Are you looking for an unforgettable nature experience? Look no further than Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, located just northwest of the town of Garies in the Namaqua National Park. This 930-hectare reserve was established by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in 1988 to raise awareness of the rich floral kingdom of the Namaqualand. The Skilpad Nature Reserve was proclaimed on 29 June 2001, with the goal of conserving the diverse range of succulent plants found in the area.
The Namaqualand is a winter rainfall desert renowned worldwide for its annual spring flower display. This region is recognized as an important and threatened global center of diversity for plants, reptiles, and many invertebrates specific to the area. Despite its mainly shrubland and abandoned wheat fields, the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve is known for its spectacular annual display of Namaqualand daisies, which erupt between July and September.
The reserve’s location, 700 meters above sea level on a ridge of hills relatively close to the coast, ensures that mists and rain blow in from the sea, resulting in incredible flower displays even when surrounding areas are not in bloom. White, yellow, and orange daisies – Arctotis, Dimorphotheca, and Osteospermums – are annual stalwarts. However, visitors can also find beautiful small bulbous plants such as Babiana and Mesembryanthemums, or Vygies as they are known locally, hidden amongst the koppies and bushes.
A dirt road circles the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve for roughly five kilometers through the blooms and is worth every inch of its route during the flower season. A halfway viewpoint is known as the “roof of Africa,” thanks to the large granite domes that provide an excellent vantage point from which to see over the reserve and the Kamiesberg mountains.
For those with a 4×4 vehicle, the Caracal Eco Route that stretches from Skilpad to Groen Rivier is a truly beautiful experience.
Popular activities and tourist destinations at Skilpad Wildflower Reserve
Skilpad Wildflower Reserve is not just a place to see beautiful flowers. There are a number of activities and attractions that make this area a must-visit destination for tourists.
For those interested in hiking, the Skilpad Hiking Trail is a 10km trail that starts and ends at the Skilpad rest camp. The trail takes hikers through the reserve, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the chance to see a variety of succulent plants up close.
If you are interested in history, the nearby town of Garies has a rich cultural heritage. The town has a number of historic buildings, including the Dutch Reformed Church, which was built in 1864. The town is also home to the Namaqualand Museum, which showcases the history and culture of the region.
For those looking for a unique experience, the nearby town of Springbok has a number of interesting attractions. One of the most popular is the Goegap Nature Reserve, which is home to a wide variety of plant and animal species, including the Namaqua speckled padloper, the world’s smallest tortoise. The town also has a number of shops and restaurants, making it a great place to stop for a bite to eat or to do some souvenir shopping.
Another popular attraction near Skilpad Wildflower Reserve is the Kamiesberg Mountain Range. The range offers breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape and is home to a variety of wildlife, including antelope, baboons, and Cape foxes. The area is also popular for birdwatching, with a number of endemic species found in the region.
Skilpad Wildflower Reserve and the surrounding area offer a variety of activities and attractions for tourists. From hiking and history to unique wildlife and breathtaking views, there is something for everyone in this beautiful part of South Africa.
Silver Sands Trail
While the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve is undoubtedly the star attraction of the area, there are several other activities and tourist attractions that are worth exploring. One such attraction is the Silver Sands Trail, which is a 55-kilometer beach hike that starts at the Namaqua National Park in Hondeklipbaai and ends at the base camp.
The hike takes five days to complete and is rated as moderate in terms of fitness. While the best time to tackle the trail is during the flower season, between late August and early October, there is still plenty to enjoy throughout the year. For instance, hikers can expect to spot a variety of marine life in the rock pools and may even be lucky enough to see whales along the way.
Bird enthusiasts will be pleased to know that the trail is home to over 150 bird species, including the Ludwig’s bustard, steppe buzzard, and African oystercatcher. However, it’s worth noting that the summer months can get extremely hot in the Northern Cape, so hikers should be prepared accordingly.
For those who are not used to beach walking, the hike can be challenging. However, there are two options available: hikers can either choose to do the trail fully catered or self-catered. Regardless of which option they choose, the hike is a slackpack, and hikers only need to carry a daypack.
Each night, hikers will stay in a mobile camp, which consists of two-man canvas tents with camping mattresses, as well as a communal tent housing toilets and showers. The camp moves with the hike, ensuring that hikers have a comfortable place to rest each night.
To reach the main campsite where the hike begins and ends, hikers will need a 4×4 vehicle and a detailed map. The trail follows the water’s edge, taking hikers through sand dunes, past the Policemen’s helmet landmark, and explores the unique Nama succulents that are created by the mist blowing in off the ocean. The trail also passes through the wine vineyards of Lutzville, offering hikers a chance to sample some of the local produce.
If you’re looking for a unique and challenging hiking experience, the Silver Sands Trail is definitely worth considering. It offers hikers the chance to explore a stunning stretch of coastline, spot a variety of wildlife, and immerse themselves in the natural beauty of the area.
In addition to the breathtaking scenery and unique flora and fauna of the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, visitors can also explore the rugged and beautiful Richtersveld region. The Akkedis Pass is one of the highlights of this area, with its steep route, rocky climbs, and incredible scenery. The pass is named after the Afrikaans word for lizard due to the many twists and turns that can make visitors feel like they’re scurrying along like a lizard in the heat.
The Akkedis Pass serves as the passage to De Hoop base camp in the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park, a World Heritage Site that straddles the border between the Northern Cape and Namibia. The sight of the Gariep River oasis and thorn trees at De Hoop camp on the other side of the pass can come as a welcome relief after the challenging journey.
Visitors should note that the pass takes about 45 minutes to drive and requires a good, solid high-clearance vehicle. It’s also recommended to increase the tyre pressure before driving the pass. While it’s possible to navigate the pass with a trailer, visitors should be aware of narrow spots that can cause tyre side-wall damage and that the road on either side of the pass is corrugated.
One of the interesting sights near the Akkedis Pass is the Hand of God, an imprint low on a rock next to the side of the road that looks like a very large hand. This natural wonder is located on the Alexander Bay side of the pass and is well signposted on the other side of the road.
Before reaching De Hoop, visitors will pass through Maer Poort, another impressive natural feature that adds to the beauty and wonder of the Richtersveld region. The region’s rugged, desolate landscape may seem unforgiving, but it’s also mesmerising and overwhelmingly beautiful, making it a photographer’s paradise. The area is also home to one of the world’s most abundant examples of desert flora, including tiny succulents, halfmens plants, and quiver trees, all tenaciously clinging to life in the harsh conditions.
Skilpad Wildflower Reserve is surrounded by some of the most stunning landscapes in South Africa, including the awe-inspiring mountain passes. One such pass is Burke’s Pass, which takes travelers through the mountains south of Springbok and into the tiny town of Kamieskroon. This pass is well-known for its beautiful scenery, with bare granite formations, red soil, and shrubby yellow grass lining the route.
During the winter months, Burke’s Pass may appear dry and barren, but in spring, it transforms into a breathtaking sea of colorful wildflowers, as Namaqualand is known to be one of the best places in the world to see wildflowers in bloom. Burke’s Pass is one of the few passes in the Northern Cape that is tarred, making it easy for sedans to navigate. It is a popular pass for both tourists and locals, especially during spring flower season.
But Burke’s Pass is more than just a scenic route; it also has a rich history. The Burke family farm, settled by the Burke brothers during the time of Governor Charles Somerset, is located on the other side of Kamieskroon. The Burke brothers were instrumental in building the very first NG Church in Namaqualand, near Bowesdorp. One was a builder and the other a carpenter, and they both played important roles in developing the area’s infrastructure. Jonathan Burke, in particular, was responsible for building several mountain passes, including Burke’s Pass, which is named after him.
Today, visitors can stay on the Burke family farm at Agama Tented Camp, a beautiful bush camp that offers a unique opportunity to experience the Namaqualand landscape up close. The camp provides guests with comfortable accommodation in safari-style tents and an unforgettable experience of the region’s natural beauty. The camp also offers activities such as guided walks and drives, birdwatching, and stargazing.
In addition to Burke’s Pass, visitors to Skilpad Wildflower Reserve can explore a variety of other attractions and points of interest. The reserve itself is home to a vast array of wildflowers and succulents, including the rare and endangered Skilpadberg dwarf copper, which can only be found in this area. The reserve also offers a variety of hiking trails, picnic spots, and campsites for visitors to enjoy.
Just west of the N7 lies the Namaqua National Park, a protected area that is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including antelope, zebras, and giraffes. The park is also famous for its stunning display of wildflowers during the spring months, which attracts visitors from around the world.
Skilpad Wildflower Reserve and the surrounding areas offer visitors a unique opportunity to experience the natural beauty and rich history of Namaqualand. From mountain passes to wildflowers to wildlife, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this rugged, yet beautiful landscape.
Hondeklip Bay Beach
The Northern Cape’s Skilpad Wildflower Reserve has plenty of attractions in the area, including the quiet beach town of Hondeklip Bay. The village was initially established as a harbour for the export of copper ore found in the area but became a hub for fishermen. Despite the harbour being replaced by a safer one at Port Nolloth, Hondeklip Bay has remained a popular spot for fishing and angling. Visitors can cast their lines from the sandy shores or rocky outcrops and wait for the telltale nibble of a great catch. Crayfish are also abundant in the area, making for a tasty treat.
For those seeking a more relaxing experience, visitors can take a good book and soak up the warm sunshine of the Northern Cape coastline, with the sound of the waves crashing in the background. The rock pools are also always fun for little ones to explore.
The waters off Hondeklip Bay Beach are home to a shipwreck, providing a stunning habitat for many fish, crustaceans, and marine plant species. The town itself is a resort village, with a quiet beach that is not overrun by tourists or travellers. The residents are friendly and welcoming, always happy to share a meal or a cup of coffee with visitors at one of the local restaurants.
Cape Town and its international airport are six hours away from Hondeklip Bay Beach, while the Namaqua National Park is just over an hour away. The national park is a must-see for nature lovers, with its vast displays of wildflowers during the spring months. Visitors can also explore the park’s rugged coastline, dotted with rocky outcrops, and take in the breathtaking views. The park is home to a diverse array of wildlife, including rare bird species, reptiles, and small mammals.
Accomodation near Skilpad Wildflower Reserve
Skilpad Wildflower Reserve is a stunning natural attraction that draws nature enthusiasts and tourists from around the world. The reserve is surrounded by several accommodation options in Springbok, a beautiful town in the Northern Cape that offers visitors a chance to explore the region’s natural beauty and cultural heritage. Let’s take a closer look at some of the accommodations available near Skilpad Wildflower Reserve.
Apollis Cottage is a charming guest house situated in Concordia, Namaqualand, just 17 km from Springbok. The cottage is surrounded by beautiful gardens and features three large bedrooms, each with an en-suite bathroom. The rooms are well-appointed with comfortable beds and modern amenities such as DStv and Wi-Fi. Apollis Cottage is a great choice for those seeking a tranquil and relaxing stay in a beautiful natural setting. Guests can enjoy cycling and walking trails, bird watching, and breathtaking views of the surrounding area. Please note that there is a 9 km dirt road leading to the cottage.
Old Mill Lodge is centrally situated in Springbok, the capital of Namaqualand. It is an ideal stopover for visitors traveling between Cape Town and Namibia, or for those visiting the annual flowers in Namaqualand. The lodge offers beautifully appointed spacious suites, each with an en-suite bathroom, and a luxurious Old World charm. The lodge’s tranquil garden is perfect for relaxation, and braai facilities are available for guests to enjoy. There is a laundry service, shuttle service, and Wi-Fi on the premises. Visitors can arrange customized day trips and seasonal flower tours in advance. The Goegap Nature Reserve is about 15 km southeast of Springbok and offers a range of activities such as horse trails, hiking trails, and 4×4 routes.
Blue Diamond Lodge is a Springbok hotel that offers comfortable accommodation in a peaceful area just 1 km away from local shopping centers and restaurants. The hotel has 19 guest rooms, each with a private, separate entrance, and modern amenities such as air conditioning, mini-bar fridge, DStv, and Wi-Fi. The lodge also boasts a licensed bar and braai facilities for guests to enjoy. With a beautiful garden, two sparkling pools, and modern en-suite rooms, Blue Diamond Lodge is a great choice for visitors seeking comfort and convenience. The lodge is also home to the famous Northern Cape dirt and hiking trails, which are sure to inspire outdoor enthusiasts.
Skilpad Wildflower Reserve offers visitors a chance to explore the stunning natural beauty of the region. With several accommodation options nearby, visitors can choose from charming guest houses, tranquil lodges, or comfortable hotels. From cycling and walking trails to bird watching and breathtaking views, there is something for everyone in and around Skilpad Wildflower Reserve.
If you are a nature lover, Skilpad Wildflower Reserve is a must-visit destination. Its diverse flora and fauna, unique location, and spectacular annual displays of Namaqualand daisies make it a top attraction in the Namaqua National Park. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience the wonders of this incredible reserve.