Did you know?
Leliefontein means ‘lily spring’. Many South African towns are named after their water sources.
Leliefontein, a historic little village in Namaqualand, nestles alongside the road between Kamieskroon and Garies.
It is set among hills, somewhat hidden from sight. In fact, the only thing that alerts you to the town is a battered sign and an enormous radio mast. But turn in, and you’ll find an intriguing little village with a long history.
The houses are mostly simple and square, facing east to shelter against the prevailing westerly winds. Most yards have fruit trees and a reed cooking shelter, and a dog or two.
Leliefontein, set in what used to be a 'coloured' reserve during the apartheid years, was founded in 1816 at the request of the then-inhabitants, who implored a passing Methodist missionary, Barnabas Shaw, to help protect them from the feuding trekboers (nomadic Afrikaans farmers).
It is in spring (September to November) that the town comes into its own, a fact that resident Vera Engelbrecht couldn’t help but notice. When the desert spring flowers covered the hills and plains around the town, tourists came too. But they had no place to stay.
So she started a little camping and caravan site. Seeing her initiative, a state development agency stepped in to help.
Now Leliefontein Lodge, as it’s called, boasts six en-suite rooms, a self-catering kitchen and a large dining room, as well as braai (barbecue) facilities in a beautiful outdoor cooking shelter. Each room has two three-quarter beds, a television, air-conditioning and fresh, white linen.
But, says Engelbrecht, many tourists prefer staying in the matjieshuis (traditional 'mat house') accommodation. In these cosy traditional shelters made with bent saplings and many reed mats, you’ll sleep on comfortable beds with proper linen.
Vera and four other women co-own Leliefontein Lodge and are also available to cook traditional meals from the area. You can also ask them about demonstrations of the traditional Nama riel dance, which has a gripping rhythm that just makes you want to take to the floor.
Other activities include exploring the historic church precinct where an old sundial stands in the pastor’s yard. The lily-ringed water source after which the town was named is here.
In spring, the flowers on these calcite hills are magnificent, and since the town is full of things to see and surrounded by lovely drives, it’s an excellent place to be based for a Namaqualand flower safari.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Leliefontein Lodge and Leliefontein tourism information
Tel: +27 (0)27 672 1972
Cell: +27 (0)82 386 5386
How to get here
Leliefontein is off the N7, between Kamieskroon and Garies and not far from the larger town of Springbok.
Best time to visit
September and October are the most beautiful months here. The flowers around Leliefontein flower later than most other places in Namaqualand because of the town’s altitude, set as it is in the Kamiesberg mountains. This is also the time when the majestic pear trees are in blossom – a beautiful sight against the mountains. The altitude makes summers (November to March) quite temperate. Winters (May to August) are very cold and wet, and it snows often.
Around the area
The town of Kamieskroon, one of Namaqualand’s larger centres (although it, too, is just a small town), is only 30km away. And another 20 minutes’ drive beyond that is the Namaqua National Park – well worth a visit.
Tours to do
Ask one of the five owners of Leliefontein Lodge to show you around the town.
Within the town, everything is close enough to walk or cycle, if you have a bicycle.
Length of stay
There’s plenty to do and see in the town. Stay at least two nights.
What to pack
Although there are shops in town, they’ll only have basic supplies, so you may want to bring your own food. If you’re there in late winter (July and August, and even part of September), bring plenty of warm, weatherproof clothing. Bring your camera, particularly if you're visiting in spring (August to October), when the flowers are often spectacular.
Where to stay
Leliefontein Lodge is presently the only tourism accommodation in the town.
What to eat
If requested, the women of Leliefontein Lodge will cook you traditional foods of the region. These include edible plants from the area, milk dumplings, liver sausage, griddle-baked bread and other specialties.