The only thing better than the varied natural splendour of the South African landscape is our inherent desire to hit the road to uncover and explore it all for ourselves. The Northern Cape’s springtime bloom is a must on any local traveller’s to-do list.
Also known as the Daisy Route, the transformation from desert-like dust land to a sea of flora spanning more than 400 000 square kilometres of Northern Cape landscape, is a phenomenon that each year draws thousands of spectators from all parts of the world. And yet, as with most things in nature, this seasonal metamorphosis is far from guaranteed.
With the average annual rainfall for this region of South Africa being limited to a maximum of around 250 mm, so much of the splendour associated with the picture-postcard setting relies on this limited wet season occurring between June and August. Assuming a best-case scenario, this welcomed moisture triggers the blooming of around 3 500 floral species, more than a 1 000 of which can’t be found anywhere else in the world.
Named after the largest Khoikhoi tribe to have originally inhabited this land, the Nama, the Namaqualand region is split into two portions by the Orange River. While the Great Namaqualand falls within neighbouring Namibia’s borders, the so-called Little Namaqualand runs south from this major river and down the west coast of South Africa to include the towns of Springbok, Kamieskroon, Garies and Nieuwoudtville.
Best viewed between 10:30 am and 4:00 pm, given that this blanket of multicoloured flora favours the path of the sun, it’s recommended that visitors begin their respective exploration as far north as they’re prepared to travel, before enjoying prime viewing on a meandering journey southward. That said, many choose the town of Springbok, a 6-hour drive from Cape Town, as a starting point. Boasting a relatively broad selection of accommodation options together with other tourism-focused amenities, another benefit of spending a night in Springbok is that it allows for a leisurely start to the day before setting course to cover the 70-kilometre-long drive to visit the spectacular Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, outside of Kamieskroon.
A lesser-known fact is that the annual bloom is staggered according to the lay of the land, beginning in the north towards the end of August and culminating somewhat closer to Cape Town, around towns like Clanwilliam and Citrusdal, around the end of September. It’s said that the emergence of purple vygies, a daisy-like flower, signals the end of the season.
Wending northwards away from Cape Town and culminating at the Namibian border, the recently upgraded N7 national highway offers those keen to explore the “Succulent Karoo” a convincing, well-maintained conduit on which to begin planning.
Of course, no matter the state of the bloom or, indeed, any other reason for an extended road trip, ensuring that your vehicle of choice is in good running condition is always advisable. This including critical items like tyres, head- and tail lamps and the battery – each of which can easily be checked by qualified professionals before you set off.
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