West Coast Wonderland
South Africa’s west coast offers the opportunity to get immersed in the endemic Fynbos flora and the unique species of bird, reptile and mammal that are completely at home in these surroundings. To put this into context: of all the plant kingdoms, the Cape Floral Kingdom is the smallest yet has the highest variety of species, with the mammoth Amazon Rain forest of South America in second place with only a third of the species variety per square kilometer.
The Cape Floral Kingdom consists primarily of Fynbos which makes up over 80 percent of the flora. It’s made up of four main plant types – namely Proteas, Ericas, Restioles (reeds and grasses) and Geophytes (bulbous plants). Fynbos is best seen during the spring and summer months, when many varieties display their blossoms in a myriad of colour amidst the green and grey scrub. An additional highlight at this time of year is the spectacular Namaqualand flower display that spreads across the arid Namaqua-karoo with a tapestry of colour.
Key conservation areas include the Langebaan Lagoon and the offshore islands in Saldanha Bay which together form the Ramsar Site – a wetland of international importance owing to its rich diversity of marine invertebrates and seaweeds that support about 10% of the coastal wader population in South Africa. The Islands are also important nesting areas for many red-listed marine bird species.
Moving inland there is a narrow dune belt with Strandveld vegetation and Sand Plain Fynbos both supporting further species that have been given a 50 percent irreplaceability rating. The Sand Plain Fynbos areas are highly threatened by alien plant invasion with over 85 percent of the natural habitat lost, and are considered of higher conservation value.
Further inland the arid Namaqualand seems fairly desolate with sparse vegetation covering the rocky terrain. This region however transforms in August and September each year following the quenching rains at the close of the winter season, where hills and valleys change virtually overnight as the daisy and succulent species burst into bloom. Vast fields of pink, orange, purple and yellow brighten up the landscape in an unreal display of nature’s magnificent beauty.
The Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve is nestled in the midst of the Cederberg Mountain Range and makes an ideal place from which to explore the fauna and flora of the region. Panoramic views of the mountains and surrounding Fynbos coupled with the finest luxury accommodation greet the traveller. An additional highlight of the reserve is the 130 sites of Bushman Rock Art which can be seen while exploring the plant, bird and animal life of the reserve. The many rare species and cultural highlights of the Cederberg have led to this area being proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in order to preserve the rare and wonderful species and cultural history found here.
Further up the coast the Strandloper Ocean Boutique Hotel offers an ideal base from which to explore the coastal belt. Wake up to views of the deep blue ocean where whales and dolphins can be seen frolicking in the waves and enjoy endless beach walks along the sandy coastline seeking out the many marine bird species.
Travel to the Namaqualand flowers are best booked well in advance to avoid disappointment as there are limited accommodation options over the short period where the flowers are visible. For further advice on how to include this in your travel itinerary, please contact our travel experts.
Blog Author: Sabine Hanger