Magical Blooms In The Desert
Namaqualand is the arid desert-like area of South Africa that transforms itself 1 to 2 months a year during early spring into a colourful sea of wildflowers. Main towns part this region are: Springbok Hondeklipbaai, Kleinzee, Kamieskroon, Port Nolloth, Koingnaas, Garies, Kotzesrus and Viooldrif.
The West Coast which hugs the Atlantic Ocean is a very pristine region that stretches the north of Cape Town to the Namibian border. The main towns that are part of this region are: Saldanha, Paternoster, Vredenburg, Velddrif, St. Helena Bay, Langebaan, Hopefield, Darling and Yzerfontein
It has always been a dream of mine to see the wildflowers of Namaqualand and this year I decided to make my dream come true. I planned my trip with the assistance of google maps and various websites, booked my accommodation based on bookings.com reviews and set off by car starting at Witsand Nature Reserve, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Augrabies.
Leaving Augrabies toward Springbok (the heart of the Namaqualand) via Pofadder, the endless quiet road is just magical to drive through. The stunning arid landscapes are a feast for the eyes. When one enters the little town of Springbok your heart just smiles with a deep sense of happiness, because the entire town is just blooming with yellow and orange daisies ( The Namaqua daisies). The Almighty is so great that he turns this arid–desert region into an endless sea of blooms.
I based myself for 4 nights at a lovely self-catering place called Naries Namakwa Retreat on a 6000-hectare farm 25km out of Springbok on the way to Kleinzee. This place is a true epitome of tranquillity with breathtaking sunrise and sunset to experience every day, nature trails of varying lengths and animal viewing. Whilst using Naries Namakwa Retreat as my base I visited the Goegap Nature Reserve, this is a must-see. A 7000-hectare nature reserve with 600 different indigenous plant species, 45 mammal species and 94 bird species.Pack your picnic lunch and take it along.
Okiep, Nababeep, Concordia and Kamieskroon:
We also took a drive to see the beautiful blooms in Okiep (one of South Africa’s oldest copper mining towns), Nababeep, Concordia and Kamieskroon. From Kamieskroon, we drove on a gravel road to the Namaqualand National Park. There is a circular route within the park to view the millions and millions of flowers. All I could see were orange daisies. Your eyes eventually don’t believe what it is seeing. It is like you are experiencing some kind of optical illusion. You are allowed to walk the different pathways between the flowers as well. I highly recommend that you do that.
Port Nollorth, Springbok, Nieuwoudtville:
We then decided to visit Port Nollorth which is a centre for the small-scale diamond recovery and crayfishing industries, and the only resort on the Diamond Coast. The drive there and back to Springbok is breathtakingly beautiful and obviously, flower chasing is part of the experience. Then packed our bags and headed onward to Nieuwoudtville( bulb capital of the world) here we visited the Hantam Botanical Gardens, the largest botanical gardens in South Africa. The flower safari is a must-do. Book with the botanical garden in advance. I didn’t know flower safari was a thing but this was so awesome. The guide takes you in an open vehicle and you drive through fields of flowers and also he provided explanations of the different flowers. I learnt that there are flowers that bloom for JUST ONE DAY. The Almighty has made some flowers to live for just one day. OMG. Subhanallah.
Onward to the Niewoudtville waterfall situated on the Doorn River. This 90m waterfall is a spectacular sight when water thunders down into the deep pool during the rainy season. We didn’t see that much water cascading unfortunately but the locals tell me it was thundering a few months back. Then the Quiver tree forest is the largest in the world and the southernmost concentration of Quiver Trees in South Africa. Viewing times 06:00-18:00.These two places are on the same road and very close to each other. From Niewoudtville we headed back to Van Rhynsdorp via the Van Rhyns pass which is just under 9 km in length and climbs 595m to the summit This is amongst the top 10 passes of the Northern Cape and is a must-drive offering view of purple flowers and stunning landscapes. We drove back during sunset… Purple flowers on my left and sunsetting on the right. There are not enough words to describe how lovely this was to experience.
Van Rhyndsrop, Clanwilliam, Ramskop Nature Reserve:
Slept a night at Van Rhyndsrop self-catering cottages and the next morning we visited the OLD JAIL which has been converted into a nursery. This is a fascinating place to see. Also, visit the Quiver tree nursery. Then we headed on the N7 toward Clanwilliam, the home of rooibos tea and the 7th oldest town in South Africa. Here we visited the Ramskop Nature Reserve, loaded with the most breathtakingly beautiful flowers and the view of the Clanwilliam Dam, the rooibos tea house, the museum and every farm stall, quaint little boutiques and tea house there is as due to the weather.
Piekenierskloof Mountain Resort:
We opted to stay at Piekenierskloof Mountain Resort in Citrusdal for 4 nights which is 50 km away from Clanwilliam. This is a lovely self-catering place which is a dream vacations property. The chalets are well furnished and have everything you need. Around the resort we visited the farm stalls, they are the most innovative in the country offering views of the Cederberg mountains and the Piekenierskloof pass whilst you order coffee or tea or yummy rooibos milkshake. We purchased fresh oranges, honey and marmalades.
Piketberg, Graafwater, Lamberts Bay:
Then we flower chased some more all around the area toward Piketberg, Graafwater and toward Lamberts Bay. Lamberts Bay is home to Bird Island where one can get up close to the cape gannets. A truly mesmerising experience as one walks over a ledge to the island and huge waves are crashing. You don’t know whether to run or stand still LOL. This island is only 200m away from the mainland and it’s the only place where one can come so close to see these lovely birds.
Finally, we made our way toward Langebaan Via Piketberg, Mooresburg and Hopefield. As you drive this way all you see is wildflowers and beautiful canola fields. I have never seen so much orange, purple, yellow and white in my life.
We popped into the West Coast National Park to the Postberg Section which is only open during August and September just for the flower season. The multitude of flowers inside this section of the park is mind-blowing. Take along a picnic basket and enjoy the day inside the park. Add Yzerfontein and Darling into the mix as they are not far from Langebaan, we visited the Darling sweet factory.
Darling sweet factory:
Being an addict to these toffees which are sold at Mr Price home and few other sweet stores, I had to visit and watch how they are made. Everything is handmade and one can view the people hard at work through large glass windows. I have great respect and admiration for this small operation in Darling that is supplying South Africa with such tasty toffees and caramels. They are SANHA approved and the rooibos, coffee and salted liquorice flavours are my favourites. I suppose I should stop complaining about how expensive they are as I saw that they are made with so much love and care.
We popped into the Darling Museum and the few nature gardens, my favourite being Tienersveld nature reserve. The drive between Darling to Yzerfontein will have you dreaming of lilies forever as the side of the road is just jammed with beautiful white lilies. I was told by the museum curator in Darling that these lilies are indigenous to this region. Yzerfontein is a hidden gem and is a unique destination, not only because of the spectacular seascapes, wildflowers, wild fynbos; the entire town is a designated conservancy and boasts the longest uninterrupted beach in South Africa.
This entire route was dedicated to flower chasing, it was truly a feast for our eyes. Who knew seeing so many flowers could have such a positive effect on one’s mind, body and soul?
During the flower chasing, we experienced breathtaking sunsets, sunrises, stargazing opportunities, hiking, animal viewing, waterfalls, tea tasting and the most incredible scenery from dry red and orange mountains to green and yellow mountain ranges to snow-capped mountain ranges.
I thoroughly enjoyed this three-week trip however I didn’t include the beginning and end of the trip in this article. In hindsight, I would have spent a weekend in Langebaan and visited Paternoster and surrounding areas as I heard there were lovely flowers in that area.
If you are planning a trip to see the flowers next year:
My advice would be to base yourself in Springbok or nearby or Kamieskroon or Nieuwoudtville or Clanwilliam. If you get a chance book a trip and go to Bieudouw Valley from Clanwilliam. We couldn’t do it as the weather was not on our side. Three days or so in each area should be enough depending on how much time you have and how much you would like to experience. Remember that the flowers only show themselves when it is warm, so over 17-18 degrees and only from 11 am to about 5 pm.
Do I need a high clearance car for this road trip?
A high clearance car is needed for most of the parks and gravel roads but a normal sedan is fine. There are many 4×4 routes available if you have the adventurous side within you. One can fly to Upington and hire a car and fly out of Cape town but most people drive all the way. The towns are far apart in the northern cape but the roads are in very good condition. Just make sure you have your car filled full with fuel at all times and remember the Vodacom signal on the roads is intermittent. I can’t speak for MTN or any other network. The best time of the year to do this route is AUGUST TO SEPTEMBER. There is NO halaal food anywhere along the route in the northern cape, I carried my food for the trip and all the places I stayed had a big fridge and freezer, stove, kettle, toaster and microwave. Most places supplied free tea, coffee and milk for the stay and all other groceries could be bought from Spar or Checkers in the towns. KFC is halaal in Clanwilliam and there is a Muslim person selling fish and chips in Lamberts bay but that is the western cape.
Please do yourself a favour and visit this route. The people are friendly, it’s rather quiet and very sparsely populated, relatively safe and different from the rest of South Africa. The nature reserves and botanical gardens are so well kept and the flora found in these places are unique to this area altogether.
Marinate your food, freeze it in freezer bags and either grill or cook or braai Most places have braai facilities. Pack minimal clothing which is comfortable and shoes that you can do loads of walking in and road trip. We did over 6000km in 21 days and it was worth it. We travelled mostly on the N7, N8 and some side roads. The road conditions are very good. I didn’t write about Witsand Nature Reserve, Kgaladagi Park and Augrabies Park but these are truly well worth a visit.
I stayed at the following places:
A little bit about Fathima
I am Fathima Mahomed an avid traveller within South Africa and overseas. I am from Gauteng. I am in the Learning and Development field and I love visiting new places especially if it is rich in history and nature. My last overseas trip was in 2019 where I did the silk route, Johannesburg, Doha, Baku and the silk route from Azerbaijan to Georgia into Turkey. We did this by road and experience will forever be like a fairytale.
My Instagram handle is fathimachocpie, do check out all my posts and reels of all the places I have visited.
Here is a review on YouTube of a Kia Sonet, as a possible option for a high clearance car. We have personally used this car and enjoyed it on a trip to The Aquila Private Game Reserve. I will link both videos down below.
Roadtrip to The Aquila Private Game Reserve with the KIA Sonet