One of the greatest natural shows in the country is about to happen. Many Capetonians make the annual pilgrimage up the West Coast to see it; a magnificent display unlike any other you’re likely to find. For a period of time, roughly several weeks, the seemingly-drab hills of South Africa’s south-western coastline and its interior region come to life with a show worthy of a standing ovation, an event which sees thousands of wild flowers emerge like clockwork to greet the spring sun. A vast tapestry of patchworked fields reaches beyond the horizon, sporting all colours of the rainbow. It’s a mesmerising sight to behold, and a trip within reach – and budget – for many local travellers.
It begins typically around mid-August. Once the snow has largely dissipated from the high peaks and when the seasonal vleis have had their winter fill, when the sun begins to rise ever-so earlier with each passing week – you know it won’t be long. From the characterful town of Darling to the sanctity of the West Coast National Park, heading up north to Niewuoudtville and then Namaqualand and Tankwa regions, there’s a show about to happen.
The annual display starts up north first, beginning as early as late July during some years and steadily making its way down southwards – by early September the West Coast is sporting its spring best.
Plan your route
Making a day trip out of it? Or perhaps you’re planning a longer sojourn? Have a set location in mind about where you’d like to travel to and then work your way out from there. Towns like Langebaan, Darling and Paternoster are great locations to centre yourself around when choosing to do the spring flower trip. Alternatively, you can choose to ‘glamp’ and wake up with your morning coffee to the countless vygies and other flowers rising to greet you. Pop-up tented camps now exist during the spring flower season, with the SkilPad and Beach Flower camps providing locals with all-inclusive, first-hand experiences to witness the event. The West Coast National Park, formed around an impressive natural spectacle that is the Langebaan lagoon, offers day visitors a superb viewing affair less than an hour out of Cape Town. Look out for the left-turn around 20km’s after passing Yzerfontein.
Fact – you can pick up a nasty sunburn during spring. The West Coast and the north-western interior of the Western Cape gets hotter and is more exposed than Cape Town. Daytrippers should bring plenty of water and snacks, use sunscreen and are advised to wear hats. The best time to view the flowers is during the ‘power flower hours’ – the hottest period of the day which is from 11 am – 3pm. This is when the flowers are fully extended and are providing their best display. Bear in mind that the flowers will not look as spectacular on overcast or on rainy days – making advance planning difficult. However, if you’re planning something longer than a day trip, it is advised to book your accommodation well in advance.
Bear in mind that there are parts of this region where there is no cellphone reception.
For up-to-date information about where to view the best flowers, you can call the West Coast line at +27 72 938 8186 and the Namakwa line at +27 79 294 7260. Download the viewing map here.
Photography HM Images