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North to West Cape flower spectacular

Posted by: African Budget Safaris.  Article from Africa Geographic.

Earlier this month I posted about my adventure in the Northern Cape to see the annual floral display mother nature puts on for us!  See part one of my Northern Cape Flower Spectacular and read below for the second instalment as we venture further down the coast towards the Western Cape with African Budget Safaris.

pink-flowers

Pink dusted hills on the R27 to Nieuwoudtville ©AJH

Nieuwoudtville: Bulb capital of the world

The surprise of the pink dusted landscape from the day before was an apt prelude to Nieuwoudtville: “The Place of Hidden Treasures”. From the Glacial Pavement to the Hantam Botanical Gardens and the Kokerboom forest just up the road, it does not disappoint. It even boasts a 90 metre high waterfall that appears out of nowhere.

That is on the surface. The real treasure is what lies beneath the ground and Nieuwoudtville’s claim-to-fame as the “Bulb Capital of the World”. With three different soil types, the area boasts over 309 of the Cape Floral Kingdoms 1551 geophytes! Invisible for most of the year these bulbs flower from August to October. As a result this small town is a veritable mecca for botanists doing a pilgrimage here from all around the world.

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Fields of blue near Nieuwoudtville ©AJH

Nieuwoudtville was also full of helpful and friendly locals keen to lend a hand or share in their knowledge of the local surrounds. Despite the ‘lack of flowers’ due to poor rains, our host at the B&B let slip on a local secret. Following her directions, we drove down some more dusty roads, left the car and walked into a field. Here again, against a dusty backdrop were the most unbelievable colours. We stood knee deep in a bed of blue. What was becoming apparent was that the flowers were there, you just had to know where to look. I already felt justified in the choice not to forgo our trip to the north.

Sparaxis-elegans

Sparaxis elegans, endemic to the area surrounding Nieuwoudtville ©AJH

Nieuwoudtville to Jacobs Bay

Satisfied and feeling chuffed with our floral ‘discoveries’ we continued towards the coast and then down on route to Jacobs Bay. The roads in the Northern and Western Cape are beautiful. The smooth black and grey asphalt was a relief from the Karoo dirt track the day before. On the border between the Northern and Western Cape is Vanrhyns Pass. Its sudden appearance takes your breath away. It feels as if you are in an aeroplane looking down over the vast sweeping coastal plains. After trying unsuccessfully to capture the sublime views with our cameras we sped along looking forward to seeing the ocean.

In Nieuwoudtville we had learnt first-hand that the locals held the key to the flowers. We therefore made a point of stopping in at padstals and coffee shops, supporting local industry and getting a sense of the lay of the land. It was in Lambert’s Bay, at an inconspicuous looking local café called The Mad Hatter that the proprietor overheard us talking about our search for the flowers. Elands Baai she said was flowering right now. She had been there this morning, and told us which roads to avoid and exactly where to go.

rays-of-colour

Surprising sprays of colour, Elands Bay ©AJH

Half an hour later after carefully following directions through the town, round the bend past the canning factory and along the bay, there we were – beautiful russet tones, yellow and orange against the cliffs, tufts of green, blushes of pink and red highlights flecked in between. The flowers all faced the sun, glowing in the gentle afternoon rays while behind us the waves crashed and the water sparkled. This was it. The kaleidoscopic array of colour I’d been after. Just wow.

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Orange daisies, Elands Bay ©AJH

It’s difficult to reduce a road trip to just one moment but if I were going to, this would be it. We spent a bit of time walking amongst the flowers and soaking up the views beneath Elands Bay cave and then once again, somewhat reluctantly, headed down the coast towards Jacob’s bay. Having ticked the flower box, the rest of the road trip took on that end-of-the-road feel. From here on we were heading home.

West Coast National Park and then home

The next day, after spending the morning walking about the fynbos and hearing about all the red-list species of Mesembs being discovered in Jacob’s Bay, we moved onwards through the West Coast National Park. The park is an absolute gem. The perfect spot to see the West Coast flowers and, at only a one and a half hours drive, an easy getaway for anyone coming from Cape Town. We were treated to stunning flower-filled views over Saldhana Bay and the Postberg sanctuary. The Postberg, the hill that we looked at over the bay, is host to a number of hiking trails that are only open in August and September. It promised to be a special trip all on its own but sadly we had run out of time.

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West Coast National Park ©AJH

Driving into Swellendam, Voortrek Straat glowing with orange street lights, we were home. We had travelled over a thousand and three hundred kilometres into the Northern Cape and down the West Coast. We had found the flowers and I had finally ticked an item off my bucket list. But looking at it that way, an item to cross off a list, is to give the flowers short thrift. You see I keep thinking about what we saw, what everyone described as “the end of the show in a bad year”. I’m coming back you see, next year and the year after that. If this was a poor show, I can’t wait to see a good one.

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Blue and yellow field ©AJH

About African Budget Safaris

African Budget Safaris works with a curated selection of safari operators, offering packages from Cape Town to Ethiopia. From one day of shark diving to 56 day pan-African overlands, we have it covered. Travellers benefit from our in-depth knowledge of both destinations and operators, and our prices are all guaranteed lower than booking directly.

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