Namaqualand’s annual floral display is one of South Africa’s top seasonal drawcards – maybe because deep down we all know that we only have so many springs in our lives.
Mother Nature can be unpredictable, so it’s not always easy to time your visit, but that shouldn’t put you off from visiting this fascinating part of the country.
With a little bit of research and some preplanning, you should be able to strike it lucky.
The Namaqua National Park is a natural destination if you are on route to the other great national parks in the Northern Cape region – the Richtersveld, Kgalagadi and Augrabies.
The rule of thumb is that the further north you are, the earlier the flower season. So if you are planning to visit the Springbok area (about 1 000km from Johannesburg and 570km from Cape Town), then time your visit for late August, early September.
One of the most scenic areas of the park is in the region of Kamieskroon, a mountainous area renowned for its spring floral displays.
If you’ve left your planning a bit late, then you should aim for the flower areas further south. Consider Nieuwoudtville, famous for its bulbs, or the West Coast National Park, which is within an easy two-hour drive of Cape Town.
It’s also a good idea to contact local tourist offices to find out where your best chances are of seeing flowers.
For those with an adventurous streak, there’s the Caracal 4x4 route, a 200km circular drive that showcases the huge diversity of the Namaqua National Park, starting at the famous Skilpad Wildflower Reserve near Springbok and heading down to the coast via the Soebatsfontein and Wildeperdehoek mountain passes. When you get to the sea, the route follows a 50km stretch of pristine coastline, navigating through some heavy sand here and there, before you exit the park at Groen River Mouth.
Alternatively, you could book a luxury tent in the seasonal Namaqua Flowers Beach Camp, which operates for a month only but offers fully catered, comfortable accommodation on the beach.
The bad news is that the season for this year’s Namaqua Flowers Beach Camp has already come and gone – but you could start planning for 2015 when the camp will operate from 14 August to 14 September.
For those who prefer to self-cater, the Skilpad rest camp comes highly recommended. There are four chalets on offer, each with magnificent views, enclosed verandas, an indoor fireplace and outside braai.
There’s also a bucolic alternative – one of the rustic beach camps on the coast. The only amenities are eco-loos and you have to be completely self-sufficient.
But the reward is an unsurpassed view of the sea and a beach all to yourself.
All words and images by Andrea Weiss.