroon, Springbok, and Port Nolloth in the Northern Cape.
Nieuwoudtville, on the south east of the N7 and only 350kms north from Cape Town, is renowned as the bulb capital with almost 2000 different species in this area alone. If you are in town then make a pitstop at the local Nieuwoudtville butchers to pick up some quality biltong and fresh 'chilli streaky smoked bacon bites' (a first for us, but we we are totally hooked). With biltong in one hand and a streaky piece of smoked bacon in the other then tell your driver ;-) to head for the hills. Whichever way you go is the right way because there are flowers absolutely everywhere. If you want to see a specific cultivar then just ask a local as they are up to speed with where different flowers are blooming. There is also the amazing Quiver Tree Forest and Hantam National Botanical Garden located nearby and both highly recommended for a visit.
The Namaqualand National Park on the west of the N7 offers visitors the chance to explore fields of flowers off the beaten track. You need a 4x4 to venture far into the park, but this isn't a 4x4 exercise - you are here to see the flowers, relax and enjoy!.... so we recommend that you get your shorts on and your legs out, get a bit of a tan and explore on foot and by bicycle from the main Skilpad gate.
If you love hiking then flower season is perfect for you. Visit the excellent Tourist Information Centre in Springbok for up to date information and maps. Goegap Nature Reserve near Springbok has a few lovely trails ranging from easy to medium so pack a picnic and blanket in your rucksack and head off to check it out. This is a great way to get close to nature and explore the variety of different species of flowers. The Reserve also offers a one way driving loop - prepare for many stops as the views are stunning. You can park up, relax and braai 1 km from the main reception with fabulous vistas over the colourful valley.
The wild flowers of Namaqualand are without a doubt one of the greatest and most spectacular natural phenomena that one will ever witness so start planning your trip. There are heaps of fantastic campsites in every town ranging from pop up farm camping to permanent sites. The farm camping was our favourite though - camping the way that it used to be when my dad was a boy...in flower fields and under big oak trees, old rustic farm buildings converted into cosy and quirky bathrooms, farm stalls to visit for braai food and padkos. Perfek!
Recommended Camp sites
There are many great campsites throughout the flower region most of which will always find you room to camp. This has to be one of the friendliest areas to camp and explore in South Africa. Here are just a couple of our favourites.
Matjiesfontein camp site is situated at Matjiesfontein farm stall. In the heart of a flowers paradise are 4 camp sites with power and if you don’t need power, they will always make a special place for you. Surrounded by ruins and old sandstone buildings Matjiesfontein will take you back in time. The bathroom is an old restored horse stable. Surrounded by flowers you’ll never want to leave.
T : +27 (0) 27 218 1217
Papkuilsfontein - Away from the madding crowd and in the middle of flower fields one finds themselves at one with nature at this beautiful rustic campsite. There is no electricity here, a shared lapa braai and 1 shared bathroom, but it is perfect for a night's stopover. The restaurant at the main farm is wonderful for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea & cake and dinner (bookings for guests only)
T : +27 (0) 272181246
E : email@example.com
Skilpad, Namaqua National Park
Skilpad Padstal camp site is right on the doorstep of the Skilpad National Park, 21km west of Kamieskroon and is accessible via a not too bad gravel road. Along the road you will also find Pannekoek Paleis which is well recommended for a pancake or three. The campsite is well located bang in the middle of the flowers from where you can go on many short and longer hikes. There are good ablutions, hot showers, braai and electricity - nothing too fancy but everything that you need and a restaurant for a cold beer or snack adds to the laid back experience.
Goegap Nature Reserve camp site can be found near the entrance gate of the Goegap Nature reserve just outside of Springbok. Ignore the people at the gate if they say there isn't any availability and its almost impossible to get anyone to answer the phone to pre-book. When we went, we were told by the local tourism office that it was fully booked, but when we went to the Goegap Reception then we easily got a very cheap campsite for 2 nights and we were the only people staying there! There is electricity and basic clean ablutions. You can take some great hikes and cycles from the campsite or from the Reception area.
T : +27 (0) 27 718 9906
W : www.springbokinfo.co.za/Naturereserves.htm
Top 5 Handy Hints:
For the best flower viewing, always make sure the sun is behind you. A rather grey field can be transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour if you are facing it at the right angle!
Take your hiking shoes. Whilst it is possible to see a myriad of flowers from your car window, the real splendor lies in walking through the magical carpets of colour. There are heaps of walking and cycling routes, so no need to trample off piste!
Use sun protection - hats and suncream. The days can get very hot here.
Remember warm clothing for the evenings. Whilst the day time temperatures can sore into the 30s during Spring, the night time temperatures can also fall below freezing.
The flowers are best seen between 11am - 4 pm so there is no early morning rush. Take it easy. Take enjoyment in long lazy mornings listening to the abundant bird life and enjoy a tasty farm breakfast or pancakes at one of the many padstals.
Aggeneys, Alexandar Bay, Brandvlei, Calvinia, Carolusberg, Concordia, Eksteenfontein, Fraserburg, Garies, Hondeklip Bay, Kamieskroon, Kleinzee/Koingnaas, Komaggas, Kuboes, Lekkersing, Leliefontein, Loriesfontein, McDougall's Bay, Nababeep, Nieuwoudtville, Okiep, Pella, Pofadder, Port Nolloth, Sanddrif, Soebatsfontein, Springbok, Steinkopf, Sutherland, Vioolsdrift, Williston
Goegap Nature Reserve
T : +27 (0) 27 718 9906
Namaqua National Park
T : +27 (0) 27 672 1948
Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve
T : +27 (0) 27 218 1010
T : +27 (0) 76 592 3989
E : firstname.lastname@example.org
See more photos on our facebook page - Spring Flowers on the West Coast Album
Northern Cape Tourism Authority
T : +27 (0) 53 833 1434
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