WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK: A GUIDE TO VIEWING THE SPRING FLOWERS FROM CAPE TOWN
Friday, September 23, 2016
Every year during the spring months of August and September, certain parts of South Africa burst into a kaleidoscope of colours as Mother Nature boasts an impressive display of various wild flowers throughout the country. Even if you don’t consider yourself a die-hard flora lover, it’s hard not to be captivated by the vibrant hues of orange, yellow, white, red, pink and purple that carpet the fields in these areas. Here is a guide to viewing the budding beauties from Cape Town, South Africa.
Best places in South Africa to see the wild flowers:
There are a number of areas in the Western Cape and Northern Cape regions where you can go to observe the wild flowers in all their glory. These areas, to name a few, include Darling and Clanwilliam in the Western Cape region, both of which host annual wildflower shows; and Nieuwoudtville and Namaqualand in the Northern Cape Region, which are considered the ultimate flower destinations in South Africa. Nieuwoudtville and Namaqualand are both located several hours outside of Cape Town, which makes them too far out for a day trip, so it would be best to stay in the area overnight and reserve accommodation in advance, especially during the height of the spring flower season.
If you are not willing to endure the long, seven-hour journey up to the Namaqualand area, the West Coast National Park is situated roughly 120km from Cape Town, making it the perfect area for a day trip to see the wild flowers, as it can be reached within an hour and a half drive from the city. The West Coast National Park is a coastal wilderness area surrounding the beautiful Langebaan Lagoon, and boasts magical views, white sandy dunes, spectacular flora, incredible birdlife and other wildlife, as well as colourful carpets of spring flowers.
Best time of year to see the flowers:
The northern section of the West Coast National Park, the Postberg Flower Reserve, is only open to the public in August and September each year during the spring flower season. The spring flower season runs from the beginning of August until the end of September, and flowers can be seen in abundance during these months, but the height of the peak season is considered to be from the end of August to mid-September. During the height of the peak season, it is common to experience high volumes of vehicles in the Park with people coming from all over to view the vibrant flowers, so it is advised to arrive earlier in the day to try and avoid the queues.
The blooming of the flowers is incredibly weather dependent, so it’s recommend to check the weather forecast before you make a trip up to the West Coast National Park to see the flowers. The flowers only show themselves on sunny days, so there is no point in arriving at the park on a cloudy day, as you won’t get to see much unfortunately. Also, the flowers are best seen during the brightest part of the day in the direct sunlight, which is generally between 10:30am to 15:30pm.
If you are travelling to the West Coast National Park towards the beginning or end of the flower season and are not sure whether the trip out there will be worth it, you can phone ahead and check with the tourism authority in the West Coast National Park, and they should be able to give you a better idea of whether or not the flowers are still able to be viewed so you can plan your trip accordingly.
Other things to do and see in the West Coast National Park:
Besides boasting an impressive display of wild flowers during the spring season, the West Coast National Park has a lot to offer for nature enthusiasts throughout the year. It is home to a wide variety of animals and birdlife, hiking trails, cycling and mountain bike routes, as well as a recreational zone for various water sports and activities.
Some of more commonly seen animals in the West Coast National Park include Bontebok, Eland, Cape Mountain Zebras, Kudu, Red Hartebeest, Caracals, Duikers, Wildebeest, Gemsbok and Steenbok. Bird enthusiasts can visit some of the bird hides located throughout the Park, which offer the best opportunities for viewing some of the many bird species found in the area, including African Oystercatchers, Flamingos, Pelicans, Ostriches, Curlew Sandpipers, Grey Plovers and Sanderlings. During the months of June to November, you may be lucky enough to spot the Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales that migrate towards the southern coast of South Africa, so be sure to keep your eyes open for that during your visit to the West Coast National Park.
There are a number of hiking trails scattered around the Park that are open throughout the year, but the Steenbok and Postberg trails are only open during August and September. During the flower season, you can either take a gentle stroll through the rainbow of petals in the Postberg section, or enjoy the one-day, 13.9km Steenbok trail through flowers and fynbos, or even the two-day, 27.3km Postberg trail for the more adventurous hikers. Both of these routes are very popular, so it’s recommended that you book ahead if planning on tackling either of these hikes during the spring flower season.
There is only one restaurant, the Geelbek Restaurant, located within the West Coast National Park where you can enjoy a sit-down meal, and is open 7 days a week. Otherwise, if you are looking for something different, there are a number of picnic areas and braai facilities (a South African version of a barbecue) located around the Park, so you can turn your visit into a full day outing.
If you feel that a day trip is not long enough to soak up all the beauty of the natural surrounds, there are a number of accommodation options within the Park that you can pick from to extend your stay. These options vary from self-catering cottages, well-equipped house boats, or enjoying the overnight facilities at Plankiesbaai if you decided to embark on the Postberg two-day hiking trail.
How to get to the West Coast National Park:
There are two main gates leading into the West Coast National Park, the West Coast Gate leading off from the R27 if coming from Cape Town, and the Langebaan Gate located further north of the Park if coming from Langebaan.
If you come in from the West Coast Gate off the R27, it is recommended that you head up north to the Postberg section first. Once you’ve taken in the splendour of the wild flowers, then you can drive back down to have something to eat at the Geelbek Restaurant or stop over at one of the picnic sites along the way, before proceeding up to the Seeberg viewpoint and exit via the Langebaan Gate. If you start off via the Langebaan Gate, then simply head down towards the restaurant before proceeding up north towards the Postberg Section.
West Coast National Park Opening Times:
September to March:
07:00am – 19:00pm (Last vehicle entry at 18:30pm)
April to August:
07:00am – 18:00pm (Last vehicle entry at 17:30pm)
Postberg Section (Only open during August and September):
09:00am – 17:00pm (flower season) (Last vehicle entry to Postberg at 16:30pm)
A trip to the see the spectacular display of wild flowers in the West Coast National Park is a must during your trip to Cape Town, whether it’s your first time seeing them or your 100th time! For more information on the West Coast National Park, you can visit their website. Check out more pictures of the wild flowers in the West Coast National Park here.
by Tamsyn-munnikFriday, September 23, 2016
I'm a fun-loving, 20-something year old girl born and raised in the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa. I have an immense passion to explore new places, learn about different cultures, and experience new adventures. My love of travel lead me to study towards a Diploma in International Travel, preparing me for a job within the tourism industry in South Africa. But after working for four and a half years in tourism industry and hearing about everyone's amazing experiences while travelling, I got itchy feet and wanted to do some exploring of my own. I completed a TEFL course, packed my bags and spent the past two amazing years teaching English to young children in China. Now I'm plotting my next big adventure, and seeing where this crazy ride called "Life" takes me. You can follow me on my journey on my blog: www.mylifeofwanderlust.com.Read more at mylifeofwanderlust.com