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South Africa’s Western Cape welcomes spring in a colourful riot of blooming wild flowers. At the height of flower season, between August and September, the west coast abandons its normally somber semi-arid attire and dresses up for the homecoming queen’s welcome parade.
Along the Way
Spring is the loveliest time for a road trip up Route 27, stopping in quaint country towns and remote emporiums trading in old school jams, home baked treats and handmade crafts. It’s a trip for travellers of all ages to enjoy – I made the flower pilgrimage recently with friends and toddlers in tow.
West Coast National Park
If you don’t stop along the way, you’ll reach the West Coast National Park after an easy 90-minutes drive from Cape Town. This beautiful park protects fragile wetlands, open grassy plains dotted with herds of graceful eland, deserted offshore islands and Langebaan Lagoon, a balmy stretch of sheltered water ringed with white beach sand.
Things to See
Langebaan Lagoon is home to about 10% of South Africa’s coastal wader population along with several red-list seabirds. The scattering of offshore islands provides safe nesting for almost a quarter of a million birds, which makes this park a birders’ paradise. Expect to see as many as 55,000 water birds in summer, including Cape Gannets, Cape cormorants and a loudly thriving colony of Kelp Gulls.
The park protects precious tracts of sand plain fynbos and sports gorgeous wild flowers year-round, but in spring, the plains stretching in every direction sport swathes of neon pink, burnt orange, bright yellow and crisp white wild flowers.
Things to Do
This park caters to all levels of fitness. Explore in your car along easy to navigate dirt roads, or take a stroll along a walking trail. If you have three days (and book at least a year in advance), the catered and portered hike, Eve’s Trail, leads over 30km of pristine wilderness, tracing a long lost Eve’s journey – a mysterious young woman whose footprints were immortalized in rock 117,000 years ago.
My friends tried out the mountain bike trails, which also ranged from child-friendly to a decent challenge. The lagoon provides ideal conditions to kayak or kite-board, and whales are often spotted in the clear offshore waters in spring.
Our favourite discovery
Our best, unexpected discovery was the superb Geelbek Restaurant, housed in a charming Cape Dutch house circa 1744. This National Monument is a perfect setting for one of the best South African heritage menus I’ve ever tasted. Traditional dishes featured authentic Cape colonial flavours like tamarind, cardamom, caraway and cinnamon. The gourmet bobotie is heavenly, the hearty ostrich burgers are juicy, and the fragrant Cape Malay curries are sublime.
As my friends and I soaked up the spring sunshine in the 300-year old courtyard, bright yellow weaver birds busy in the trees around us, we agreed with a few happy sighs of utter contentment that spring in the West Coast National Park is little bit of heaven on earth.