Exploring the South African Flower Route  

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Spring has sprung in South Africa, and although parts of the country are still being blasted with the winter cold, the sun is making its presence felt in others. Exploring the Cape West Coast, the Cederberg and Namaqualand (the South African Flower Route) is the best way to welcome spring. It’s a trip which takes you through fertile valleys, coastal swathes and the plains of a semi-arid desert, all of which burst to life every spring in an array of colour, thanks to the winter rainfall.

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Flora

You will find plenty to see and do along the Flower Route at this time of year, but the number one reason is definitely the spectacular sight the vast carpet of flowers creates. Merely an hour’s drive from Cape Town is the West Coast National Park, with the Tankwa Karoo National Park a little further afield on the border of the Northern Cape. Once you enter the province you will alight upon one of the most renowned spring-time floral regions, Namaqualand, which stretches northwards into Namibia and westwards to the coast. The area is a haven to 6000 plant species, many of which are endemic.

When travelling along this route, bear in mind that the flowers are heliotropic, which means they only come out to play with the sun. In the early mornings, or on an overcast day, they fold away their petals in anticipation of the sun’s return. The general principle is to head north as quickly as possible, taking your time to appreciate the flowers as you drive back in a southerly direction with the flowers facing you.

The South African Flower Route: Flowering field east of Vanrhynsdorp. Photo by Malcolm Manners
Flowering field east of Vanrhynsdorp. Photo by Malcolm Manners
The South African Flower Route: Daisies. North of Citrusdal. Photo by Malcolm Manners
Daisies. North of Citrusdal. Photo by Malcolm Manners
The South African Flower Route: West Coast National Park. Photo by Malcolm Manners
West Coast National Park. Photo by Malcolm Manners
The South African Flower Route: Ramskop Wildflower Garden, Clanwilliam. Photo by Malcolm Manners
Ramskop Wildflower Garden, Clanwilliam. Photo by Malcolm Manners
The South African Flower Route: Daisies. Skilpad Wildflower Preserve, Namaqua National Park. Photo by Malcolm Manners
Daisies. Skilpad Wildflower Preserve, Namaqua National Park. Photo by Malcolm Manners
The South African Flower Route: Wildflowers on the road to Kobee, east of Vanrhynsdorp. Photo by Malcolm Manners
Wildflowers on the road to Kobee, east of Vanrhynsdorp. Photo by Malcolm Manners
The South African Flower Route: Daisies at Goegap. Photo by Malcolm Manners
Daisies at Goegap. Photo by Malcolm Manners
The South African Flower Route: Wildflowers near the entrance to Goegap Nature Preserve, Springbok. Photo by Malcolm Manners
Wildflowers near the entrance to Goegap Nature Preserve, Springbok. Photo by Malcolm Manners
The South African Flower Route: Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, Namaqua National Park. Photo by Malcolm Manners
Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, Namaqua National Park. Photo by Malcolm Manners

Fauna

There’s no doubt that this is the ultimate road trip, but you can expect more than just flowers along the way. The regions are variously home to a plethora of wildlife including bat-eared foxes, honey badgers, ostriches, mongooses, zebra, kudu, aardvark and black-backed jackals, as well as a multitude of birds, not to mention seals, whales and dolphins in the big blue beyond. Once you’ve glimpsed the world’s largest marine mammal, keep a lookout for the world’s smallest tortoise, the Namaqua speckled padloper, at Skilpad Wildflower Reserve in the Namaqua National Park.

The South African Flower Route: Seals in Namaqua National Park. Photo by flowcomm
Seals in Namaqua National Park. Photo by flowcomm
The South African Flower Route: Ostriches in Namaqua National Park. Photo by flowcomm
Ostriches in Namaqua National Park. Photo by flowcomm

Fishing Villages

Just off the Flower Route you will find a fishing village known as Paternoster. It’s a popular weekend getaway for those wishing to escape the bustle of city life in nearby Cape Town. Laced with sandy white beaches and dotted with fisherman’s hovels, it is one of the oldest towns on the West Coast. Besides the obvious delight of tasting delicious, freshly-caught crayfish you can try out an abundance of activities including diving, hiking and sea-kayaking, or even have a go at fishing yourself.

The South African Flower Route: Paternoster. Photo by southafrica.net
Paternoster. Photo by southafrica.net
The South African Flower Route: Paternoster. Photo by southafrica.net
Paternoster. Photo by southafrica.net

Finding a Place to Sleep

Once you’ve fallen in love with Paternoster you may choose to stay the night – but the love affair doesn’t end there. Another West Coast town which will steal your heart and invite you to stay is Darling, where an annual wild flower show is held every year. In the Northern Cape you can choose to stay in the Namaqualand towns of Springbok, Kamieskroon or Port Nolloth, while accommodation in the Cederberg includes the luxurious Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve close to Clanwilliam or the more rustic Oudrif located on the banks of the Doring River.

The South African Flower Route: Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve. Photo by bushmanskloof.co.za
Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve. Photo by bushmanskloof.co.za
The South African Flower Route: Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve. Photo by bushmanskloof.co.za
Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve. Photo by bushmanskloof.co.za
The South African Flower Route: Oudrif. Photo by oudrif.co.za
Oudrif. Photo by oudrif.co.za
The South African Flower Route: Oudrif. Photo by oudrif.co.za
Oudrif. Photo by oudrif.co.za

From fauna and flora unique to South Africa to old towns whose inhabitants gladly beckon the return of spring along with the visitors, it’s a trip that encompasses nature, adventure and people.  So grab your camera, release your inner botanist and take to the road.

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Exploring the South African Flower Route   was last modified: June 27th, 2019 by Claudia Hauter