Tip 1: Know when the Spring Wild Flowers are (read this if nothing else!)
This is probably the number ONE thing that visitors misunderstand. Our spring is NOT the same as cooler Cape Town. Our spring starts much earlier. I cannot tell you the number of times we get requests for late September when all the flowers have gone! We should actually call them “late winter flowers” but I appreciate it doesnt have the same ring to it.
Our spring starts in early to mid-August. The flower season peaks IN AUGUST and it is dependent on the winter rains. But it does depend on where you go…
The further north, the earlier the flowers…
As a general rule the spring flowers begin flowering first in the Northern Cape in Namaqualand in late July or early August. They then advance southwards through Nieuwoudtville and the Cederberg region and then appear on the West Coast at the end of August. Thus the West Coast offers the best chance of seeing spring flowers in early September.
So you can see that if you do a tour through the whole area, there will be some areas which are at their peak, some which are just beginning and some which are going over.
Plus there’s an element of luck as it all depends on the amount of rain. Some years are better than others! If there has been a steady flow of gentle cold fronts during the winter, then it is likely to be a good and long-lasting flower season. But one or two violent storms interspersed with lots of dry weather are not so good.
Spring/late winter temperatures are also important. If it heats up too quickly then the early visitors have glorious sunshine but the flowers do not last very long.
The Catch 22 is that lots of rain means good flower displays. But if it continues to rain during our Spring (August), then it’s not so much fun to view the flowers!
(The bottom line is to come with an attitude of acceptance. Try to be prepared to explore other attractions of the area if the flowers are not so amazing. For example the Cederberg has some stunning mountain passes, Bushman rock art, rooibos tea farms and fantastic hiking country to enjoy. There is plenty to do here, year round. View the Bushmen rock art, do a walking trail or visit a Rooibos tea farm. The spring flowers are almost an added bonus.
Tip 2: Book Early
I cannot stress this enough. The ‘season’ is short and so people book months in advance. We run 5 day flower tours (booked up for 2021) and these are booked a few months in advance. We can assist with ad hoc private tours but only if you book in advance. But we don’t take last minute bookings because all our preferred accommodation has been booked up. We’ll refer you to the local information offices (see numbers below) who may be able to assist with last minute accommodation enquiries.
Ideally you want to be looking at early to mid August for Namaqualand, early to late August for the Cederberg and late August to early September for the West Coast. The West Coast flowers can continue until mid September in a good year or only to say the 10th Sept in an average year.
2022 Update: Book early especially if you wish to go to Nieuwoudtville, Garies or Springbok as there is relatively little accommodation.
So depending on your dates, you should choose your area…
(For example, if you are planning a trip for early September, you will be too late for Namaqualand. But fine for the West Coast around Paternoster and Langebaan. Similarly if you are coming in early to mid August then the best displays will be further north, with not much happening yet closer to Cape Town…)
Tip 3: Actual Tips for Flower Viewing
As the flowers face the sun, a good general principle is to travel north relatively quickly and then do most of your flower-viewing in a southerly direction so that the flowers are always facing you.
Similarly, as the displays are noticeably better if you travel with the sun behind you, you should plan your daily circular route accordingly. So try to travel in a westerly direction in the morning, southerly during the day. And then turn east in the afternoon.
The flowers are at their best between 10:30-11am and 4.00pm in the afternoon. So there is no need to rush out straight after breakfast, (unless you have some travelling to do before you get to the flower region).
The flowers will not come out in heavily overcast or rainy weather. So you should plan to visit other sights on such days.
Get out of your car and walk amongst the flowers – you will appreciate them so much more!
Pick up a printed flower guide to add to your enjoyment. These are available for not much money from various tourism offices in the region. They will give you photos and names of the most common flowers you are likely to see.
Use the local tourism offices in each area to find out which local routes have the best flower displays at any one time. Or ask your guesthouse as they usually are ”in the know”*
Don’t pick the flowers!