25 September 2011 by Julienne du Toit

Bucket List Flower Safari

Do you have a bucket list? If so, does it include a trip to see the desert spring flowers of Namaqualand in South Africa? If not, why not?

I have just returned from one such a trip. Each person should see this at least once in their lives. I have seen it three times; this one was the best.

Outside the town of Springbok, we just had to keep pulling over to marvel. Up there, in this dry upper quadrant of South Africa’s western flank, they call such a display a ‘lappieskombers’ (patchwork quilt).

Purple, pink, white, yellow, orange. The colours are those of a Bollywood wedding.

In one area, yellow will dominate. In another, you’ll see mostly pink smears against the hills. Sometimes they’re smooshed all together, colours clashing gloriously.

It’s always a gamble, visiting Namaqualand in the spring. Sometimes the rains are skimpy and the displays poor as a result. Sometimes they are glorious, but a hot panting Berg wind comes through and fells flowers like skittles. You never really know until July or early August.

By mid-August, usually, the first ‘opslag’ (upflush) starts. Then it charges on in technicolour splendour, up until the end of September in some places in some years. Other years the season is over in a week. That’s why the pollinators work like mad things. Who knows how long this glorious feast of food and colour will last? Seize the day.

The colours have a visible effect on people. They smile more. Flower tourists are good natured and considerate on the road.


Even if you get there and the flowers have ‘gone over’ you’ll find something. People will direct you to places they’ve heard have good flowers. Half the fun is meeting the Namaqualanders themselves.

Then can you better plan your next trip here. Because every spring, you’ll be wondering what the flowers of Namaqualand are doing.

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