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YYour 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 9th national botanical garden. It is 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 a 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.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Hantam Botanical Gardens
Tel: +27 (0)27 218 1200
Fax: +27 (0)965559082
What it will cost
Entrance is free except for during flowering season when it is R20 per adult and R12 for pensioners and children under 12.
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.
Things to do
Guided tours are offered during the three flowering months of August, September and October. These are 2.5 hours in length and need to be pre-booked to avoid disappointment.
There are lawns, trees and picnic tables outside the main old sandstone office where you can have a picnic.
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.