Each year from early August through to the end of September – and sometimes for longer depending on the amount of rainfall – carpets of colourful wildflowers push through the dry soil on the Cape West Coast, transforming the semi-arid scrublands into a Wildflower Wonderland that stretches as far as the eye can see.
The natural phenomenon attracts thousands of people from far and wide who wish to have their spirits lifted by the sheer spectacle and multitude of colours that await – from flaming orange, and bright yellow to colourful buds in shades of pink, fuchsia and white that cascade in carpets over hills and amass along shorelines.
Running from Namaqualand in the north, the Cape Flower Route displays its first splashes of colour in early August, before rolling south through Nieuwoudtville and the Cederberg towards the Cape West Coast, where the much-anticipated blooms arrive in a riot of colour by early September. Drifts of white rain daisies and tiny yellow button daisies give way to blue flax and pink nemesias, delicate yellow gansogies, felicias, nemesias and vygies.
Where to go
One of the best places to view the wildflowers is the West Coast National Park, about an hour and a half from Cape Town. In particular, the Postberg portion of the reserve, which is kept pristine and untouched in anticipation of their reappearance, only opens from August to September each year. The park stretches from Yzerfontein to Langebaan against the backdrop of an azure blue lagoon, with white dunes, rare fynbos, green wetlands and abundant wildlife adding to the experience. A paradise for hikers, mountain bikers, whale watching, birders and nature lovers alike. Although nothing quite rivals the appeal of the wildflowers which can be appreciated from a drive that leads to the rocky outcrops and elevate viewing points, to where the coastline meets the 16-mile beach and wild Atlantic Ocean.
Not far away near the town of Darling is the Tienie Versfeld Nature Reserve. On the R315 surrounded by picturesque farms and Swartland renosterveld, the 22 hectares of land was donated to the National Botanical Society of South Africa (SANBI) by the owner Marthinus Versfeld – known locally as Oom Tienie. An incredibly pretty reserve, it is accessed by climbing a foot ladder perched over the fence. Its abundance of wildflowers can be viewed from a footpath that crisscrosses the land. Seek out Chincherinechee, Butterfly lilies, Chandelier lilies – a triumph when in bloom, as well as satin flowers and bulbs.
Waylands Wild Flower Reserve on Waylands Farm outside Darling was started by Frederick Duckitt in the early 1900sand has been inviting visitors to marvel at the spectacular spring display of over 300 species of wildflowers each year. The veld around Hopefield offers up its own display of springtime flowers, when the green winter fields become covered in daisies. The Hopefield area has four recognised botanical zones: renosterveld, sandveld, reed veld and vlei areas to explore, the river banks in the town are a good place for a walk through the blossoms.
What to know
Please don’t pick or trample the wildflowers – not even when chasing that perfect photograph. The best time to see them is in the morning on a sunny day when they open to face the rising sun. The best area in September is in the south around the West Coast National Park, Hopefield and Darling. The amount of flowers on show is determined by winter rains, the wind and other natural factors, the timing of their appearance can therefore vary slightly. You might consider packing a picnic, which can be topped up at one of the many farm stalls you’ll encounter, or stop for a coffee and some home-baked treats in one of the charming towns you’ll discover along the way.
This article first appeared in the Lexus – Life, Mastery in Motion magazine.