wildflowers near Cape Town

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Aug 31st, 2004, 05:17 AM
  #1
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wildflowers near Cape Town

We will be in Cape Town in late September. I have read that the wildflowers are impressive. Can anyone recommend specific places to go see them? We will have a car and are interested in either a day trip or a two day trip. We would appreciate a suggested itinerary for either and places to stop along the way, possibly spending the night someplace. We like to get out enjoy the scenery and hike a bit, too.
Thanks!
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Aug 31st, 2004, 07:15 AM
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There are two different environments in which to enjoy wildflowers that I know of.

One is the Fynbos, the ecosystem that includes South Africa's national flower, the protea. The Fynbos is at its finest in the Overberg (Barrydale, Bonnievale, Bredasdorp, Caledon, Greyton, Montagu, Napier, Riviersonderend, Robertson, Swellendam).

Hermanus makes a good base for enjoying the Fynbos. In September the town offers the best of both worlds. You can enjoy the whales from the cliff path, then go to the nature reserve that covers the hills just behind the town, and enjoy a hike in the Fynbos.

Hermanus is close enough (140 km or 90 miles) that it can be done as a day trip from Cape Town. However, it's nice to be able to spend a night there.

The other region that produces wildflowers -- wildflower displays that are even more spectacular than those of the Fynbos when the rains cooperate -- is Namaqualand. You pass through Namaqualand on the highway that leads north from Cape Town to Namibia.

I lived in Namaqualand for 3-1/2 years in the 1970s. The 4 spring seasons that I witnessed varied from underwhelming to incredible, as a consequence of the winter rain that the area had received in each of those years. One of the 4 spring seasons was spectacular. The carpets of flowers had to be seen to be believed.

If you've heard about wildflowers "near Cape Town," I suspect your source was referring to the flowers in Namaqualand -- the so called Namaqualand daisies (which actually are only one of 4,000 plant species that grow in the area).

The challenge with the Namaqualand daisies is that the quality of the display varies from year to year, depending on the amount of winter rainfall, and also the fact that Namaqualand is further from Cape Town than Hermanus is. While it would be ideal to be able to drive as far north as Springbok, you need to get at least as far as the Clanwilliam / Kamieskroon area to get a sense of the beauty.

The area is a semi-desert, so when the flowers are not in bloom it's rather stark. I think that the semi-desert has a certain mystique, but that's personal taste, and is not everyone's cup of tea.

The challenges of the terrain are captured in the name of one town in the region, Moedverloor. It means Lost Courage in Afrikaans.

A local person would be able to tell you what the Namaqualand rains had been like this last July / August. If you hear that the rains were good, it would be worth going to Namaqualand. In that case it would be nice to be able to spend 2 or more nights in the region, but even one night would give you some sense of the area.

The towns in Namaqualand are small, and Namaqualand is not a tourist haven, except for about 3 weeks in the spring, more so in the one out of 4 or 5 years when the flowers are at their most spectacular. Consequently it's quite common for local farmers to open up their homes to paying guests just for that period.

Even if you don't normally stay at B&Bs, it's an interesting experience to spend the night in the home of a local farm family. It would give you an authentic insight into the local community.

If you don't want a B&B type experience, an Internet search reveals that there is a 5 star Relais & Châteaux property called Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve outside of Clanwilliam, 270 km (168 miles) from Cape Town. I saw in one of Roccco's posts that it was a place he had been considering for his next trip to South Africa.

From there you would be able to do some magnificent hiking in the Cederberg, and you would be able to view the local Bushman rock art.

My knowledge of Namaqualand, especially accommodations, is not current, but I hope the overview helps.
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Aug 31st, 2004, 07:36 AM
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Postscript.

This may seem obvious, Drebby, but perhaps is worth mentioning anyway.

If you had spent a night in the winelands (Stellenbosch or Franschhoek), and wanted to continue to Namaqualand, it would not make sense to return to Cape Town and then set out for Namaqualand.

In that case, it would be more effective to drive through Paarl and Wellington to Malmesbury, where you could pick up the N7 and head north through Piketberg and Citrusdal to Clanwilliam.

If, on the other hand, you are setting out for Namaqualand from Cape Town, then of course it would make sense to get onto the N7 just outside of Cape Town.
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Aug 31st, 2004, 07:51 AM
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Thank you Judy. Great overview and helps me understand options. We had been thinking about going to see the whales, so that might give us the opportunity to see some of both.
Does anyone have current info on this winter's rains north of Cape Town? If we wanted to plan to stay in a farmhouse, do we need reservations in advance, or just look for signs or postings when we arrive?
Thanks.
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Aug 31st, 2004, 06:31 PM
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The normally closed areas of West Coast National Park should be open in September if I remember correctly. That area is a beautiul day drive from Cape Town and you can enjoy the coast, some animals and the wildflowers. Your hotel/travel agent can confirm if the closed areas are open.
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Aug 31st, 2004, 10:46 PM
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An article on the "Independent Online" website dated 10 July said "For the second year in a row, things look grim for the spring flower season in Namaqualand, normally one of the natural wonders of the world. After another dry start to winter, the veld is greener than last year, but the rainfall has been well below par."

But in last night's "The Star" there was a very positive feature. So unless it is "puffery", it seems as if there has been enough rain since then to
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Aug 31st, 2004, 10:51 PM
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Sorry, I'll continue, typing a little less frantically . . .

. . . since then to turn this around. I can;t give the URL to the latter article, because although it's on The Star's website, it is subscriber-restricted. But a small quote from it says:

"The Cape Floral Kingdom has finally been recognised as South Africa's sixth world heritage site.

"It stretches all the way from Namaqualand, in the Northern Cape, through the valleys and mountains of the Western Cape to the aloe-rich Eastern Cape.

"The decision in July could not have come at a better time. Already many of 8 700 species that occur in the region are starting to flower and are expected to reach their peak in September.

"As if in recognition of the tribute paid to it by the World Heritage Committee, nature this year promises a magnificent display."
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Sep 6th, 2004, 03:00 PM
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How long is the drive from Namaqualand to Cape Town or Stellenbosch/Franschhoek?
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Sep 8th, 2004, 05:41 AM
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Another article on wild flower viewing, published yesterday in the Pretoria News and available this time on the non-subscriber parent IOL site:

http://tinyurl.com/629tm
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Sep 8th, 2004, 06:39 AM
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We drove from Franschhoek to Hermanus in about 3 hours, taking our time, as I recall...whoops, now I read that Namaqualand is off in a different direction from Cape Town, so in the words of Emily Latella, "never mind"
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