As Namaqua and West Coast national parks burst into full bloom, we suggest you “stop and smell the roses” this spring – or in this case, wild flowers. Read on for some tips as you plan your upcoming journey along the Cape flower route.
We offer some helpful advice to help you make the most of your self-drive floral safari, and recommend you buy or borrow a comprehensive flower guide to South Africa’s flora. John Manning’s Field Guide to Wild Flowers of South Africa is an excellent option.
1. Work north to south
Blooms are first seen in Namaqualand in late July or early August, and work their way south as the months progress. This makes it important to plan ahead: a visit to Namaqua National Park should be done as soon as possible, while trips to the Cederberg Wilderness Area and West Coast National Park are better planned for September.
2. Be flexible
Because the flower season is dependent on rains, wind and other factors, displays and timing will vary from year to year. It’s important to visit or call tourism or SANParks offices to find out when the blooms are happening. Also ensure you go on a sunny day and not too early: you likely won’t see fields in all their colourful splendour when it’s overcast or rainy. Best viewing times are between 10:00 and 15:00.
To find out where the best flowers are, contact West Coast Tourism on +27 (0)22 433 8505.
3. Don’t just stop by — schedule more time to do something unique
While places like Tsaarsbank in West Coast National Park offer a great spot for day trip picnics and braais, spending more time in any one given area can yield memories to last a lifetime. The Postberg Wild Flower Trail (in West Coast National Park), for example, is a two-day trail that gives hikers a fantastic opportunity to see wild flowers during August and September. Just remember to book in advance for this 30km trail! If you don’t have as much time, the one-day 14km Steenbok trail follows the same route as the Postberg trail.
Closer to Namaqua? Visit the Skilpad Wild Flower Garden, which is home to about 1,500 plant species. It’s got a circular driving route and several walking trails. Many of the species here are endemic and appear nowhere else in the world! Or combine a rock art tour with flower viewing, with the Cederberg’s stunning Sevilla Rock Art trail. It’s just 4km but passes by nine rock art sites and plenty of wild flowers.
The western section of the Tankwa Karoo (or Roggeveld Escarpment), likewise, is a great place to visit during the spring wild flower bloom for fields of yellow, white, purple, orange, red and pink.
4. Leave with nothing but photos
The flowers are there to be enjoyed, not picked! Please be mindful of conservation and remember that picking flowers can result in fines. The plants, once picked, will die – but a photo will last forever!