Along the west coast of South Africa, a seemingly lifeless landscape is about to burst into bloom. As the winter rains begin to fall, millions of flowers appear as if by magic from the once-dry soil, carpeting the countryside in a blaze of color.
By following a route south from Springbok to the southern tip of the Western Cape, you can watch antelopes and other African wildlife in the parks and reserves amidst the most spectacular spring floral displays.
Here’s a brief guide to the best wildflower-viewing spots along the way:
For just a short time each year, the dusty plains of Namaqua National Park turn into a daisy-strewn wonderland, with perennial herbs, aloes, lilies, and countless other species adding their own special flourish to the mosaic.
Head south to the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve to continue your tour. Since most of the desert flowers follow the sun, it’s best to visit the reserve during the hottest part of the day.
Farther down the coast (about 90 miles north of Cape Town), you’ll find the Postberg Flower Reserve, a small section of the West Coast National Park, which is only open during flower season in August and September.
Nearby, masses of orange, pink, purple, yellow and white flowers blanket the colorful strip of land between the churning Atlantic and the calm waters of Langebaan Lagoon.
In addition to the spectacular flora, park visitors are likely to see a variety of native fauna, including eland, red hartebeest, and Cape grysbok grazing on the fields of flowers as they make their way along the well-marked trails.
Follow the cape as it zigs east to make a final stop at De Hoop Nature Reserve, where lowland fynbos erupts in a riot of color as sunbirds and Cape honey bees dart between the flowers feeding on nectar and pollinating plants.
With an estimated 1,500 plant species within the reserve, De Hoop is among the most diverse parks in the Cape Floristic Region. Cape mountain zebra and bontebok gather on the flowering grasslands while southern right whales glide around the secluded coves.
Though wildflower season on South Africa’s western coast is relatively short-lived — running from late July through October — there is no better place to see nature at its most colorful. It might even make you believe in magic again.
Photojournalists Marcus and Kate Westberg cover travel and conservation topics for Intelligent Travel, News Watch, and other publications. See more of their work on Life Through a Lens, on their Facebook page, and on Twitter.
- For more information about South Africa’s wildflower season, visit www.sanparks.org