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Issue 7
Africa Travel> Issue 7
UPDATED: September 16, 2014
Nature's Neon Wonders
By Jo Kromberg

The sea of yellow and orange Namaqualand daisies are a big tourist attraction each August and September

It's teeth-clatteringly cold as we leave Johannesburg at 5 o'clock on an early August morning. As the city gradually disappears behind us, the first touches of faint light paint the rural surroundings a shade of misty grey.

We are on a road trip, my two friends and I, to look for the world-famous flowers of Namaqualand on the West coast of South Africa. But our journey is arduous and distant so we decide to stay at the town of Upington for the night, about 800 km from Johannesburg.

Brown's Manor

The gorgeous 4-star Browns Manor guest house is situated along the N14, 5 km from Upington Airport on the outskirts of the town as one drives into Upington, and this is my oasis for the evening. The property is situated on the banks of the mighty Orange River and the lush green vegetation and palm trees, together with a beautiful waterfall in and around the reception area is a stark and soothing contrast to the desert outside. My weary traveler's soul slips into a warm, deep bubble bath at the end of the day to wash away the Kalahari dust after almost 11 hours on the road. I just love the Kalahari bath spa products! Feeling half human again, I explore the property. The gorgeous manor rooms at Browns have modern wooden furnishings and private bathrooms with beautiful fixtures and fittings and a gargantuan double bed. Some rooms feature furnished balconies with panoramic views of the countryside and the mini-bar prices are cheaper than one would pay at a restaurant!

Browns guests can enjoy a buffet breakfast indoors or near the swimming pool, which features views of the Kalahari Desert. Traditional South African "braai" facilities are available for barbecuing and the friendly owner tells me that simple delicious dishes are very popular with their guest. Dishes like lamb chops, fresh salads, barbeques, fresh vegetables and pastas are all served at the property at an extra cost for dinner. Browns can accommodate 27 people in total and their clientele range from wine lovers, tourists, businesses people and wedding guests. The beautifully lush tropical gardens features streams with khoi fish.

Browns Manor provides shuttle services to Upington Airport and has free private on-site parking. Nearby leisure activities include golfing, quad bike excursions, and steamboat cruises along the Orange River.

I sleep like a log that night and I'm up at dawn again for our trek to the flowers of Namaqualand. We don't have time to stay for the buffet breakfast but the wonderful staff at Browns pack me a superb take-away breakfast consisting of yoghurt, fruit, cheese and a lovely ham sandwich.

It is another 400 km or so from Upington to Springbok, the capital of the region of Namaqualand.


The region is arid, extending along the west coast over 970 km and covering a total area of 440,000 square km. In other words, the area is massive. It is divided by the lower course of the Orange River into two portions – Little Namaqualand to the south and Great Namaqualand to the north. Little Namaqualand is within the Namakwa District Municipality and forms part of Northern Cape Province, South Africa. Great Namaqualand is in the Karas Region of Namibia. Great Namaqualand is sparsely populated by the Namaqua, a Khoikhoi people who traditionally inhabited the Namaqualand region.

As we drive, the landscape transforms from desert biomes and bushes to red sand dunes, covered in pale savannah grasses and outcrop hills here and there. Apart from that there is only the big blue sky, and for almost 100 km, ours is the only car on this road today in Africa. This is truly God's country – untouched and pristine. We spot the first shy flowers about 20 km east of Springbok. Purples and yellows start making their appearance between spectacular red boulder constellations and quiver trees. The countryside becomes grassier and we can smell the fynbos. Suddenly bursts of neon oranges appear in patches everywhere. For miles the road is lined with bursts of color, juxtaposed by the green veldt and red hills.

The rocks and boulders are millions of years old and they stand ghostly and silent against the azure sky.As if by magic a tapestry of brilliant colours unfold enticingly along the winding roads of the Namaqua National Park. Butterflies, birds and long-tongued flies dart around among the flowers, seemingly overwhelmed by the abundance and diversity.

Every turn in the road paints an unforgettable picture: valleys filled with Namaqualand daisies and other spring flowers that pulse with sheer energy and joy. Next to some eye-catching succulents, a porcupine and a tall aloe pay witness to a baboon overturning a rock and pouncing on a scorpion. During early August and September, seemingly overnight, the dusty valleys of Namaqualand are transformed into a wonderland, carpeted with wildflowers. With its winter rainfall, Namaqualand is home to the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world and more than a 1,000 of its estimated 3,500 plant species are found nowhere else on earth.

We camp on the beach that night at the Groenkloof campsite, which has no ablution facilities but does have an "enviro" toilet. As the sun sets over the icy Atlantic Ocean, we make a fire and revel in the fact that we are the only people there – we truly feel like the last souls on earth.

Sea of flowers

The next day we find ourselves at a very unique place indeed. About 200 km inland but still in the Park, a company called SA Experiences, together with SANparks, have set up a temporary tented camp to operate during the flower season until the end of September and this is an unforgettable experience. Situated in the middle of the orange flowers carpets, the accommodation consists of 10 dome tents with canvas patio cover providing shade for two director's chairs. Each tent has two single beds – each with an electric blanket! - An electric lantern, bath towels and personal amenities including soap and conditioning shampoo. Each tent features a private but adjacent shower and chemical flush toilet. Warm water is provided at pre-arranged shower times.

No meals are included but the restaurant serves delicious, home-cooked meals. I wake up at dawn and peer out of my tent to the most beautiful sight of rolling blue hills and awakening flowers everywhere.

The flowers of Namaqualand are a once in a lifetime experience but they only bloom in August and September. So either get there very fast or book this amazing experience for next year. In fact, it should top your bucket list.

Five things to seek

- Carpets of flower (in season)

- Quiver trees

- Klipspringer

- Unspoilt coastline

- Quartz Patches

Did you know that...

Namaqua National Park is situated in one of only two arid biodiversity hotspots

It is home to the world's smallest tortoise, the Namaqua Speckled Padloper

It conserves the world's richest succulent flora

It is world renowned for its spectacular spring flower displays


Brown's Manor: http://www.brownsmanor.co.za/

Namaqualand: http://www.sanparks.co.za/parks/namaqua/



Getting there:

South African Airways operates direct daily flights between China and South Africa. Once in Johannesburg, you can hire a car from any reputable rental agency but make sure you get one with a GPS!

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