Are you finally looking to explore the Namaqualand Flowers? Yay! That’s great news!
The Namaqualand Wildflowers are a huge must-do for all South Africans. People travel from all over to see these magnificent fields of flowers come to life as they cover the dry, arid landscape like a thick carpet of colour.
We don’t know about you, but it took us forever to actually see these flowers for ourselves and even though they are a huge bucket list activity, it’s kind of difficult to define what the “Namaqualand Flowers” really are and where to even see them.
So we are here to clear things up as simply as we can! Let’s discover what the Namaqualand Flowers are all about!
Firstly, let’s begin with what the Namaqualand is. Geographically, Namaqualand is a dry desert region in South Africa and Namibia which stretches along the west coast for over 1,000 km. It is separated into two sections: Little Namaqua and Great Namaqua.
Little Namaqua is what we explored and what this guide covers as it forms part of the Northern Cape in South Africa, while Great Namaqua is part of Namibia. The two (Little and Great Namaqua) are separated by the lower course of the Orange River.
Although the flower route is often referred to as “The Namaqualand Flowers”, Namaqualand is only one section of the flower route (the section up North), however, the flowers continue on into Clanwilliam, the Cederberg and the West Coast, which includes Cape Town.
Why do you want to visit the Namaqualand Flowers? Well, once a year, in spring, these Namaqualand daisies begin to bloom in the dry, arid desert and we get to watch as the landscape starts to transform into an ocean of colour. Bursting with Yellow, Orange, White and Purple flowers, and many other flora species that can be found nowhere else in the world. It is a worldwide phenomonon!
Let it be known and don’t be fooled, these desert daisies only come around once a year, every springtime.
Typically, the best time to view them is between mid-August to late September. This means that it is very important to plan ahead and know where you will be travelling. You also need to be flexible because these little flowers have a mind of their own.
Apparently, and we based our trip on this information, the flowers begin to bloom in the Northern Cape first, and shortly afterwards can be found in Nieuwoudtville and the Cederberg – until they eventually reach the West Coast. So it is better to go up north first around late August, and then if you are near the West Coast, like in Cape Town, you might still see some wildflowers in late September.
Remember, however, that the flowers are on nature’s schedule and not ours, so they can change and fluctuate from year to year, making the timing very difficult to follow to the tee. Honestly, it’s a huge gamble; you may see them, you may not. It’s also all weather-dependent, the flowers can vary depending on how much rain the area received during the months leading up to flower season. Personally, I think that adds more appeal to the whole experience because everyone will encounter the flowers differently.
We had instances where families going the opposite way to us were raving about the flowers in one area and by the time we got there, they weren’t as cool and vice versa.
Actually, for the last decade, the region has seen extreme drought. So this is the first time in a while that they celebrated winter rains and more of the flowers coming back. This is why it is a great idea to plan your trip ahead of time.
(P.S. There are Facebook groups that you can join so that you can stay up to date with the Namaqualand Flowers. People update this information as they follow the wild flower routes. Maybe try this one or that one.)
It is also important to know that the flowers don’t bloom the whole day. They come out with the sunlight and face the sun during the day. So, as soon as the sun starts to go down (or if it’s a rainy/cloudy day), they will close up and not be as visible, again adding to nature’s gamble.
The best time to view them would probably be from 10:00 – 16:00, while the sun is in full force.
We started our journey up north, first visiting the town of Springbok.
It is the largest town in the Namaqualand region and survives predominantly from tourism, mining and farming.
It is also known as the Namaqualand Flower Capital.
However, we are not going to lie, we felt Springbok to be a little underwhelming this year around. It was our first stop on our hunt for the wildflowers and honestly, when we arrived, I turned to Byron and asked him where all of the flowers were. Apparently, there were only really flowers in the Skilpad section of the Namaqua National Park, which we accidentally missed!
Also, we arrived at Goegap Nature Reserve and it was closed! It wasn’t supposed to be; we tried calling, Googling and even waved our hands to staff passing by in the hopes to get their attention and ask why, but they just ignored us. It was on our list of things to do, and apparently it is lovely, it just didn’t work out for us this time.
Hondeklipbaai is a small coastal village just 117 km south-west of Springbok and we absolutely loved it! It was the first harbour to start exporting the copper ore that had been discovered at O’Kiep mine, nine minutes from Springbok.
It is a lovely little coastal village to add to your list if you don’t mind a little bit of a detour and have a 4×4! We did it without a 4×4, but wouldn’t really recommend it.
Without a doubt, this was our favourite place to see the Namaqualand Flowers in 2020. It is a small, quiet village lined with bright yellow, white, purple and orange flowers. Nieuwoudtville has been known to draw attention from across the globe for its rich diversity and impressive flower displays every springtime. It is also known as the bulb capital of the world and is renowned for having the cleanest air in South Africa.
Although we didn’t come here specifically for the flowers, Clanwilliam has been known to host some amazing flower routes, including the Bieudouw Valley and the Ramskop Wild Flower Garden.
The Cederberg itself doesn’t really have spring flowers, but you can definitely come and see the Protea (our national flower) and fynbos in full bloom.
Darling is a really awesome little town in a farming area on the West Coast that deserves a visit in itself. However, they also host some beautiful wildflower displays. We only visited the Tienie Versveld Reserve this time, but there are many more to add to the list for next time.
The West Coast seems to be filled with many amazing treasures, from farmlands to mountain ranges to unspoilt beaches, also hosting some amazing wildflowers.
This all depends on how you want to plan your trip. We chose to travel slowly from one town to another, staying over and really enjoying an area. You could, however, stay in a central area and travel out every day to nearby towns.
We first travelled from Johannesburg to Upington. Then we went to Springbok where we rented an Airbnb for the night. We travelled to Hondeklipbaai, then to Nieuwoudtville, to the Cederberg, the Koue Bokkeveld, finally arriving in Yzerfontein.
This is where we stayed:
Well, If you don’t already have a car, rent one, and if you can, rent a 4×4.
There are a lot of hidden gems, and coastal routes to be taken that require a 4×4. I mean, we did some of them in a normal little sedan, but if I had the choice of a 4×4, I would have taken it… especially when doing the coastal routes!
This is really a get in the car, explore and get lost kind of road trip!
As you can see, the drive is long and it is much better if you are already coming from Cape Town, but it’s not necessary. You won’t be able to travel it in a day, so bear in mind that stops are required.
If you aren’t really interested in embarking on a long South African Road Trip, then fly into Cape Town and discover the West Coast flowers. You could also look for a company that does Namaqualand Flower tours. They do exist and they plan everything for you.
Finally, we are very glad that we can say we have seen the Namaqualand Flowers!
We had great moments, saw amazing flowers, laughed, held our breath over potholes and dirt roads. We experienced some really disappointing flower displays and then came across others that were magnificent!
The point being, this trip will be unique to you and only you can determine how you view it. Maybe you wouldn’t necessarily travel to see some random flowers, that’s okay. Then make it about the towns. There is something for everyone to experience.
One of my favourite moments was when we arrived in the Namaqua National Park.
There was no office, just road. We parked the car, got out and looked around. There was not a car in sight. It was just the two of us, a dusty lonely road, blossoming wildflowers and a tortoise on a mission.