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8 Wildflower Hotspots

8 Wildflower Hotspots

Wildflower hotspots – where flower stalking in the wild can’t get any better…

1. Northern Cape – Skilpad Rest Camp, Namaqua National Park

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I’ve stayed a couple of times at the Skilpad Rest Camp with its four self-catering chalets, and it remains in my memory as the vantage point for one of the most spectacular sunsets I’ve ever seen. It’s quiet here, and I love returning for this reason. But, of course, once a year Namaqualand becomes flower central and attracts as many tourists as bees to enjoy the show. Around the chalets there are lots of daisies and mesembs, but I prefer an amble along the coastal section of this 700km² nature reserve. There’s lots more variety here, but most tourists will stay around Skilpad to enjoy the orange and yellow fields of flowers it’s famous for. This section of the park is quieter and, with the Atlantic bashing against the rocky shoreline, it’s my favourite place to enjoy spring. Back at my chalet, I like to watch the sunset from the enclosed patio and then sit by the fireplace with a glass of red wine. The chalets have fully equipped kitchens and braai areas, but the closest town is tiny Kamieskroon, where you can only buy the very basics, so bring the extras with you. – Petro Kotzé

2. Northern Cape – Groenriviersmond, Namaqua National Park

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“I’m sorry sir, we’re out of petrol,” said the petrol attendant in Garies. In order to circumvent a long and potentially dangerous detour via Bitterfontein, I called our host and she promised to have 30 litres of petrol waiting for us when we arrived. This is the type of warm hospitality you can expect from authentic Namaqualander couple, Kolie and Elrien Nieuwoudt, no matter what you ask of them. Groenriviersmond is primarily a self-catering establishment but, being on motorbikes, I’d asked Elrien if she could provide us with a braai pack and salad each. Again, she delivered more than was asked for and for far less money than we’d expected. This oasis, complete with quiver trees and a well-established succulent garden, is the ideal base from which to explore the rugged West Coast dirt tracks and flower hotspots of Namaqualand in spring. It’s just 4km from the coast and offers four self-catering rooms, a three-sleeper, B&B unit, a basic backpacker’s hut (sleeps two) and four campsites. Each of the self-catering rooms is en suite, powered by gas and solar and has its own braai facilities. Pets allowed by prior arrangement. – Nick Yell

3. Northern Cape – Goegap Nature Reserve, Springbok

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This small provincial reserve has an amazing succulent garden at the info centre which is worth visiting throughout the year, but the carpets of spring flowers are spectacular if you get your timing right. Staff very considerately label a selection of wildflowers in bloom, so you can learn the names of the plants. The statuesque kokerbome or quiver trees (Aloe dichotoma) make wonderful photographic subjects too, so I always end up spending hours with my camera here. Thatched bomas scattered around the valley provide shade for picnics, as it can get hot during the day, even at the tail-end of winter. There’s a 4×4 route through the hills surrounding the central plain for those with the time to venture deeper into this tranquil, arid landscape. A new addition to the campsite near the main gate are two self-catering cottages, each with three bedrooms and two bathrooms. They’re solar powered and have gas stoves – and you can’t ask for starrier skies over your braai at night. – Marion Whitehead

4. West Coast – Farmhouse Hotel, Langebaan

The Farmhouse exterior

Overlooking the Langebaan Lagoon, the Farmhouse Hotel was originally a historic farmstead and is now a four-star hotel with facilities that include the Farmhouse Restaurant (popular with locals for its three-course Sunday lunches), Legends Bar, gym, spa, a terrace overlooking the lagoon, perfect for enjoying leisurely breakfasts, and Tannie Jane’s Spens (pantry) where guests can buy home-made condiments, treats or a fresh seedloaf from the Farmhouse kitchen. The hotel has its own boatyard for visiting sailors and the yacht club is nearby. The ruggedly beautiful lagoon is largely unspoilt and offers scope for bird watching, hiking and water sports. The hotel is also ideally situated as a base for exploring the West Coast during the spectacular spring flower show every year. There’s a range of accommodation, including spacious en-suite rooms with fireplaces and lagoon views, the Crash Pads and Traveller’s Rooms that would suit kite surfers and other adventurers, and the cottage and the villa for families or groups. – Keri Harvey

5. Western Cape – Traveller’s Rest, Cederberg

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Nature lovers who are satisfied with the basics – and, of course, the great outdoors – will love Traveller’s Rest on the Pakhuis Pass near Clanwilliam. These affordable, rustic, self-catering cottages will appeal to people who want to get away from the rat race. Almost perfectly free of cellphone reception and surrounded by the craggy rock formations characteristic of the pass, this is the place to escape from noise and city demands. A ‘flower hotspot’ in August/September, depending on the rains, it’s one of the best areas for a variety of blooms, according to farm-owner Haffie Strauss, who has lived in the area for 74 years. She suggests you plan your visit to coincide with the Clanwilliam Wild Flower Show in late August/early September. Wander through nature’s colourful garden in the day, or walk the Sevilla rock-art trail, and at night laze around your cosy fireplace eating home-made bobotie and eland stew. – Ron Swilling

6. West Coast – The Merry Widow Country Retreat, Hopefield

Merry widow facade

If you’re in search of spring flowers, or a weekend of R&R, take a turn-off to The Merry Widow Country Retreat. It’s down Church Street where the blue facade and punchy yellow hibiscus blossoms welcome you. The historical building has been converted into a B&B with four large suites that still have their high ceilings and thick walls. The decor is different in each, but has been given the same attention to detail seen throughout the establishment. There’s the Traveller’s Room which is simple in cream, the red-walled Moroccan Room with a canopy bed, the cosy Family Room and the stunning Stone Cottage with a king-sized brass bed. All the rooms lead onto the large garden planted with more than 100 trees, and roses in many colours. In August and September the town of Hopefield is flanked by spring flowers and driving the Hopefield to Velddrif road can be quite spectacular. But before you head out, enjoy an excellent breakfast served on the covered terrace up at the main house. Weekend guests can expect to be joined by locals, and day visitors are attracted by both the tasty fare and the Country Mill Saturday Farmer’s Market which is held in another fine old building on the premises. On the West Coast ‘the more the merrier’ applies to The Merry Widow too. – Keri Harvey

7. Northern Cape – Kamieskroon Hotel, Kamieskroon

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Canadian master photographer Freeman Patterson once told me that I’d meet anyone who mattered just by sitting on the veranda of the Kamieskroon Hotel. We were having a drink on the said stoep at the time, which was a hive of chatter with happy flower tourists swopping tips on their sightings of the day. The photographic workshops started by Freeman and Colla Swart more than 30 years ago helped put the stark beauty of Namaqualand on the map and has brought the world to kuier at this dorp’s striking doorstep, just 21km from Namaqua National Park’s floriferous Skilpad section. The country hotel has been the go-to place during flower season ever since, even though the two photographers have retired from giving workshops. There are more good flower-spotting routes near the sleepy village of Kamieskroon. Take a trip over Kamiesberg and Studer’s passes to Garies; drive west over Grootvlei Pass to Hondeklip Bay; and try the Arakoop/No Heep detour to Springbok. The hotel keeps a good table and is a comfortable, old-fashioned country inn with 24 en-suite rooms that have been renovated. There’s also a camping site for the more self-sufficient types. – Marion Whitehead

8. Western Cape – The Longhouse, Clanwilliam

The Longhouse, image Peter Atterbury YG7V59922

As a photographer I travel often and when I find a gem to stay at, I want to share it. The Longhouse guest house in Clanwilliam is one such gem. The owner, Cheryl, told me she had no intention of buying a guest house, but en route to buying a washing machine, a For Sale sign caught her eye. Intrigued, she ventured in and that was it. Sold. With the same enthusiasm she renovated the early 19th century thatched-roof cottage. It’s easy to fall in love with the place, ask Michel, who arrived on a business trip, fell in love with the place – and Cheryl – and never left. He happens to be fluent in French and German and speaks a little Italian, a useful skill in tourism. After sitting outside and sharing a glass of Cederberg Sauvignon Blanc with other guests as the moon lit up the beautiful garden, I snuck off to my room, beaten to bed by Liquorice the resident black cat. Having just left my feline friend at home I was comforted to have him curled up for the night. In the morning Cheryl’s two boisterous puppies escorted me to breakfast; no surprise that The Longhouse is pet friendly. It’s also a perfect base during flower season when carpets of wildflowers abound in the area – some of the most beautiful and rare in the world. And if you manage to get here in late August/early September, the spectacular Clanwilliam Flower Show is a must-see. – Shaen Adey

Here are 7 more flower hotspots we recommend…

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