Every year in early spring, Mother Nature lays on a colourful spectacle for South Africans who live along the West Coast from Cape Town northwards into the Namaqualand and beyond into the Northern Cape: it is Wild Flower Season!
When we drove through those very areas, en route to and from Windhoek in Namibia, at the start of August, we were struck by how much good rain had fallen – normally dry, dusty and barren, the land looked lush and green. It promised to be a particularly splendid flower season.
And Capetonians are lucky to have a very special wild flower reserve almost on their doorsteps.
At the heart of the park is the Langebaan lagoon with its tranquil shallow waters, edged by wetlands and salt marshes that are home to many species of birds, including migrant waders from the northern hemisphere. Accommodation in quaint cottages on land, and aboard gently swaying houseboats on the water, is available inside the park for those visitors who want to linger and to explore the network of hiking and biking trails in peaceful solitude. It is a paradise for watersports enthusiasts, with swimming and snorkeling, kayaking and kiteboarding being available in the northern section of the lagoon.
The Postberg section of the WCNP is only open during August and September each year, when thousands of people flock from near and far to marvel at the spring flowers. (In fact, we did so last year – see my previous blog entry). The rules are strict here: no stopping and causing traffic jams, no climbing out of vehicles to frolic among the flowers, and no disturbing the local wildlife – which includes various species of antelope. Picnicking is only allowed at several designated sites, where toilet facilities are fortunately also available.
During August and September, the entrance costs are higher than during the rest of the year: South African citizens and residents with identity documents pay R44 per adult, R22 per child; SADC nationals with passports pay R64 per adult, R44 per child; and all others pay R88 per adult, RR44 per child (tariffs here). However, a WildCard will grant you free access!
Sunday 02 September 2012 was such a glorious day, that we made the impromptu decision to visit Postberg. Unfortunately, the navigator (eh-heh – that would be yours truly) had a serious memory and orientation malfunction, and couldn’t remember exactly which route would be the optimal one to follow inland, while bypassing the race-track of the R27 as much as possible.
Let’s just say that, next time, we are taking the Garmin with us.
Some two (?) hours later, we finally reached the southern gate to the WCNP. Together with about half of Cape Town. Eish. That queue wasn’t going anywhere slowly, never mind fast. After some consideration, we continued onwards to (what used to be) the snug and pretty little village of Langebaan, in the hope of finding a peaceful spot to picnic at the seashore.
We hadn’t been to Langebaan in years, and hardly recognised the place. It had expanded dramatically, with cluster housing and golf estates – accompanied by the obligatory billboards and estate agency signs – springing up all over the place. Shops and parking lots queued up along the main access road. The palm trees on either side of the road reminded me of the palm trees of my hometown, Swakopmund. All the open patches of ground among the buildings had been miraculously transformed into carpets of wild flowers in the most vivid colours.
Stunned, and somewhat disoriented, we haphazardly followed some cars who looked like they knew where they were going … and suddenly found ourselves just outside the northern entrance gate to the WCNP, which neither of us had ever been to.
As we came over the crest of a gentle hill, we saw that dozens of cars had parked at the side of the road leading down towards the startlingly azure waters of the lagoon and the entrance to the WCNP. The hillside was completely covered in a meadow of flowers, flowers, flowers, and more flowers. It looked like an over-enthusiastic painter had spilled buckets of colourful paint across the normally drab-green-and-grey hillside. It quite honestly took our breath away.
We joined the crowds of people who were wandering among the flowers, trying to follow the already trodden paths, instead of squashing even more of the flowers. Everyone was taking photos, posing for pictures, or just standing in awe.
After taking some pictures ourselves, we returned to the car, and decided to join the queue of cars waiting to enter the WCNP. Not far from the northern gate is the Seeberg viewing site, surrounded by a circular drive that loops down to the edge of the lagoon, near a bird hide, before rejoining the main gravel road some distance further along.
Unfortunately, given our lengthy detour, nature was calling loudly by now. And, as there are no appropriate facilities in the entire eastern section of the park (which I find rather peculiar, to be honest), a detour was necessary to Geelbek Visitors’ Centre and Restaurant, some 15 km further south, at the southern edge of the lagoon. Mission accomplished, we briefly considered venturing north along the western edge of the lagoon to Postberg. However, the park authorities only allowed limited numbers of cars and people ino the small wild flower reserve, and we did not feel like wasting time in a long queue.
We thus retraced our route up to the Seeberg viewpoint, where we had a most marvelous picnic on the side of the rocky outcrop, facing the lagoon. Here, we were partly sheltered from a chilly southerly wind. A couple of mugs of thermos-flask tea and some breadrolls with jam revitalised us. And then, we headed back up the hillside to photograph the extraordinary display of colourful wild flowers. It was a photographer’s heaven.
Enjoy the slideshow!