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Wild Flower Natural Wonder-Namaqualand
Wild flower wonderland
One of the Wonders of the World.
The winter flower display on the West Coast of South Africa every spring must surely rate as one of the top ten natural wonders of the World. As the winter/spring rainfall brings to life the many seeds and bulbs that lie dormant for the rest of the year, the landscape dramatically changes. From stark grey and brown semi desert a kaleidoscope of color bursts forth. Sheets of Namaqualand Daisies cover the ground and in between a huge variety of succulents and bulbs produce flowers of different sizes and colors.
Large bushes produce thousands of flowers in a magnificent display that is guaranteed to take your breath away. Stands of colorful aloes and forests of the unusual Kokerboom break into the carpet of smaller flowers. Kilometer upon kilometer passes on the road between Springbok, Garies, Loeriesfontein and Nieuwoudsville, teasing the senses with the sheer magnitude of the display, inviting you to stop and take photos, or just soak in the beauty.
Several Nature Reserves offer visitors the opportunity to drive of the main road and explore the smaller flowers. Near Oorlogsberg a R10 entrance fee invites you to drive along the farm roads and even walk among the flowers. The quality and timing of the rainfall determines the quality of the particular years display. The last two years have been two of the best. What a privilege to have been able to visit the Namaqualand Floral Wonderland.
In planning a trip to see the flowers timing is vitally important and so after three trips in the last couple of years I would suggest the following:
The timing is quite tricky as the flowers vary from place to place and from time to time. We have been three times and every time has been very different. One has to wait for the winter rains to fall in the Western and North-western Cape. A couple of weeks after the rains the flowers come to life. This occurs between August and October. The trouble is that the area of rainfall varies and so some people travel on organized trips booked in advance without seeing a flower, while others are treated to a magic experience. There are poor years, good years and spectacular year, as there are also poor, good and excellent areas, even within the same year. What I would suggest is wait and follow the face book news on the various Namaqualand websites. The trouble is that some of the websites are not always truthful as they depend on tourism for their very existence.
Then I would suggest a flight to Cape Town, hire a car there and then drive north through the various traditional nature reserves starting as far south as Saldana. Places we have seen great flowers are Calvinia, Nieuwoudsville, Garies, Loeriesfontein and Springbok, to mention just a few. The Skilpad section of the Namaqualand Nature Reserve has not disappointed us on our three trips. We have always camped because of financial constraints. We believe that sometimes other accommodation is quite busy, especially in the good years. At the same time I am pretty certain you could get bed and breakfast accommodation almost anywhere.
Nieuwoudsville is known as the 'bulb capitol of the world' and so I would head there along the N7 and N27. Then from Nieuwoudsville to Loeriesfontein, and Calvinia. Back to Bitterfontein and the N7, and then up to The Namaqua National Parks Skilpad Section and depending on the rainfall and time constraints on to Springbok and Goegap Nature Reserve. The drive from Cape Town is on good roads. The distance from Cape Town to Springbok is about 500 km but the roads are good and relatively quiet. The detour to Loeriesfontein is well worth it and while it would add quite a few kilometres to your journey it can be really worthwhile. It was suggested to us by the locals in Nieuwoudsville on one of our trips. Always speak to the local shopkeepers who we found helpful.