Bulbinella Elegans in Hantam Botanical Gardens

Journey to the remote Hantam Botanical Gardens in the Karoo, where endangered flower species attract tourists from all over the world each year. David Attenborough has visited, as has the former director of London's famous Kew Gardens, Sir Ghillean Prance, who declared the gardens 'a botanical treasure of international importance'.

Did you know?

The flowers are at their best between in the late morning and early afternoon as they face the sun.

Your life will be enriched if you take the drive from Cape Town up the West Coast to the 6 200ha Hantam Botanical Gardens, situated 5km outside the village of Nieuwoudtville on the Bokkeveld Plateau.

At these botanical gardens you will find more bulbs, or geophytes, than anywhere else on the planet. The curator of this floral wonderland is Eugene Marinus, who moved here in 2008 after the Hantam Botanical Gardens were proclaimed as South Africa's ninth national botanical gardens, the only national botanical garden in the Northern Cape province.

'An incredible 1 350 plant species have been recorded on the Bokkeveld Plateau so far, and about third of these are threatened with extinction,' Marinus explains.

Peak season for the flowers is from August to mid-October, with a great variety of geophytes, annuals and succulent flowers appearing at this time, creating an intoxicating trail of colour. Some of the most spectacular geophytes are the brilliant blue Pride-of-Nieuwoudtville (Geissorhiza splendidissima), the sky-blue 'bloukalossie' (Ixia rapunculoides) and the two finest Sparaxis species - Sparaxis elegans and Sparaxis pillansii.

Don't restrict your visit here to spring, however, because the bulb species start flowering after the first rains in March/April. With flowers come a great variety of birds, insects and animals, all gathering for the nectar.

Nine superb trails have been created in this Karoo botanical garden. The trails have been designed to accommodate all ages and fitness levels, and range from 450m to 8.2km in length.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Hantam Botanical Gardens
Tel: +27 (0)27 218 1200
Fax: +27 (0)27 218 1201
Email: Hantam@sanbi.org.za

How to get here

Drive north from Cape Town on the N7 to Van Rhynsdorp, then follow the Nieuwoudtville signs. The journey will take you just under four hours, covering a distance of about 300km from Cape Town.

Best time to visit

Peak season for the flowers is from August to mid-October. Don’t restrict your visit here to spring, however, because the bulb species start flowering after the first rains in March/April.

What will it cost

Entrance fee during flowering season is R12 per adult and R6 for pensioners and children under 12.

What to pack

Good walking shoes, sunscreen, a hat and binoculars.

Where to stay

Stay at one of a number of guesthouses, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation in Nieuwoudtville.