September is peak flower season in West Coast National Park. Give your wildflower excursion a boost with these ten tips.
1. If the sun isn’t shining, the flowers aren’t showing their faces. For the best flower viewing, make sure you’re out and about when the sun is at its highest. That said, it’s worth arriving early to avoid queues – September weekends can be especially busy. With loads of activities on offer, why not start your flower outing with a nature activity? You can go hiking, mountain biking (not allowed in the Postberg area) or birding (the park offers three bird hides). Either way, you have some 32,000ha to explore.
2. Humans aren’t the only ones that enjoy the abundance of blooms. Along with the birds, bees and butterflies that you might expect, you’ll find an array of other creatures among the flowers – from glossy beetles and striped mice to bontebok. This national park has some gorgeous creatures on offer: honey badgers, bat-eared and Cape foxes, caracal and mountain zebra. Remember that tortoises and other slower wildlife species cannot dodge a moving vehicle’s wheels – always adhere to the designated speed limit of 50km/h.
3. The Postberg section is the park’s most popular wildflower area. This is where you’ll find antelope grazing amid fields of colourful daisies and there are designated paths where you can get close to the stunning blooms. Although gate times for West Coast National Park are from 07:00 to 19:00 (last entry at 18:30), the Postberg Gate is open only from 09:00 17:00 (last entry at 16:30). Make sure you leave enough time to explore this wildflower garden. Contact the park on +27 (0)22 772 2144 for more information.
4. Why not celebrate spring with a festive lunch at Geelbek Restaurant? You certainly can’t ask for a more scenic setting. Built in classic Cape Dutch style, Geelbek homestead dates back to the 1700s and sits on the iconic Langebaan Lagoon. In 1975, the lagoon was classified as a wetland of international importance. For reservations, contact the restaurant on +27 (0)84 406 7434 or send an email to [email protected].
5. September is not only wildflower season, but also ideal for spotting southern right whales from the Tsaarsbank area. Here you will find an ocean-view picnic site and rest rooms. Tsaarsbank is situated some 24km from the park’s West Coast Gate. On your way to Tsaarsbank, see if you can spot the Pantelis A. Lemos shipwreck just past the Atlantic Viewpoint.
6. If you’re a West Coast wildflower first-timer, try spotting one of these three easy finds:
- Gousblom (Arctotis hirsuta): The flowerheads are some 40mm in diameter and petals are either orange, yellow or cream-coloured.
- White rain daisy (Dimorphotheca pluvialis): These pretty little white beauties always face the sun. The deep violet ring around the yellow centre makes it an easy one to identify.
- Sporrie (Heliophila coronopifolia): It’s a dainty bright blue flower with four petals.
7. If you can’t get enough of the wildflowers, make sure you have a valid Wild Card – this way you can visit again and again without paying conservation fees every time. It’s easy to buy or renew membership online. Since the Wild Card offers you free access – for one full year – to more than 80 parks and reserves in South Africa and Swaziland, you can even go flower hunting in other parts. Summer is a good time to see the Drakensberg’s flowering bulbs.
8. Be a responsible visitor during flower season: never pick any flowers, don’t pick up tortoises or disturb any wildlife, and don’t walk on flowers or lie amid them when taking pictures. For some useful advice on wildflower photography, read our top tips on how to capture that perfect floral moment.
9. Once you’ve experienced the beauty of West Coast National Park, you won’t be surprised to learn that people have been flocking to these parts for millennia. At the Geelbek Visitor’s Centre you can see a replica of Eve’s Footprints. These fossilised footprints belonged to a young woman who lived alongside the lagoon some 117,000 years ago.
10. If it’s one of those balmy spring days, why not dip your feet in Langebaan Lagoon? The beach at Preekstoel is protected from the wind and the shallow water is warmed by the sun’s rays. Pack a picnic blanket and a cooler bag full of goodies. The braai spots up at the top offer a terrific view of the lagoon’s shimmering waters.