Did you know?
The Namaqua National Park is home to the world's smallest tortoise, the Namaqua speckled padloper.
The Wild Flower Route in the Northern Cape is a vision of flowers that will colour your imagination for the rest of your days.
Here, Namaqualand daisies and more 3 500 floral species emerge in spring – from early August to the end of September – to offer one of the world’s greatest flower shows.
A three-hour journey up the N7 from Cape Town, branching at Vanrhynsdorp, takes you to your first stop: the 6 200-hectare Hantam National Botanical Garden, just outside the village of Nieuwoudtville. Known as the 'bulb capital of the world', its soils contain startling numbers of geophytes. A single spadeful can yield nearly 100.
‘An incredible 1 350 plant species have been recorded on the Bokkeveld Plateau so far, and about a third of these are threatened with extinction,’ explains the garden’s curator, Eugene Marinus.
Among the most spectacular geophytes are the brilliant blue pride of Nieuwoudtville (Geissorhiza splendidissima) and the two finest Sparaxis species – Sparaxis elegans and Sparaxis pillansii.
While most visitors come to see the spring flowers, autumn in Nieuwoudtville offers another spectacular flower display, when the Amaryllidaceae species come out to play.
The Hantam National Botanical Garden also offers a choice of hiking trails and mountain bike routes, as do several farms in the area.
From Nieuwoudtville, head back up the N7 to the 150 000-hectare Namaqua National Park, where flowers bloom as far as the eye can see. There are several floral hotspots along the way, including the Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve at Kamieskroon. This route leads all the way to the Namaqualand town of Springbok and beyond to the nearby 7 000-hectare Goegap Nature Reserve.
Hiking, eco-trails, day drives, mountain-bike and 4x4 routes are all on offer in and around both reserves. You can also learn about pollinators, including butterflies, bees and birds, as well as wildlife, including the bat-eared fox, steenbok and Cape porcupine.
The information offices at the Namaqua National Park and in Nieuwoudtville offer maps and information. So take off at least a week and take the long road to the land of colour and imagination.