The Namaqualand is an arid region in South Africa that stretches across the Northern and Western Cape. It is extremely hot and dry during the summer months, but after the winter rains much of the region is transformed into a tapestry of vibrant colour as the famous wildflowers make their appearance across the landscape. This natural phenomenon attracts both local and international visitors, providing them with breathtaking scenery that appears to have been painted by an artist’s brushstrokes. The debut of the flowers is dependent on weather conditions, making it difficult to plan a visit. However, the flowers generally start blooming from the beginning of August until mid-September.
Vanrhynsdorp is the oldest and southern most town in the Namaqualand, although the word “town” may not be an accurate description of the place, given its size. There are no traffic lights and many of the roads remain unpaved. The rustic appearance of the place is very much part of its appeal. Located 308 kilometres (191 miles) from Cape Town, Vanrhynsdorp is the perfect base for day-trips around the region, and, as such, there are several B&Bs and self-catering accommodation options available to visitors.
From Vanrhynsdorp one can head north into the Northern Cape. The drive over the Vanrhyns Pass offers scenic views of the valley below, so stopping at one of the lookout points is recommended. The first signs of the flowers are already visible around the outskirts of the village of Nieuwoudtville. A short 7-kilometre (4-mile) drive from here leads to the impressive Nieuwoudtville Waterfall, located in the Nieuwoudtville Waterfall Reserve. Visitors can enjoy a short walk through the indigenous flora, including Cape Fynbos and Nama-Karoo vegetation, before reaching the top of the magnificent cascade that tumbles into the gorge below. The silence provided by the isolation of the Reserve is juxtaposed with the constant roar of the waterfall to create a tranquil spot for reflection – or perhaps a sundowner.
While travelling through the region, one must also visit the so-called Quiver Tree Forest. The quiver trees, often referred to as “ancient giants” because they grow to 400 years old, are located on a private farm. However, the owners allow visitors unrestricted entry to view this impressive “forest,” the second largest in the world. The complete stillness, together with the absence of any sign of civilization in any given direction, inspires a sense of peace and centeredness that is difficult to put into words.
Before returning to the Western Cape, a visit to the Nieuwoudtville Wild Flower Reserve, 3 kilometres (1.8 miles) to the east of the village, is a must. This Reserve provides an excellent opportunity to see the wildflowers up close as visitors are permitted to meander through the flowers in order to get the perfect photograph. The fitter, or more adventurous, visitor may also choose to climb up the rock formation for a panoramic view of the floral kaleidoscope below, or enjoy a short hiking trail peppered with even more varieties of flower.
From Vanrhynsdorp one can take great day-trips to Klawer, Vredendal, Lutzville and the Olifants River Valley, all of which are renowned for their wines. There is no shortage of breathtaking scenery, open spaces, rock formations and indigenous vegetation, all enclosed by a vast azure sky.