Wind was a major factor that needed to be looked at when considering the lifespan of flower scenes
NAMAQUALAND has exploded into a spectacular “sea of colour”, with the area’s iconic and dramatic flower season, which attracts thousands of “colour-hungry” visitors annually, going into full bloom.
Mike Spies from Namakwa Tours in Vanrhynsdorp, a seasoned tour guide and flower expert, said yesterday that the annual flower season in Namaqualand was an “absolutely dynamic and natural process”.
“It is by no means a farming activity and is not determined by irrigation systems or fertilisers. There is also no way that flowers are confined by fences or municipal boundaries. Also, it is not only the ‘true Namaqualand’ boasting breathtaking flower scenes. We at Namakwa Tours like to call the entire area “Blommeland” (Flowerland),” Spies said.
He added that the region’s flower season starts at the beginning to mid-July already and sometimes continues into October.
“We must take into account that ‘Blommeland’ is not a flat piece of soil and different weather patterns play a role. One should also realise that the higher-lying areas, like the Kamiesberge and also parts of the Olifants River, Cedar and Piket berge are cooler until later in spring, and usually only start showing their flower extravaganzas by mid-September. This is one point that few people, even tourists, do not take into account. Flowers need heat and sunshine to bloom,” Spies noted.
He further said that wind was a major factor that needed to be looked at when considering the lifespan of flower scenes.
“Warm mountain winds are not ideal for flower watchers, but are essential for the drying and release of different flower species. Namaqualand and ‘Blommeland’ is a specialist area and not just a city tour where you simply drive to a place and look at buildings. You have to look for the flowers. You have to be prepared to cover hundreds of kilometres and you must realise it’s not just about the plains with Namaqualand daisies. There is so much more. This is where the saying ‘it’s the small things that count’ becomes important. Nature is unpredictable and so are the flowers,” Spies concluded.
Some of the more common Namaqualand flower species that can be seen during flower season include the Dimorphotheca pluvialis (Namakwa daisy), mass-flowering daisies found across the entire region and can almost be mistaken for snow from a distance, Arctotis fastuosa (bitter gousblom), a pretty flower that can be found growing abundantly in the Tankwa National Park during springtime, Colchicum sp (cup and saucer), low-lying flowers that can be found north of the Cape Floral Region, Jordaaniella cuprea (rank vygie), a creeping succulent that blooms from July to August, Tripteris oppositifolia (skaapbos), a stunning flower that can be found all over the Namakwa region, especially in Vanrhynsdorp, and the Gazania krebsiana (gousblom), known as the pride of the flower route.
The following are suggested routes to make the most of the floral splendour.
Route 1: Garies to Hondeklipbaai (R362) – towards Soebatsfontein take Kamieskroon turn-off – at Kamieskroon, pass the hotel to Namakwa National Park
Route 2: From Kamieskroon, take the turn-off to Leliefontein
Route 3: Kamiesberg Pass – towards Gamoep take Nourivier turn-off – Garies via Karas
Route 4: Springbok to Steinkopf via Nababeep (N7) – Port Nolloth (R382) – Grootmis/Kleinzee (permit required) – Spektakel Pass – Goegap Nature Reserve
To view the flowers at their best, choose the hottest time of the day, which is from 11am to 3pm. It’s the extended flower-power hour.
Respect the floral paradise: walk with care and don’t trample plants unnecessarily. Don’t pick any buds, bulbs or specimens, and do not disturb sensitive dune areas.
The flowers always face the sun. Try to drive towards the sun to enjoy nature’s dazzling display to the fullest. When viewing flowers on foot, stand with the sun behind you. Certain flowers don’t open when it is overcast.
The towns along the Flower Route are few and far between. Cellphone reception isn’t always available and you need to factor that in when planning your trip.
Helpful hints for taking photos of flowers include photographing the flowers either in the morning or just after 3pm in the afternoon, steering clear of taking photographs on windy days, getting really close to the flower, using a reflector on your camera, changing your point of view in order to get the perfect shot and making sure your background is simple and not cluttered.