Justin Fox is a freelance photojournalist and travel writer for Drive South Africa.
Spring is sprung and it’s time to pack the car and head for nature’s great displays in the Western and Northern Cape. Finding the right spot is not always easy and the blooms are weather dependent. August tends to be the best month, but some blooms start in July and many continue deep into September. Check with local tourism authorities to find out which areas are at their best.
Plan your journey so the sun is behind you when you drive through flower-rich terrain. If you don’t, colourful fields actually appear grey as flowers all face the sun. Better still, ditch the car and tackle the many hiking and mountain-biking routes through flower country. Here’s my pick of the best spots:
1. Postberg Peninsula
This northern section of the West Coast National Park is open to the public only during flower season. While in the park, do the 14-kilometre Steenbok Trail (only open during August and September, bookings open in June) through a sea of dancing colour.
2. The Darling District
With spring blooms ranging from white daisies to purple skilpadblomme, the Darling district is a favourite among flower lovers. Try to catch the Darling Wildflower Show from 20 to 22 September with its beautiful displays as well as live entertainment, craft stalls and tractor rides.
This picturesque town hosts the best-known wildflower show in the region. It’s a week-long extravaganza (28 August to 8 September) presenting flowers found across five different biomes. This year’s show will focus on the pollinators and propagators that keep the floral kingdom alive. There’ll be a room with ultraviolet lighting so you can view the unique markings, otherwise invisible, that flowers use to lure their pollinators. While in town, don’t miss the lovely botanical gardens.
4. The Cederberg
In the heart of the Cederberg mountains lies the Biedouw Valley, known for its wide array of bulbous flowers. Although much of the veld is now cultivated, it’s still well worth a visit. Spend a night on one of the farms in the valley, such as Enjo, which offers rustic, self-catering cottages and a small campsite next to the river.
5. Hantam Bokkeveld
The Nieuwoudtville Wildflower Reserve and Hantam National Botanical Garden just outside Nieuwoudtville offer some of the finest displays in the Cape. Visit the Kokerboom Forest on Brandkop Farm north of town and the dazzling fields of colour on Matjiesfontein Farm south of town on the gravel road which links up with the R364 to Clanwilliam.
6. Kamieskroon and Namaqua National Park
Namaqua National Park near Kamieskroon has at its heart the wonderful Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, where you’ll find some of the richest bulb flora in the world. Think tortured rock formations, iconic quiver trees, big blue skies and carpets of flowers.
7. Springbok region
For those who have the time to venture even further north, flower cornucopia can be found up the N7 on a series of drives around the towns of Springbok and Port Nolloth. Namaqualand daises stretch to the horizon in an ocean of colour. For botanists, this is where they feel they’ve died and gone to heaven.