Orange daisy, white daisy, pink daisy, yellow daisy... Postberg and other spots in the Western and Northern Cape are carpeted in multi-coloured wild flowers at this time of the year.
Last week, I took a break from my desk to drive from Cape Town up the West Coast to Postberg - one of the most renowned spots for admiring the wild flowers of the Western Cape.
This week (8 to 13 September) entrance to the West Coast National Park is free for South African citizens (take your ID book)!
Of course, entry is also free for Wild Card members.
Are the Wild Flowers Blooming?
Yes, the spring flowers are out in all their glory, or nearly. The buds have started opening, but the floral show isn't in full swing yet. It's already early September so the flowers have 'arrived' late this year (2014), because the rains were a few weeks behind schedule.
Many of these indigenous wild flowers, blooming during August and September, are endemic which makes seeing them all the more special.
The West Coast Tourism website features the latest Flower Reports for the 2014 flower season, detailing the types of flowers you can see and how abundant they are in the various national parks, reserves and guest farms.
Where can you Go to See the Wild Flowers?
If you're looking for alternative places to see the wild flowers then head to the Cedarberg or Namaqualand regions of the Western and Northern Cape, respectively. Closer to Cape Town lies the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, in the Darling vicinity, a stone's throw from the West Coast National Park.
Namaqualand, further north along the west coast, near the Namibian border, is the most famous place for seeing the wild flowers. Travelling towards Springbok you can visit Kamieskroon and the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, as well as the renowned Namaqua National Park and Goegap Nature Reserve.
Just inland and slightly north of the West Coat National Park lies the Tankwa Karoo National Park, another hot spot for viewing the wildflowers.
In the Cedarberg region the Ramskop Wildflower Reserve near Clanwilliam is a highlight, with other places including Biedouw Valley and Boskloof Valley.
See more detailed information about where to go see the wild flowers on the ShowMe South Africa guide.
A Day with the Wild Flowers in Postberg
Arriving soon after the gates opened there were few people about and the morning air was still cool.
The first flower I saw was a bright pink vygie and the first bird I noticed was a Franklin.
Driving up through the West Coast National Park towards the Postberg section, I spotted some kudu, a grey mongoose and various flittering birds, stopping at the Atlantic Viewpoint and Kraalbaai - both good spots for a coffee and snacks. The Kraalbaai stop has great views over Langebaan Lagoon, which was looking beautiful in the morning light with its turquoise fringes.
I saw some folks from the Afrikaans TV show 'Boer Soek 'n Vrou' (translated as 'Farmer Looks for a Wife') trying out SUP boarding, which was both entertaining and pretty to watch.
Arriving at the Postberg gate as it was opening a senior citizen from the Honorary Rangers approached my window to sell me a laminated colour copy of the Postberg map with a flora and fauna guide, which I bought (of course). The proceeds from the R30 guide/map card goes to the Honorary Rangers for the work they do in the national parks of South Africa and towards zebra research being carried out in the Postberg reserve.
Other than the brightly coloured flowers, the highlight of my day trip to the West Coast National Park, was simply the stillness and peace of being in nature, especially in the morning before more visitors arrived. My favourite stop was the Lookout Point (sign-posted in Afrikaans as Uitkyk), where I watched some lazy lizards sunning themselves on the rocks. The views over the lagoon were beautiful and there were some pretty peachy flowers here, along with several tortoises, birds and a darting mongoose.
The Plankiesbaai picnic area, a very popular stop, was also stunning with its ocean views and seaside knoll covered in flaming-orange wild flowers.
I spotted some bokkies (antelopes) including eland, gemsbok, a single wildebeest and springbok, as well as zebras and ostriches.
Other wildlife in Postberg include duiker, steenbok, polecat, wild cat, bat-eared fox, caracal, porcupine and Cape fox.
Tips for Visiting the West Coast National Park
1. Take plenty of water and cool clothes because it gets hot out there
2. Take a sun hat, sunblock and sunglasses (flowers look even better with your sunnies on ;)
3. The flowers are at their best when the sun is high - during the heat of the day
4. Binoculars will come in handy for spotting birds and animals
5. Get there early to beat the bulk of your fellow visitors - West Coast NP gates open at 7:00 so you can meander to the Postberg gate, which opens at 9:00
6. Book a table at the Geelbek Restaurant if you plan on eating there (highly recommended), or you can buy a complete picnic hamper to go.
7. Plankiesbaai picnic area is a lovely spot next to the sea, but it gets crowded so do a brunch
8. Follow the road signs and slow down - the dirt roads are narrow, so passing other cars tramples the flowers
9. Adhere to speed limits (50km on tarred and 30km on dirt roads) to avoid running over tortoises and other animals, as well as creating unnecessary dust
10. Don't walk off the paths or in the veld as you will squash the flowers, plants that aren't in bloom yet and other flora
There are also walking and hiking trails in the national park, such as the one-day Steenbok Trail, two-day Strandveld Trail and shorter Bakoor Trail.
Driving from Cape Town to the West Coast National Park
The drive between Cape Town and the West Coast National Park takes just over one hour, at a reasonable (within speed limits) pace. I left at about 6:30 to avoid traffic and catch sunrise, and arrived back in the city at 16:00, avoiding some of the traffic - luckily both ways are heading against the heavy commuter traffic.
From the Langebaan gate at the top of the national park to the West Coast gate to the south takes 15 minutes on the R27.
The Postberg section of the West Coast National Park is only open to the public during the spring wild flower season (August and September). You can call Postberg before going, to find out if the flowers are out in full force: +27 (0) 22 772 2144. To get the latest updates on where best to go, you can call the wild flower hotline (yes, there's a 'hotline'): 072 938 8186 (open from June to October).