The 5 best places to see the Namaqualand Wildflowers in bloom

The 5 Best Places To See Wildflowers In Namaqualand

Discover an exceptional winter wonderland just a few hours from Cape Town and explore the 5 best places to see wildflowers in Namaqualand. Join us on a road trip up the West Coast to experience a sight for sore eyes between August and September. Miles and miles of magnificent blooming indigenous flowers like a carpet of burnt orange and mauves, pinks and reds, yellows and whites, a magical transformation of a semidesert region.

Namaqualand means ‘Nama Khoe people’s land’ and refers to the entire arid region of Namibia and South Africa that stretches along the west coast over some 1 000 km covering a vast 440 000 square km. The Great Orange River separates the Great Namaqualand in the north (Namibia) from the Little Namaqualand in the south (South Africa) and our road trip takes you here, to the wide-open Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Welcome to a region spanning nearly 27 000 square km boasting semi-desert succulent Karoo with its typically hot summers, scarce rainfall and cold winters. 

The fields of wildflowers in Biedouw valley on the west coast of south africa
Set between the Biedouw and Tra-Tra mountain ranges, Biedouw Valley is home to flame-colored daisy subspecies, from golden mountain marigolds to reddish beetle daisies

The best way to tour the Namaqualand flower show is from the north, down towards the south, to see the flowers facing the sunshine before bowing their heads away for the nights. They literally worship the sun and turn their beautiful faces to follow the ball of yellow all day from dawn until dusk! Mostly Namaqualand daisies, these treasure troves also contain more than 3 500 other floral species showing their gorgeous faces for the months of spring. The northern flowers start to bloom in July through to August while the southern flowers nearer Cape Town bloom later until the end of September. 

Namaqualand is known by plant lovers as ‘the bulb capital of the world’ because this is the endemic homeland of astonishing varieties of geophytes and if you dig here with a spade, you can dig up about 100 bulbs on one spade of earth! Some of the names of the bulbs include the blue pride of Nieuwoudtwille, the Geissorhiza splendidissima, and the two superb Sparaxis species, Sparaxis elegans and Sparaxis pillansii. The stunning Amaryllidaceae species – the beautiful, lily-like amaryllis family – also show their beauty at this time of year.

The Namaqualand wildflowers in full bloom
The Wild Flower Route in South Africa’s Northern Cape province is a springtime vision that will colour your imagination for the rest of your days!

The best places to see wildflowers in Namaqualand: 

  • Richtersveld World Heritage Site

Begin your wildflower quest in the far north on the border of Namibia and head south. The journey from Cape Town to the Richtersveld is a massive 850 km so plan in advance to make stops along the way and explore the magnificent west coast of South Africa.  The ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is a peace park or a transfrontier park overlapping the border between South Africa and Namibia, merging the Namibian |Ai-|Ais Hot Springs Game Park and the South African Richtersveld National Park. Most of the South African part of the park forms part of the buffer zone of the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape World Heritage Site, which stretches nearly 6 000 square kilometres. Discover the awe-inspiring Fish River Canyon within the park too, the largest canyon in Africa. The Orange River runs along this border and the desert environment features incredible Kokerbome, Quiver trees and the weird and wonderful halfmens tree. 

  • Goegap Nature Reserve, Springbok 

Find the quaint town of Springbok far up the West Coast, 570 km from Cape Town on the N7, known to be the last South African town before crossing over into Namibia. What better place to begin your wildflowers tour than in the gorgeous Goegap Nature Reserve, a flower and birding hotspot? Expanding an amazing 15 000 ha of dry open Namaqualand terrain, this famous nature reserve features numerous granite koppies, stark quiver trees and open plains. The Hester Malan Garden also harbours 600 species of rare indigenous succulents found only in Goegap so view these plants when you arrive to see carpets of wild colourful daisies renowned in Namaqualand in spring. 

  • Namaqua National Park, Kamieskroon and Skilpad Wildflower Reserve 

Just south of Springbok is Kamieskroon, a small town lying in the foothills of the Kamiesberge and more or less in the centre of Namaqualand, about 70 km south of Springbok.  Known mainly for its abundance of wildflowers during spring it’s the gateway to the special Namaqua National Park, lying some 20 km away. Only 1,000 square km in area, this park serves to preserve the natural local flora and some indigenous animals have also been re-introduced after being hunted out years ago. Look out for Springbok, Hartebeest and Gemsbok.

It is here that the wildflowers start to bloom in early proliferation in July and are at their height in August. This is the richest bulb flora region in the world where more than 3500 different plants are found nowhere else on Earth. Enjoy the circular drive where tourists can stop to view the flowers from various points. Part of this park is the amazing 930-ha Skilpad Wildflower Reserve set up in 1988 by the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) to highlight the flowers found here in central Namaqualand. See mostly yellow, orange and white daisies (Arctotis, Dimorphotheca and Osteospermums).

  • Vanrhynsdorp to Vredendal 

Back on the road south, take the 182-km round route from Vanrhynsdorp to the coast and back, exploring the flowers on various farms and spending a few hours in the largest succulent nursery in the world at Kokerboom – then head to Klawer on the N7 main road. Drive slowly south to Vredendal, famous for its wildflowers and wine, followed by Strandfontein and Doringbaai, on the coast, just north of Lamberts Bay. Flowers, flowers and more flowers! Take Van Rhyn’s Pass to Nieuwoudtville, the bulb capital of the world! Stay a night or two here to make the most of the flower reserves and farms where jaw-dropping floral carpets greet your eyes every day. 

Renowned as the ‘bulb capital of the world,’ Nieuwoudtville has more floral bulb species than anywhere else on our planet. Visit the Hantam Botanical Gardens where an astonishing 1350 plant species grow in the Nieuwoudtville Flower Reserve, on the Bokkeveld Plateau. Picture 6 200 ha of flowers and specialised plants in this sanctuary started by a caring farmer who owned this farm, Glenlyon, the hub of the Hantam National Botanical Garden. Walk the 9 fantastic trails ranging from an easy 450 m to a more strenuous 8 km. 

  • West Coast National Park 

The West Coast National Park awaits, an icon of landscape conservation for fynbos, veld and their endemic wildlife species. Find it a short way inland from the secluded harbour of Saldanha Bay, and only 1,5 hours from Cape Town’s City Centre, beside the clear blue Langebaan Lagoon. Time your visit for August when the Namaqualand daisies are at their best and you can view eland antelope, swim in the ocean and explore the rest of the reserve. 

Take a turn past the famous Postberg section of the park, set aside specifically for wildflowers in their spring proliferation. It is open for these two months only so wake up early to see the flowers slowly raise their beautiful heads to face the sun, which they then follow until sunset, when they bow heads humbly again for the cool nights. 

The vast 27 000 ha West Coast National Park hugs the cold Atlantic Ocean and is thus prone to the cooling ocean mists and winds. Endemic birds and flowers thrive in this climate and the area is also an Important Bird Area. Certain birds love the Namaqualand wildflowers – look out for Cape Long-billed Larks, Cape Clapper Larks, Karoo Larks, and Red-capped Larks. Also find Malachite Sunbirds, Grey Tits, Layard’s Titbabblers, several Karoo Scrub-Robins, Cape Buntings, and Black-headed Canaries.  

What Makes The Namaqualand Flowers So Spectacular

The Namaqualand is a dry desert landscape that undergoes a complete metamorphosis every spring and this is what makes the Namaqualand flowers so spectacular. This dramatic transformation is one of nature’s innate seasonal wonders and captivates nature lovers from all around the world in an explosion of colour and delicacy in extensive floral carpets of indigenous daisies and bulbs galore. 

As Fynbos only occurs in a tiny region of the Cape, so too do these specialised plants only occur in this region, the Namaqualand, and nowhere else in the world. What makes the Namaqualand flowers so special is their variety, their endemism and their landscape which enjoys complete and dramatic makeovers from the border of Namibia all the way along the West Coast south to Darling and Yzerfontein. 

The daisies and other wildflowers in Namaqualand of South Africa
Namaqualand daisies and more than 3 500 other floral species emerge in spring – from early August to the end of September – to offer one of the world’s greatest flower shows.

How to Travel to see the Flowers from Cape Town

The best way, the only way, to get to Namaqualand is to go by road and you can choose to go by car, bus or organised safari tour. Ask anyone how to travel to see the flowers from Cape Town and they will tell you to self-drive – or hire a car from the Cape Town International Airport if you arrive by air to South Africa. Drive the 530 km from Cape Town to Namaqualand ns about 5 hours 30 minutes. 

The best way to travel to Namaqualand is the slow way, the relaxed and open-minded way. Be prepared for the flowers to have blossomed early or be surprised to find the desert region still awaiting the rains therefore the flowers. Nature is unpredictable! Stop when you are tired and find a simple accommodation. Book accommodation in advance for the busy flower season in attractive hutted and tented accommodations in the national parks.

Where to Stay And When to go to see The Namaqualand Flowers

Knowing where to stay and when to go to the Namaqualand Flowers takes a bit of research before you arrive. Book your accommodation in the towns and spend time exploring their special treats. Venture into the national reserves and parks for some hours or days if you can get accommodation ahead of the wildflower season. 

Watch the weather as the weather decides the transformation of the landscape. When the rains come in the arid Northern Cape region, there is a sudden and marked change in the terrain and scenery! Arrive a week after the rain and you will be blessed! Picture more than 4 000 different seeds waiting to germinate below the soil, some of them bulbs. 

 

The wildflowers in the Namaqualand area of Africa
A field of different wildflowers off the West Coast of South Africa

The best time to visit the entire flower show is from July to September, the Cape spring months.  As suggested, start your trip from Cape Town and drive first to the Namibian border to the Orange River and the Richtersveld. Book accommodation here to launch your Namaqualand wildflower tour and choose from the gorgeous camps within the |Ai|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park managed by SANParks in South Africa. These include well-equipped hutted camps and beautiful campsites on the Orange River banks.

As you drive slowly down the west coast find authentic places to stay in Springbok, Kamieskroon, Nieuwoudtville, Vanrhynsdorp and Vredendal in cute self-catering cottages, guest houses, campsites, lodges and hotels – ranging from luxury to more affordable rustic accommodation.

Namaqua National Park ‘s Skilpad Rest Camp offers everything you need or book one of the luxury tents at the coast run by a private business. Check into the Beach Flower Camp open only for a month and featuring just 15 private canvas suites with their own decks and ocean views. Ensuite showers, queen beds and tea and coffee facilities in true glamping style. 

Closer to Cape Town is the West Coast National Park’s community project accommodation at Duinepos Chalets. Part of the reserve’s sustainable livelihoods programme, the 11 self-catering chalets are eco-friendly and completely managed by the local community. Whatever you do and wherever you stay, just come and discover an exceptional winter wonderland as the spectacular Namaqualand wildflowers bloom between August and September!

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