Namaqualand: The Floral Kingdom of Africa
By Bronwen Elisabeth Roberts
Foreigners and locals return time and again to this wonderland of colour. The miracle of a parched landscape slowly evolving through the seasons into a huge carpet of wild flowers is breathtaking. The best time to view this unique floral display is from mid-August to October.
To do Namaqualand properly, one would take a leisurely drive through the fields of flowers, stopping off at the nature reserves and charming towns along the way. Bear in mind that accommodation in the region is often booked out a year in advance as more foreigners hear of these wildflowers, which are unparalleled anywhere.
To view all the different species of flowers in the region, get The Botanical Society of South Africa guides to Nieuwoudtville SA Wild Flower Guide and Namaqualand SA Wild Flower Guide 1. There's also Freeman Patterson's Garden of the Gods and Fynbos by Richard Cowling.
Towns Along The Way
The locals in this area are as impressive as their colourful surroundings. They are helpful and offer advice on where the best flowers are. The reasonably priced Kamieskroon Hotel, the town B&B's and the neighbouring farms all offer splendid accommodation. Contact the Namaqualand Tourism Centre for your pick of places to stay. Roads leading out from Kamieskroon go up into the hills to the town of Leliefontein where you will find an enchanting old mission station. It's worth travelling further afield to the rugged west coast of stormy seas and rocky outcrops at Hondeklip Bay and Groenriviermond.
The 50 000 hectare Namaqua National Park is a botanical and ecological conservancy whose friendly conservationists will gladly answer questions on the flora and fauna of the area. The reserve stretches roughly from the town of Garies northwards to the towns of Springbok and Steinkopf. The areas most visited are around the towns of Springbok and Nababeep. The Spektakel (spectacle) ridge is a must see with its profusion of flowers. The further north you travel from Kamieskroon to Springbok, the more spectacular the display of species in a good season.
The town of Nieuwoudtville is a geological treasure situated on the Bokkeveld escarpment. Within the surrounds of just 20 kilometres the plant life changes from fynbos, to renosterveld, to karoo. It has the richest bulb (geophyte) variety in the world. Species include the famous spring daisies, the forget-me-not family, pelargonium (with its bizarre shapes), heliophila (sun lover), vygies (little figs), and the iris and rose family.
The town has its own wild flower reserve; there is also nearby Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve, a giant plain of wilderness rock formation and rock art. You can view a 90-metre high waterfall in an ancient Gondwanaland geological fault. Visiting the nearby 'secret' forest with its kokerbome - strangely shaped trees with weird arms coming out of their trunk - makes you feel like you're inside 'Lord of the Rings' territory. The private farms in the area are open to the public and often have the most spectacular array of flowers. There are a couple of farms that manage to combine commercial farming with the cultivation of floral wealth.
Tips on planning your Flower Escapade
Flowers are best viewed from 11:00 to 15:00 on a sunny day
A cool box is essential for informal, off-road picnics
Don't forget comfortable walking shoes, a hat, sunscreen, binoculars and insect repellent
Most of the flowers are so tiny that you won't be able to see and appreciate them from a moving vehicle. It's perfectly safe to get out the car and view close-up
Take your flower guides, so you are up-to-date with the names of flowers you are viewing.
About the Author
Self-drive holidays are so popular because driving in South Africa is easy, safe and exposes you to some of the greatest attractions that you would never see on a package tour. iDrive, Southern Africa car hire, has developed a range of self-drive, travel products from our many years of travel experience in South Africa and its neighbouring countries.
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| Some other articles by Bronwen Elisabeth Roberts|