Flower tour to South Africa
Namaqualand flowers and Richtersveld succulents

28 August - 12 September 2012

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Suggested travel itinerary
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Suggested itinerary for a flower tour in South Africa

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This tour in South Africa aims to explore the Western Cape Province along the west coast of South Africa, through the region of Namaqualand, up to the Richtersveld desert far to the north. The trip took place during the flowering period of many annual and perennial herbaceous plants endemic to the region, some of which are rare. An authentic botanical tour in South Africa, with the discovery of a phenomenon unique to the world: the desert in bloom, when a dusty and hot land, becomes for a few weeks a vast expanse of flowers full of life and colors. This trip to South Africa includes an expedition throughout the Richtersveld desert, looking for rare succulent plants, real jewels of nature and masterpieces of evolution, as they have developed amazing survival strategies to cope with severe and prolonged drought. Unfortunately many of these succulent plants are vulnerable, if not virtually extinct in the wild, due to the restricted area of ​​distribution and because of human interference.


The intensity of the miracle represented by the blooming desert in Namaqualand varies from year to year depending on weather conditions that have characterized several previous months and coincides approximately with the end of the austral winter, when the short rainy season is about to end. August or September would be the best time for a botanical tour in South Africa, with the first days of September representing the peak of blooming season, although this is only theoretical and impossible to be guaranteed. The flowers can be best admired during a beautiful clear day, when they are fully open and turned into the sun between 11am and 3pm (with cloudy weather, most flowers do not open at all). During the same weeks, most succulents of the Richtersveld desert are at their full glory, though not all in bloom, as they have renewed their water reservoirs thanks to the few rain typical of this time of the year. During the austral summer, most of Namaqualand is transformed back into a barren wasteland, completely unrecognizable, while many Richtersveld's small succulents are in a sort of lethargy, strongly shrinked and apparently dead. During the months of August and September, the weather in Namaqualand is variable and it can rain for a few days. Windy days are common and, depending on the altitude and the distance from the sea, the temperature can vary from a few degrees below zero to +25 degrees (in a few words, you must be prepared to cope with any climatic situation: please don't go there if not properly equipped thinking that you are going to "Africa").


The peak flowering period is also the tourist peak season (in fact, during the other months of the year, tourism is almost completely absent in Namaqualand) so you may find many guest houses with no-vacancy even if you try to book far in advance. This should be taken into account if you decide to travel by yourself. Personally, for the tour in Namaqualand, I've decided to join a group organized by Travel in Africa, offering a fully inclusive worry-free tour package. Instead, for the succulent tour to the Richtersveld desert, I had to hire a car with driver, since there were no group departures. This has made the trip much more expensive, but also much more flexible (all the reservation process was still handled through Travel in Africa, although the tour was actually operated by Virosatours and Piet, a fantastic guide knowing everything of the desert and not only).

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Cape Peninsula Cape Town day tour to Cape of Good Hope, seal and African penguin colony <<-- GO
The Cape Peninsula, part of Table Mountain National Park, offers picturesque landscapes culminating in the beauty of Cape of Good Hope. The Cape Peninsula is also home to colonies of African Penguins (or Cape Penguin) and Fur Seals, both easily accessible with a short day trip from Cape Town.
Flowers in South Africa Pictures of spring flowers in South Africa along the Western Cape <<-- GO
The tour through the flowers of South Africa begins from Cape Town proceeding north to Namaqualand, along the Western Cape Province. In late winter, during the short rainy season, the meadows are covered by carpets of flowers for a few weeks, offering opportunities for interesting trips to all those who love the nature and botany.
Flowers in Namaqualand Travelling to Namaqualand in flower - pictures of Aloe dichotoma forest <<-- GO
The flower tour continues to the north into Namaqualand, South Africa, where the number of flowers increases constantly. I first visit a nursery specialized in reproduction of succulents, before going into the forest Aloe dichotoma (Quiver Tree) that populates only a small and very dry hill near Niewoudtville.
Namaqualand flowers Pictures of flowers from Namaqualand during the short flowering season <<-- GO
Niewoudtville is known as "Bulb Capital of the World" due to the massive presence of bulbous plants, some of which are endemic and rare. They, at the end of winter, during the short wet season, renew the miracle of the desert in bloom. Vast meadows and often entire hills are entirely covered with a carpet of flowers that includes various species of different colors
Spring in Namaqualand Namaqualand flower tour: Namaqua National Park and the desert in bloom <<-- GO
The desert in bloom culminates in Namaqua National Park, where millions of orange daisies belonging to genus Osteospermum or Dimorphoteca are mixed with other flowers of different colors to create a unique spectacle. It 'hard to imagine that just a few weeks later, with the arrival of the hot summer, everything will become brown, dry and dusty.
Richtersveld desert Trip to Richtersveld desert in South Africa: geology and landscape photos <<-- GO
Although most people will visit the Richtersveld desert looking for succulents, this place is also interesting for the beautiful landscape and the odd geology. This series of photos show the environment where many tiny succulent plants lives in challenging conditions and where only very specialized forms of live can survive.
Conophytum Pictures of Lithops, Conophytum and Aizoaceae - South African succulents <<-- GO
In this region of South Africa there are numerous succulent plants belonging to the family of Mesembryanthemaceae (or Aizoaceae) living in different micro-habitats consisting of small areas of quartz or granite blocks. The Lithops, commonly known as "living stones", can be seen frequently, as well as Conophytums and other succulents belonging to the same family.
Aloe pillansii Pictures of Aloe from Richtersveld (Namaqualand) in South Africa <<-- GO
In addition to rare and almost extinct Aloe pillansii, Namaqualand and Richtersveld in South Africa are the place of origin of other rare Aloe, a genus of succulent plants ranging from small rosettes that grow to ground level, up to majestic ultra secular trees populating a limited number of hills.
Stapelia flower Stapelia and other Asclepiadaceae from Richtersveld (South Africa) <<-- GO
This region of South Africa, close to the border with Namibia, is the home for some species of Stapelia, known for their complex flower that smells like rotting flesh, as it's pollinated by flies. There are also other members of the same family (Asclepiadaceae), such as the bizarre Trichocaulon cactiforme or the Hoodia gordonii.
Crassula Pictures of succulents: Crassulaceae, Portulacaceae and Euphorbiaceae <<-- GO
The Namaqualand region in South Africa, including the arid desert of Richtersveld, hosts a large number of succulent plants belonging to the families of Crassulaceae (Crassula), Portulacaceae (Avonia, Anacampseros) and Euphorbiaceae. You can also observe several caudiciform plants, that store the water into a bulk "caudex" at the base of the stem.
Flowers in the desert Richtersveld flowers and other non-succulent plants: the blooming desert <<-- GO
The Richtersveld is not only known for the succulents plants, but it hosts also a number of annual or perennial herbaceous species, which tend to flourish during the short rainy season repeating each year the miracle of desert in bloom.
World's smallest tortoise Namaqualand wildlife - pictures of tortoises and birds <<-- GO
South Africa's Namaqualand, including the arid desert of the Richtersveld, doesn't host lions or gazelles, so the area is not suitable for a classic safari. However, these regions have more than just flowers and succulent plants, as they are home to many species of birds and reptiles including the world's smallest tortoise

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