Did you know?
The world’s smallest tortoise, the Namaqua speckled padloper ('padloper' means 'road walker' in Afrikaans, the predominant language in Namaqualand), is found in the Namaqua National Park and surrounds.
The 270km trip between Nieuwoudtville and Springbok in the Northern Cape is best done over three nights in the spring months of August and September. (First, though, you'll need to get to Niewoudtville – itself a remote little town in the southern part of the vast Northern Cape province. It's best to drive yourself from Cape Town, which is a journey of about 350km, which will take about four hours by car.)
You’ll want to savour this Namaqualand journey for as long as possible, because you’ll be driving through a carpeted land of colourful blooms as the region comes alive with the first rains of the season.
Nieuwoudtville is more than a daisy town, however. This is where you find more than 300 species of geophytes, beautiful bulbs that have been lying dormant and then present themselves in great abundance in springtime.
Our first night, in Nieuwoudtville, is spent on one of the many guest farms in the district. After a day of intense flower-watching and landscape photography at the nearby Hantam National Botanical Garden, we go food shopping in the little town and enjoy a barbecue under the stars at our lodgings.
The next morning we drive out towards the Pakhuis Pass. About 7km out of Nieuwoudtville we come across a series of ancient glacial pavements formed back when South Africa was still part of the giant land mass known as Gondwana.
It’s still early, so we head north towards Loeriesfontein for about 25km until we reach the quiver-tree forest, which is famous in this area, and is one of the largest in the world. And seeing as how we’re on the road, we might as well zip up to Loeriesfontein and visit the massive wind-pump display at the Fred Turner Museum.
Heading out once more from Nieuwoudtville, we venture west towards the N7 over Vanrhyn’s Pass and into Vanrhynsdorp, the little Victorian-era town in the Knersvlakte. As we pass through the area, we come across an intriguing mix of fynbos (a plant kingdom all on its own), succulents and wild flowers.
We’re going north to our second night’s lodgings in Kamieskroon, which bristles with exotic cameras and lenses during flower season. Travellers come from all over the world to attend photographic workshops in the flowers, and leave with some of the finest natural images they have ever captured.
The prime attraction of the Kamieskroon area is the nearby Namaqua National Park, more than 1 000km2 of pure flora. It’s quite a dizzying experience to move through such vivid colour, laid out in vast swathes all around us.
After a fun-filled night at the Kamieskroon Hotel, we go north to Springbok, in the heart of Namaqualand. First stop is lunch at the Springbok Lodge & Restaurant, where we find out first hand where the local upwellings of flowers are. Here, a member of the longstanding Kotze family gives us the latest ‘flower updates’ so we know exactly where to go.
One of these places is the Goegap Nature Reserve. We take some picnic snacks out to Goegap and drive slowly through the reserve, stopping for flower sightings and a pop-in at the Hester Malan Wild Flower Garden, which features an amazing selection of succulents.
If there’s time, we’ll drive out to Nababeep and visit the mining museum celebrating the historic copper boom that once reigned here. Or over to nearby little town of Okiep, also written O'Kiep, famous for copper mining history in the area. And there will probably be more ‘flower stops’ along the way...
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Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
Nieuwoudtville lies about 350km north-east of Cape Town or four hours' drive. Take the N7 to Vanrhynsdorp, turn east on the R27 and go over the Vanrhyns Pass to Nieuwoudtville.
Best time to visit
If you want to see the spring blooms, come out in August/September. However, this route also has its attractions in the autumn months of April and May.
Around the area
If time permits, visit the coastal villages of Strandfontein and Doringbaai – great beaches and an awesome lighthouse. If you have time, go even further north to the coastal town of Port Nolloth and in to the remote mountain desert of the Richtersveld, where you can stay in the Richtersveld National Park.
Tours to do
Book a photographic course run from the Kamieskroon Hotel – see listed website for details.
Hire a vehicle from Cape Town or book for one of the many flower tours available.
What will it cost
Park fees and hotel accommodation rates in the Namaqualand region are very competitive. This is not an expensive journey.
Length of stay
You should set aside at least three days and two nights for this trip – more, if possible.
What to pack
If you’re coming in spring, remember that we still get cold spells during that period – bring something warm for the evenings and overcast days. Also, pack good outdoor gear for your flower safaris. If possible, bring a macro lens.
Where to stay
Nieuwoudtville has a number of farm stay options, the Kamieskroon Hotel comes highly recommended and so does the Springbok Lodge & Restaurant.
What to eat
Hearty Namaqua fare includes lamb, skuinskoekies (aniseed cakes) and waterblommetjie bredie (delicious traditional South African stew).
Check the various listed websites for events scheduled during your visit. The best time to go to this area is in spring, when the flowers are blooming, which is usually in late August/early September.
Books and minerals available at the Springbok Lodge & Restaurant curio shop.