Cape Town - Don those shades and prepare for a kaleidoscope of vivid colours. It's flower season!
August and September marks the southern hemisphere's transition from winter to spring, bringing with it a colourful wonderland in the normally arid West Coast with the arrival of the Namaqualand daisies.
Says Hayley Walls, marketing manager for Thompsons Travel: “One of the natural wonders of the world, this annual event is a must for botanists, photographers, artists and sightseers who want to get up close to nature and enjoy a dose of flower-power to ring in the spring season.”
So, if you have been craving a break from the ordinary and are thinking about heading to the West Coast to observe these budding beauties, here's a snap guide to make your experience even more memorable.
Planning your route
While the first flowers begin flowering in Namaqualand in late July to early August, they start rolling out southwards through Nieuwoudtville and the Cederberg towards the West Coast, at the beginning of September.
It is therefore advisable to plan your route from north to south.
The best views
The popular Flower Route has so much to offer, but navigating it in its entirety will take time. Here are some highlights to consider:
Darling is fondly known as the wildflower jewel of the West Coast, but it is aptly described as: “Only an hour from Cape Town… but a million miles away!”
Highlights: The Renosterveld Reserve behind the Darling Primary school; the Tienie Versveld Reserve; the Oudepost Reserve or the Duckitt Orchid Nurseries.
Save the date: From September16 to 18, Darling will host the 99th edition of the Darling Wildflower Show at the Darling Golf Club. Visit www.darlingtourism.co.za for more details.
West Coast National Park
Besides its annual offering of colour during season, the park is home to a variety of animal life and activities for the entire family year-round.
Highlights: Eve's Footprint and Trail, mountain biking and cycling, kayaking and kite-boarding at Langebaan Lagoon, birding, whale watching from the Tsaarsbank section (August and September), picnic and braai facilities are available at the park.
Take note: The Postberg area of the park is open to the public only during August and September. An admission fee is payable on entering the Park.
One of the oldest fishing villages on the West Coast, Paternoster is situated 15km north-west of Vredenburg and 145km north of Cape Town, at Cape Columbine between Saldanha Bay and St. Helena Bay.
Highlights: Cape Columbine Nature Reserve and Tietiesbaai where you will find the beautiful spring flowers. During winter, spring and early summer be on the lookout for whales and dolphins.
Clanwillian is the entry point for several shorter flower routes including Graafwater, Lambert's Bay, Leipoldtville, and the Biedouw Valley. The best locations for flowers are at Biedouw Valley, Ramskop Nature Reserve, Karoo Kop - Augsburg Landbou Gimnasium, Vrede Oord Cemetery and Oudrif.
Highlights: Walking and hiking, Cederberg Brewery, Cedar Heritage Route, Sevilla Rock Art Trail, and Cederberg Wine Cellars.
Save the date: From August 26 to September 3 make your way to the Clanwilliam Wild Flower Show at the Clanwilliam Church. For more details, email Cederberg@lando.co.za
Depending on the rains, Vanrhynsdorp is famed for its excellent flower viewing opportunities. Vanrhynsdorp also marks the spot where the Nama Karoo vegetation, the Knersvlakte succulents and Cape Mountain fynbos converge.
Highlights: The nursery in Vanrhynsdorp is known to be one of the largest of its kind in the world. The nursery is renowned for its preservation of indigenous succulents.
Nieuwoudtville is located on the Bokkeveld Plateau, where the Cape Fynbos meets the Hantam Karoo, Boesmanland and the Knersvlakte. To reach Nieuwoudtville, take Vanrhyns Pass via the Bokkeveld escarpment. The pass is known for its grand views of the of the descent to Namakwalandís coastal terrace.
Highlights: Bird watching; hiking; cycling; 4 x 4 routes and stargazing. Other highlights include the Neo-Gothic Sandstone Church (National Monument), local Historical Sandstone Ruins, Quiver Tree Forest (Aloe Dichotoma); Glacial Pavement; abundant Rock Art; the local Bulb Nursery; Nieuwoudtville Wild Flower Reserve; Hantam National Botanical Garden; Oorlogskloof Nature Reserve and the Nieuwoudtville Waterfall Reserve.
As plentiful as the flowers are, so too is the array of wonderful accommodation options available throughout the Cape West Coast. Consider the following options:
Protea Hotel Saldanha Bay: This unique hotel has its own slipway and jetty and offers excellent accommodation for fishing enthusiasts.
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat: Located near Clanwilliam, in the foothills of the Cederberg Mountains, Bushmanskloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat is an ecological oasis.
Abalone Hotel and Spa: The luxurious five-star Abalone House Boutique Guesthouse blends old-world elegance with eclectic decadence in the quaint seaside village of Paternoster on the Cape West Coast.
Thompsons Travel has a variety of packages available to suit your needs. Visit www.thompsonstravel.co.za for more details.
#TOPTIPS from West Coast Tourism:
* To ensure a seamless trip, herewith some tips from West Coast Tourism
* Book your accommodation in advance. This is very busy time of year in the area and you might luck out if you leave your booking too late.
* Stop at one of the tourist offices to grab a map of the best routes to follow.
* While most of the towns along the route are equipped with petrol stations, ATM's and shops, the towns further north are further apart - keep that in mind when planning.
* Wear comfortable shoes and long pants and carry with you insect repellent when walking around in the field.
* The flowers are open between 11h00 and 15h00. However, keep in mind that the sun must be out for flowers to open - visiting on rainy or overcast days are not ideal.
* Flowers face the sun, thus for viewing and pictures keep your back to the sun
* Leave only your footprints
Adapted from a press release for IOL