Exploring the South African West Coast and Namaqualand Flowers (Part 1)

In this series of articles about the South African West Coast and Namaqualand, my husband and I will take you on a road trip with us from Namaqualand in the Northern Cape, Springbok slowly road tripping all the way down to Lambertsbaai, Nieuwoudtville, Clanwilliam, Citrusdal, Paternoster, Darling and then lastly to the majestic Cape Town.

Day 1

The Namaqualand Flower Route lies roughly 500km north of the Cape Town International Airport. As we are based in Pretoria, South Africa we took a quick two hour, early morning flight to Cape Town International Airport. We rented a small hatchback and drove all the way up north on the N7 tarred road. If you plan on going a bit off road rather rent a SUV or 4×4, but for our purposes our hatchback was perfectly fine. We drove the 571km (about five to six hours) from the airport to Springbok on the same day.

Our actual sight seeing journey then only began all the way up north in Springbok from where we traveled slowly back south where our road trip ended in Cape Town, spending a few nights there before returning home. Almost as soon as we left Cape Town we started to see patches of wild flowers. We were a bit rushed to reach Springbok before sunset and stopped only once at the Kardoesie Farmstall close to Citursdal for lunch. Their home baked goods and ginger beer were delicious and needless to say we stopped there again on our road trip back to Cape Town.

Close up flower Skilpad

Why visit Namaqualand?

The spring wild flowers of Namaqualand are a phenomenon that never ceases to amaze! Namaqualand is a barren region in the Northern Cape of South Africa. Once a year after the winter rainfall, this semi-desert, dry and dusty plains is magically transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour by the wild flowers. More than 3000 different species of plant seeds lie awaiting germination that depends entirely on the winter rainfall. Every year between late July and September a different selection of flowers explodes in the landscape according to the winter rainfall.

The best time to visit?

The quantity and quality of the wild flowers is completely dependent on the winter rainfall. The flowers may be earlier or later and this varies from year to year. Sporadically during the late winter months of July, August and early spring month of September the best flowers can be viewed.

Day 2 – 6

Springbok

Springbok is the largest town in the Namaqualand area in the Northern Cape province of South Africa. It is named after the springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), an antelope found mainly in southern Africa. The town has a population of roughly 10000 to 15000 people, which would still be considered a small town by most. It is the main town of the Nama Khoi Local Municipality, which also includes a number of surrounding towns such as Okiep and Nababeep.

Where did we stay?

We met up with family and camped at the Springbok Caravan Park for a few days. The traditional dinner while camping is of course “braaivleis” or barbeque. “Potjiekos” is also very popular and delicious dish. Stew slowly cooked in a iron pot over an open fire. I am of the opinion that the local people in Namaqualand and the West Coast are the most interesting of the entire South Africa. They are known for their hospitality and friendliness. From Springbok we did daily trips to Okiep, Nababeep, The Namaqualand National Park (Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve) and even Port Nolloth on the West Coast

Okiep and Nababeep

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These are both small towns located more or less 10 to 20km north of Springbok and was in the late 1800’s founded as copper mines. Both towns are main attractions for Namaqualand wildflowers during late August and September. The local Nababeep Mine Museum is testimony to its mining history and displays Clara, an old steam locomotive and old mining equipment. Tip: pack snacks and drinks as restaurants and shops are scarce in this area.

Clara Nababeep

The Namaqua National Park (Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve)
Namaqua National Park

This national park is located about 85km south of Springbok and north west from the town of Garies. It harbours a rich display of Namaqualand daisies that blooms annually in late winter and early spring months. In my opinion this is where we saw the best flowers in the Namaqualand region. There is a dirt road that circles Skilpad for about five kilometres through the blooms. There is a viewpoint to stop at and also some hiking trails. For the famished there is a small farm stall where we stopped for some delicious “rys, vleis en aartappels”, which is Afrikaans for rice, red meat and potatoes. They serve hearty traditional South African home cooked meals.

Skilpad Farmstall

Port Nolloth

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Port Nolloth is a small seaport town about 157 km north of Springbok in the Namaqualand region. It was previously used as a shipment point for copper from the Okiep mine and diamonds from the Namaqua Coast. The Port Nolloth Museum is a must see and try some of the delicious fish and chips from the take out in the main road!

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We did not manage to visit the Goegap Nature Reserve, but apparently it is also a must-see with its endemic succulents. Many South African bird species can be viewed and wild life that can be seen includes the endangered Hartman’s Zebra, Springbok and Gemsbok.

Tips:

  • Stop at the local tourist information bureau to find out where that year’s best flower displays are.
  • Drive slowly through the Namaqualand region, be on the lookout for tortoises crossing the road.
  • The flowers follow the sun, the best way to view them is to drive with the sun. On rainy or cloudy days flowers will not bloom abundantly.
  • The best time to view the flowers are on sunny days from 11:00 – 15:00 when the sun is high and flowers open up.


Please read in my next article about our adventures on our way from Springbok to Lambertsbaai.

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