In this second installment of the Namaqualand series, we dive into the various reserves and sites one might consider visiting this spring. It can be overwhelming to jump in your car and find you have little in terms of ideas on where the wondrous flowers will appear.
The following are guidelines with GPS tags to help you along your journey into the Wild West coast.
Namaqualand, within this context, refers to the Namakwa district municipality, which includes the two floral epicenters of Springbok and Nieuwoudtville. The flower viewing sites closer to Cape Town are referred to as the ‘Gateway Towns’ and will be discussed elsewhere. Each region has a different set of conditions, which translates to a unique number of resident flowers. For an introduction to the region see below:
To kick this off, we start at the far north at Springbok and work our way down.
Goegap Nature reserve & Helen Malan Flower Garden
One of the most popular sites is this 15 000 ha nature reserve 15km outside Springbok. You can opt to do the 16km Hester Malan loop by car or alight to get a closeup of the flowers by attempting one of the Ian Myers Nature Walks (4-7km). The reserve sports 851 plant species which include the Flesh viooltjie (Lachenalia carnosa), Moraea schlechteri, Namaqua Bentflower (Babiana curviscarpa) and Brown-tongued lily (Ornithoglossum vulgare).
If you are looking for fields of flowers, the reserve does not disappoint in this regard and should be a feast for the eyes.
- Goegap NR is not currently part of the Wild Card All park cluster.
- Contact details: +27 (0)27 718 9906
- Google maps location
- Vehicle requirements: All-access, but to access some of the more daring sites, you will require a 4x4. A designated 65km 4x4 section is available.
- Namakwa Tourism Centre: 027 712 8034
- Other highlights:
Namaqua National Park
The 2nd biggest attraction is the Namaqua NP, 87km outside Springbok and encompassing 141 000ha. As big as the park is, it is a relatively young reserve (proclaimed in 2002). Unfortunately, this translates into limited access for the average vehicle with sections such as the Groen River designated as 4x4 only. That said, it holds a wealth of flowering bulbs and succulents. Some of the more striking examples are the Granite Kabong (Lapeirousia silenoids), Beetle daisy (Gorteria diffusa), Kamies Spikeleaf Bobb (Babiana dregei) and the Magnificent Gazania (Gazania leiopoda).
As a special treat, many vi for a chance to book the flower camps in the Skilpad wildflower section of the national park. A similar option is the Beach flower camps (note these run only during flower season). To make the most out of your journey, see our series on Beach flora of South Africa.
A mention should be made of Hondeklip bay as it lies outside the reserve and is a noted watering hole for many. The landscape can be tricky and a good 4x4 map source can be found here.
- Vehicle requirements: Certain areas of the park are sandy and should not be attempted lightheartedly or without a towing wench and backup. Be advised! The closest fuel station is in Springbok!
- Contact details: SANParks
- Google maps location
- Other highlights: Kamiesberg sugarbush (Protea namaquana)
If you would like to see the sweeping floral vistas in the family sedan, Nieuwoudtville is a closer option. It is also close to some rare jewels.
Hantam Botanical Garden
On the town doorstep and probably the easiest to access is the botanical garden. Botanical Society members have unlimited entries, but the modest entrance fee is well worth it. During the flower season, the garden offers guided tours in safari vehicles (groups more than 5), but pre-booking is essential. SANBI also offers a virtual tour) if you are keen to learn more.
Look out for:
Some specific species:
- Toetoe (Cyanella alba alba)
Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve
If you are adventurous and an avid hiker, I would suggest stopping at Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve (16km outside the town). It boasts large panoramas with 309 species of geophytes. The different landscapes each offer their own selection of flowers, so for the best results, one should opt for one of the longer trails in the park.
Some noted species include:
- Google maps location
14km outside of town you will come across one of the region's flower farms. The quant farm sports a farmstall/padstal to pick up some local produce before embarking on the 7km self-drive of the designated flower route (a small entrance fee applies). There is also a wagon or tractor tour if you would like to experience the wind in your hair.
- Google maps location)
- Entrance fee applies
- Other highlights: Padstal, Wagon tours
Nieuwoudtville Wild Flower Reserve
It boasts fields of daisies with a few hikes thrown in to allow you to take as many selfies as your heart desires. It also boasts an impressive display of Bulbinella or red ats tail bulbs. The 115ha reserve may be considered as tiny compared to other reserves but packs a punch at 300 indigenous species. Needless to say, be sure to step carefully in order not to crush an unsuspecting victim.
Additional sites to consider:
- The Rondekop/Naressie Route
- Quiver Tree Forest at Gannabos
- Papkuilsfontein Flower Route
- Trekpad flower route over Vanryhn's Pass
Tips and Tricks
Flowers are linked to temperatures and rainfall. Given sufficient rainfall, the temperature will dictate when the flowers start and end. Why is this important to you? Well, it will dictate when you book and the best time to leave your accommodation. Most flowers will take time to open (late morning) or may remain closed on cloudy/cold days. To help you navigate this, here are some tips:
- Viewing times: Late morning to early evening.
- Rare finds hide among the grasses, take your time and bend down...
- The higher up you go, the colder the temperature and the later the flowers will bloom and stay blooming into the season.
- Step carefully - Many bulbs appear as grass without blooms.
- Take a guidebook for flowering bulbs.
- Checklists- Knowing what is in flower, will help you look for it.
Remember to follow the rest of the articles in the series for additional information on what is in flower when.
*Disclaimer: Note that the information provided is subject to change and the respective authorities should be contacted for up-to-date information.