Public opinion then changed, leading to the proclamation of the park in 1931. The original size of the park was just over 2 000 hectares. Conflicts between elephants and farmers continued after proclamation, as no adequate fence enclosed the park. Finally in 1954, Graham Armstrong (the park manager at the time) developed an elephant-proof fence constructed using tram rails and lift cables and an area of 2 270 hectares was fenced in. There were 22 elephant in the park at the time. This Armstrong fence, named after its developer, is still used around the park today. Although the park was originally proclaimed to protect a single species, priorities have now changed to conserve the rich biological diversity found in the area.
Online bookings here for the Bedrogfontein Tour. (Bookings close at midnight on Friday 6th August)
Namaqualand - Jou lekker ding!
Namaqualand is showing early signs of what promises to be a magical wildflower season. Plan a trip - book a tour, but if you possibly can get to this part of South Africa, you'll be in for a real treat. It is essential to book before you go as accommodation options are not plentiful and many of the more popular establishments like Papkuilsfontein near Nieuwoudtville, are booked out a year (sometimes 2) in advance.
The spring flowers of the Cape West Coast, Cederberg and Namaqualand in the Northern Cape have a worldwide reputation. This area of South Africa receives little rain throughout the year but after the winter rains from May to July/August, the normally dry landscape becomes a carpet of wild flowers with vibrant bands of gousblomme and vygies, as well as nemesias, lachenalias, babiana and ixias.
You may not feel you need any tips for flower viewing (how hard can looking at flowers be?). But there is quite a lot to consider if you would really like to get the most out of this “super-bloom” experience. The wide variety of wild flowers is largely due to the varied topography – fertile valleys contrast with high mountains, the semi-desert plains of the north contrast with the unique Sandveld region near the coast with its wetter vlei areas.
Certain species are found nowhere else in the world such as the yellow Leucospermum reflexum, the Snow Protea (protea cryophylla), blue Lachanaea filamentosa, yellow sparaxis, pink Cyanella alba and the Clanwilliam Cedar (widdringtonia cedarbergensis).
Spring is NOT the same as cooler Cape Town. In Namaqualand spring starts earlier. Visitors arriving in late September when all the flowers have gone are often disappointed!
Spring in Namaqualand starts in mid August. The flower season peaks between early August and late August and it is dependent on the winter rains.
As a general rule the wild flowers begin flowering first in the Northern Cape in Namaqualand in late July or early August. They then advance southwards through Nieuwoudtville and the Cederberg region and then appear on the West Coast at the end of August. Thus the West Coast offers the best chance of seeing spring flowers in early September.
So you can see that if you do a tour through the whole area, there will be some areas which are at their peak, some which are just beginning and some which are going over.
Plus there’s an element of luck as it all depends on the amount of rain. Some years are better than others! If there has been a steady flow of gentle cold fronts during the winter, then it is likely to be a good and long-lasting flower season. But one or two violent storms interspersed with lots of dry weather are not so good.
Spring temperatures are also important. If it heats up too quickly then the early visitors have glorious sunshine but the flowers do not last very long.
The Catch 22 is that lots of rain means good flower displays. But if it continues to rain during the spring (August), then it’s not so much fun to view the flowers!
The bottom line is to come with an attitude of acceptance. Try to be prepared to explore other attractions of the area if the flowers are not so amazing. For example the Cederberg has some stunning mountain passes and fantastic hiking country to enjoy. There is plenty to do there, year round. View the Bushmen rock art, do a walking trail or visit a Rooibos tea farm. The spring flowers are almost an added bonus.
- As the flowers face the sun, a good general principle is to travel north relatively quickly and then do most of your flower-viewing in a southerly direction so that the flowers are always facing you.
- Similarly, as the displays are noticeably better if you travel with the sun behind you, you should plan your daily circular route accordingly. So try to travel in a westerly direction in the morning, southerly during the day. And then turn east in the afternoon.
- The flowers are at their best between 10:30-11am and 4.00pm in the afternoon. So there is no need to rush out straight after breakfast, (unless you have some travelling to do before you get to the flower region).
- The flowers will not come out in heavily overcast or rainy weather. So you should plan to visit other sights on such days.
- Get out of your car and walk amongst the flowers – you will appreciate them so much more!
- Pick up a printed flower guide to add to your enjoyment. These are available for not much money from various tourism offices.
- Use the local tourism offices in each area to find out which local routes have the best flower displays
- Don’t pick the flowers!
Text via Cederberg Africa
One of our joint-venture partners, Platteland Tours (based in Gauteng) are putting on an additional tour to cater for the demand to see the wildflowers, which promises to be a real showstopper after a properly authentic winter with lots of rain and icy temperatures.
"Have you ever dreamed of visiting Namaqualand during the flower season? Traveling in your own vehicle but not knowing where to go, where to find the best flowers, where to sleep, what else to do and what to experience en route.
There is now the opportunity to travel with Platteland Tours on an 8-day Road Trip from Gauteng to Namaqualand during September 2021.
There is space for maximum ten vehicles on the trip and all the vehicles are connected via good quality VHF two-way radios in order to stay informed by the tour leader.
Accommodation and certain meals are included in the trip fees of R8100 per person. Their first two tours to the flowers are fully booked but Platteland Tours has arranged an extra trip from the 13th to 20th September 2021."
Towns of South Africa - Focus on Heidelberg, Gauteng
Today we stop in at Heidelberg in Gauteng. Steeped in history and nestled in the Suikerbosrand hills, with the Blesbokspruit river flowing through it, Heidelberg borders on the 13 000ha Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve and offers visitors a taste of a picturesque country lifestyle. It's also among the attractions in Gauteng that pay tribute to the past with its well preserved Victorian architecture.
Only 50km from Johannesburg and 60km from OR Tambo International Airport, the town is located on the N3 highway from Johannesburg to Durban. In 1862 Heidelberg began as a trading station built by German settler, Heinrich J Uekermann. Uekermann acquired part of Farm Langlaagte and established a general dealership there. From 1880 to 1883, which included the years of the first Anglo-Boer War, Heidelberg served as the capital of the Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek under the triumvirate of Paul Kruger, PJ Joubert and MW Pretorius.
In 1885 the Witwatersrand gold reef was discovered in the Heidelberg district and the office of the mining commissioner was set up in the area. Heidelberg developed as a typical Victorian town, and many buildings dating back to the period between 1890 and 1910 have been well-preserved.Visit the AG Visser House where the renowned Afrikaans poet Dr AG Visser lived and practised as the local doctor.
The house was built in 1890 and Visser wrote all his poems in the house. Another of the must-see places to visit in Gauteng is the Diepkloof Farm Museum established in the 1850s.
The farmhouse is one of the buildings that still remained after the war and has been restored to its original state – with period furniture and crockery. The farm buildings include the original home, wagon barn and a school consisting of a classroom, storage and quarters for a teacher. Pop into the café situated next to the farm for some treats.
Also visit the Heidelberg Transport Museum that showcases the history of transport from penny-farthings to Model T Fords and Formula One cars. The museum reopened in 2010 and a restoration project has been restoring the building to its former glory.The beautiful Klipkerk is one of Heidelberg’s well preserved stone churches. The cornerstone of the church was laid in 1890.
Pass of the Week
This short little pass is located close to the N2 national road and forms the eastern border of the Indalu Game Reserve between Herbertsdale in the north and Vleesbaai in the south. The pass has some steep gradients and a few very sharp corners, but perhaps the biggest reason for driving this pass is the lovely scenery and the likelihood of spotting some game. When we filmed the pass, we fortunate to come across a rhino family, which you can see in the video.
The road forms a short-cut between Herbertsdale and the N2 for travellers wanting to get from herbertsdale to Albertinia. The road is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather and is only 3.6 km in length and contains 7 bends, corners and curves with some long, straight stretches. The name more than likely refers to the prolific number of aloes that are found in the area and translates as Red Flower Heights.
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There's no such thing as a silly question: "Why is there a light in the fridge but not in the freezer?"