Namaqualand, a place of desolation and magic.
The Northern Cape is the largest and most sparsely populated of South Africa’s provinces. The arid climate and huge driving distances mean few visitors venture this far afield. On a recent trip to the area I discovered it is a place where the inhospitable climate is contrary to the warm hospitality of the people.
Namaqualand is magically transformed into carpets of spectacular wild flowers from August to October. While this is the main attraction of the region, I visited out of season and found there was lots more to appreciate. On my way north, I stopped at Naries Namaqua retreat, a unique and secluded refuge, just outside Springbok. It makes an excellent stop on the long journey from Cape Town to the Richtersveld. The thatched Mountain Suites, build into the surrounding rock are the best spots to nab for their unique design and for wonderful sunset views.
On my way back south, I stayed at Skilpad Rest Camp in Namaqua National Park. The cottages were basic, but felt like splendid luxury after the harsh conditions of the Richtersveld. They have incredible views as you can see from the sunset picture at the top of this email. To get to the coastal section of the park, you will need a 4×4 and be prepared for a windy experience.
It was great to do some birdwatching while I was there. I didn’t keep a list but I saw a number of interesting birds around Skilpad. There is an easy 4km hike to do from reception. If you take your time you’ll find many interesting plants, birds and insects to observe.
The abandoned farmsteads at Koeroebees made interesting photographic subjects. The thick walls and small windows reminded me of old farmhouses I had seen in the south of France where it also gets hot and windy. Koeroebees is a Nama word meaning “digging water” after the two perennial fountains, the only constant source of water in the area.
A stay at Naries or Namaqua National Park makes an excellent stop over on your way to or from the Richtersveld from Cape Town. Ideally you want to stay in flower season, but it is enjoyable at any time of year.
On the subject of flowers, take a listen to our episode with botanist Sean Privett on the fynbos and Cape Floristic Region. You can listen find it on your favourite podcasting platform or press play on our website.
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