We spoke to Piet van Zyl, former owner of Matzikama Tours and Accommodation in Cape Town, who specialized in spring flower tours in the Western Cape mainly. He gave us some guidelines for first-time visitors.

Timing is everything – This is probably the number one thing that visitors miscalculate. Being a hotter area than the rest of the Cape, spring starts earlier.  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/early August.

They then advance southwards through Nieuwoudtville and the Cederberg region and then begin in the West Coast at the end of August. Thus the West Coast offers the best chance of seeing spring flowers in early September.

However, there is a large element of luck involved 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 flower season. But one or two violent storms interspersed with 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 bottom line is that ideally, you need to go with an attitude of acceptance and ideally be prepared to explore other aspects of the area if the flowers are not so amazing. For example, the Cederberg has some stunning mountain passes to enjoy. View rock art, do a walking trail or visit Rooibos tea farms. The towns have attractive coffee shops to enjoy and arts & craft shops to explore.

Visitors might not feel they 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 experience.
Piet suggests you visit the Tourism Information Centres and talk to the locals, who are very hospitable and enjoys sharing their knowledge with visitors, to get the information you wouldn’t necessarily find in books or on the internet.

The best way to have a well-rounded trip would be to include the West Coast National Park for its Postberg flowers, wildlife and birding, some of the quaint West Coast Towns like Paternoster, Yzerfontein and Saldanha, for their laid back atmosphere and fresh seafood, the Cederberg for its rock art and mountain beauty, Wuppertal for its interesting history and Citrusdal for the beautiful orange orchards.
Darling is also well known as a cultural experience, with the Eva Perron theatre and culinary delights. The entire flower area has become well-known for its vineyards and boutique wine cellars, and the West Coast Wine Route will give you options, whichever route you take. If time allows, the flowers in the north, though further away, around Vanrhynsdorp and Springbok are glorious and well worth the trip.

Cape Town to Richtersveld 850km: Johannesburg to Springbok 1160km:

Springbok to Richtersveld 297km. We did this trip in spring after good rains. It was one of our most memorable travel experiences!
Richtersveld, a world heritage site, has the most amazing scenery in a desert environment, with a remoteness that stills the soul. Set in a great loop of the Orange River, the deep canyons and jagged mountains, unusual rock colours, the rare kokerboom or quiver tree, the strange halfmens tree, unique succulents and isolation make for a lifetime experience.
In spring, the desert can bring forth a host of wild flowers. Miniature rock gardens, perfectly designed by nature, cling precariously to cliff faces.

Tiny succulents, mere pinpoints against a backdrop of surreal rock formations, revel in the moisture brought by the early morning fog rolling in from the cold Atlantic Ocean.

Only 4×4 vehicles are allowed in the park. For detailed park information, booking and how to get there visit the park’s website. There are no shops in the park, but fuel and cold drinks can be purchased at a small general store at Sendelingsdrift. The shop is open on weekdays only. Tel: 012 428 9111 for central booking or 027 831 1506 at the park itself.
The trip to Springbok is 568km from Cape Town and 1160km from Johannesburg.

Springbok is close to the famous Goegap Nature Reserve, also known for its birding.  Springbok is a great springboard from the north, with the top flower destinations of the Namaqua National Park, Kamieskroon (visit the Skilpad Flower Reserve – named for its tortoises), Garies and Bitterfontein, all en-route to Vanrhynsdorp and Clanwilliam.

To reach Vanrhynsdorp from Cape Town is a 308km trip and Springbok to Vanrhynsdorp is a 260km drive.
If you are camping, the Vanrhynsdorp private caravan park is close to town on the Main Gifburg Road. The Caravan Park has a quiet, well managed, farm like atmosphere and also offers guests the option of staying in self-catering units. Camping sites have power points and ablution with hot water. There’s a restaurant with a great a la carte menu. Tel: +27(0)27 219 1287: +27(0)76 293 2578.

Vanrhynsdorp itself has flowers on various farms and it is best to contact tourism for the best places to go, both in town and in other areas. T:027 219 1552: Van Riebeeck Street, Vanrhynsdorp.

Vanrhynsdorp is home to Kokerboom,  the biggest succulent nursery in the world (Tel: 027 219 1062: Cell: 082 811 5474)  and to the Latsky Radio Museum with its interesting displays:  Monday – Saturday 9 am – 12 pm and 2 pm – 5 pm: Tel: +27-27-2191032: 4 Church Street.

From Vanrhynsdorp you can do the following breathtaking day trips:

Take the 182km circular route from Vanrhynsdorp to the coast and back. From Vanrhynsdorp take the N7 to Klawer, and visit the Klawer wine cellar. From Klawer, drive to Vredendal, famous for its flowers and wine. Continue to Lutzville with more wine cellars and then on to the flowers at Standfontein and Doringbaai, home of Fryers Cove wines on the coast. Not only do you go through the beautiful Olifants River Vallery, a rich wine, fruit and vegetable farming area, but get to enjoy the quiet beaches along the coast. See our article on the West Coast Wine Route. Or you can go to Nieuwoudtville.

Drive 52km over the awe-inspiring Van Rhyns Pass, to Nieuwoudtville, the bulb capital of the world and visit the flower reserves and farms for amazing floral carpets.

Drive 52km over the awe-inspiring Van Rhyns Pass, to Nieuwoudtville, the bulb capital of the world and visit the flower reserves and farms for amazing floral carpets. Visit the Hantam Botanical Gardens that boasts an incredible 1350 plant species, and is found on the Oorlogskloof Road and the Nieuwoudtville Flower Reserve, close to town.

A great day trip from Nieuwoudtville, is to take the R357 north out of town, and visit the Nieuwoudtville Falls, the Quiver Tree Forest at Gannabos, a private farm, where trees grow to 400 years old and produce vivid yellow flowers in May, June and July, as they have been doing for many thousands of years.

This forest is spectacular at sunset. Further on, Loeriesfontein has a rather interesting windmill museum.

An excellent flower experience can be enjoyed by driving south from Clanwilliam. It is only 228km from Cape Town and 80km from Vanrhynsdorp on the N7. You will pass the Klawer Cellars en-route from Vanrhynsdorp, so make a stop.

Clanwilliam offers the magnificent Ramskop Wildflower Reserve, next to the Clanwilliam Dam. A wonderful day trip from Clanwilliam is the 140km round trip to the Biedouw Valleyand Wuppertal. Not only are the flowers overwhelming, but Wuppertal is a village lost in time and an experience itself. You can enjoy something to eat at the little shop in Wuppertal.  To get there, take the R364 from Clanwilliam over the Pakhuis Pass and turn right onto the Biedouw Valley/Wuppertal road.

If you are interested in Bushman Rock Art, take a really professional guided tour with the Clanwilliam Living Landscape Project.

Citrusdal is situated on the Olifants River and is famous for its citrus orchards. It is 170km from Cape Town and 58km from Clanwilliam along the N7. However, there is a wonderful gravel route from Clanwilliam along the dam, towards Algeria.

After approximately 30km, you will access the N7 again. No traffic, pure bliss (this is the same road you took to visit the Ramskop Wildflower Reserve).

The Postberg area of the West Coast National Park that is only open in flower season is a brilliant spot and the park itself is also a sight to behold, where wildlife on the plains mingle with the flowers. There are also bird hides in the park. The towns of Yzerfontein and Darling are also good flower spots.

From Citrusdal, an interesting route can be taken over the Piekernierskloof Pass and onto the R399 to Velddrif, which is also well known for its birding and fishing. From Veldrif, experience the quaint West Coast Villages of St Helena Bay, Britannia Bay, Paternoster (very popular village with great seafood) and Tietiesbaai. Drive through Vredenburg en-route to the West Coast National Park and Postberg. In Postberg you can enjoy a picnic at the Uitkyk picnic spot. An interesting attraction, 13km from Vredenburg on the R45, is the Fossil Park. On the same road, 37km from Vredenburg is Hopefield.

The veld around Hopefield provides its own natural display of springtime flowers when the green winter wonderland is transformed to an overnight spectacle of bright indigenous daisies and fynbos. There are four botanical zones: renosterveld, sandveld, reed veld and vlei areas. At the Hopefield Show, these regions are displayed in the exhibition hall to reflect Fynbos in their natural habitat. This very popular show takes place at the Hopefield Sports grounds on the last weekend of August each year.

In Langebaan visit the Strandloper Seafood Restaurant for a fresh seafood indulgence.

From the WCNP drive to Yzerfontein and enjoy a meal at the Strandkombuis Seafood Restaurant on the beach or participate in an authentic Bushman cultural experience.

Drive to Darling on the R315 and visit the Tienie Versveld Wildflower Garden, the Renosterveld Reserve, Wayland Farm, Contreberg Farm on R307 Darling-Mamre road and Oudepost Farm. Wayland and Oudepost are only open for flowers during August and September. Here millions of these exotic flowers are cultivated for local and export markets. The Groote Post wine farm also offers long walks in its beautiful natural surroundings.

Piet also stressed the fact that you need to book early to avoid disappointment the ‘season’ is very short and people book way in advance.  His last private tour was in August 2017 when he took his mother-in-law and grand-mother-in-law to observe Mother Nature at her proudest: spring flowers spring as this was a lifelong dream of Grandma. Piet says that everybody should go there at least once in their lifetime.

Written by:  Ista van Zyl

Written by: Sylvia von Lindeiner – Waldau

Anyone who likes to fish has the wish to hook a big Tigerfish at least once in their life. They are a highly sought-after freshwater game fish because of their speed and aerial displays when hooked.

Tigerfish

When I asked my friend Eddy van Deventer why he is so passionate about tiger fishing his reply was short “Well it’s very simple! Tigerfish gives an angler one of the best fights!”

The best spot to do so is, hand down, the mighty Zambezi River – home to some of the largest tigers on the planet. “Tiger-heaven”

I am personally not the best fisherman or more like the worst. My friends who are very much into fishing like to refer to me as a ‘civilian’, apparently a commonly used term in Zimbabwe among the guys who participate every year at the Kariba Invitation Tiger Fish Tournament, to describe someone who is absolutely useless when it comes to fishing.

Tigerfishing

But despite being terrible at catching fish (or anything for that matter- even the right man), I would never say no to a fishing trip with these non-civilians as a fishing trip in Zimbabwe on the mighty Zambezi does not only give you the ultimate chance to experience the catching a massive Tigerfish but also guarantees you extraordinary Big Five game viewing and the most stunning and calming scenery.

The Zambezi Valley bids the perfect mix of game fishing and first-class game viewing from some unique safari lodges.

Fishing on the Zambezi or in Kariba is always done from boats with crocodiles and hippos around you. Sometimes the boats get tied up on the sandbanks for lunch and some bank fishing in the afternoon. But be careful of wildlife!

According to some of my friends, who certainly know more about this subject, the three main areas to catch Tiger in Zimbabwe are the Upper Zambezi, Kariba and the Lower Zambezi:

The Upper Zambezi above Kariba promises you a catch throughout the year. However, from August to December it is recommended to go trolling whereas January to April drift baiting is most recommended.  June to September are the best months to use spinning as a fishing method.

Kariba, where they prefer to go trolling spinners or other artificial lures as well as live bait. Lake Kariba is approximately 220kms long and in parts up to 40kms wide and gives anyone stunning game viewing and fishing occasions from the many lodges and houseboats that are available. Most houseboats are fully equipped with delicious cuisine, a crew and tender boats which allow to go and explore the lake and further fishing spots.

And last but not least- the lower Zambezi, where they mainly use live bait or fillets and go drifting with the current. Once again – one is also promised spectacular game viewing with buffalo, numerous elephants, lions, leopards and many antelope species. Birders will certainly also love this area and so if the fishing is getting a bit quieter- the nature and wildlife, as well as all the birds, will not let you get bored until those hungry tigers finally bite again!

Zambezi River

All these areas are best during the summer months but fish can be caught throughout the year.

Author: Ina Stevens

A burning red ball of fire with hues of orange fading into a magnificent Africa sunset, lush greenery and wild animals roaming on swaying grasslands springs to mind when I’m descending into Mpumalanga.

My husband James was born and bred in the Lowveld and always dreamed about his own piece of land in this tropical lush part of our country. For me, life on a farm would just be too remote but when he showed me this beautiful location I fell completely in love with Marloth Park. It is then here we found our perfect piece of paradise…

Marloth Park situated on the banks of the Crocodile River, is a Holiday destination for local and international guests alike. Giving you the opportunity to relax, unwind and appreciate nature and wildlife at its best. It boasts four of the “Big Five “in its own game reserve Lionspruit, with the exception of elephants. The rest of the game such as zebra, giraffe, kudu, impala and warthogs roam freely between the houses, they are quite tame and use to humans, which makes for a very” close”  viewing experience. Many lookouts along the river offer magical picnic spots, it leans itself to having a romantic sundowner with spectacular views at dusk.

One can often spot the” Big Five” while driving or walking along the fence road neighbouring the Kruger National Park, with elephants so close you can almost touch them,  Lions feasting on a kill and lurking Wild dogs and Hyena waiting to scavenge. Should you wish to visit Kruger Nation Park, Crocodile Bridge gate are a mere 14km away. Due to its close vicinity of the Mozambique and Swaziland borders, the Park is also a very popular stopover.

You will find this small community friendly and helpful. There are several restaurants offering mouth-watering cuisine and a few shops as well as hair and beauty salons which usually are a big plus for city girls like me!

Bird watching is very popular and those familiar sounds of a Fish-eagle can be heard echoing through the sky. But the true beauty is the calmness, the quietness in your soul, sitting next to a fire with dancing flames, hearing a lion’s majestic roar, looking up at the Milky Way with millions of flickering stars in the night sky. The peace and tranquility it brings to mind are almost indescribable… something you will just have to experience for yourself!

Authors: Annelie & Neil Pretorius

Wow! I don’t even know where to begin. This place is just magnificent and exceeded all our expectations and more.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is situated in the Kalahari Desert region of South Africa and Botswana and is about a nine-hour drive from Pretoria on the N14.

A few years ago my husband came across a Facebook group called Kgalagadi Sightings where visitors to the park posted their personal photos of their experience in the park. We fell in love with it and could not get enough of the photos of all the lion, cheetah, leopard and spotted hyena.
 

So we started planning our two-week trip to the South African side of the park mid-2015. We decided to visit the park during April/May 2016 as it was is just after the rain season and temperatures were bearable and the evenings a bit cooler. We started buying our camping gear … As it was our first visit to the park, we decided to book accommodation at the three main fenced rest camps namely Twee Rivieren, Nossob and Mata-Mata, and to do a three-night, four day 4×4 eco-guided tour en route to Nossob.All these rest camps comprise of very neat ablutions and laundry areas and even have electricity connectivity. Twee Rivieren has a restaurant and tiny shop and there is cell phone reception too.

Our holiday began on 22 April; we left Centurion very early that morning. We checked in at Twee Rivieren for the next 2 nights and days. Twee Rivieren is situated on the bank of the dry Nossob Riverbed. We travelled up the Nossob River bed between Twee Rivieren Camp and Nossob Camp, we left our camp early at 07:00 and was surprised to see 2 lionesses’ on the dunes not long after we left our camp, we stopped for a few minutes, but they disappeared behind the dunes and we decided to drive on, 10 minutes later we came across a few cars in the road, next to the road a lioness and her 2 cubs was drinking water in a puddle, I was ecstatic to see the 2 cubs so close to our car. The highlight was when I noticed the most beautiful lions walking in the direction of the mom and cubs, went and paused for a rest period on one of the Kalahari’s idyllic red dunes with the morning sun in his face, I snapped so many photos of that beautiful moment. We saw big herds of springbok, oryx, blesbuck, blue wildebeest mainly travelling on their own, vultures, a small group of meerkat playing, but no hyena, cheetah or leopard sightings.

We stayed another night at Twee Rivieren and from there, prior to our visit to the park we booked a 3 night, 4 day guided 4×4 eco trail group tour across the red dunes to Nossob, where we stayed at 3 unfenced camps, without electricity, running water and a long drop toilet, but that was all part of the experience. During our trip, we were taught a lot about the dunes, fauna and flora in the Kalahari desert. I definitely recommend the eco-tour. We didn’t see lots of game but saw ostrich, kudu, lion and lots of birds.

On day 6 we arrived at Nossob camp, we started the day off by just relaxing at camp for a change. The following morning, we left early to see if we could spot some hyena, as we were informed at reception that there is a den not far from camp, so we headed in the direction of Polentswa waterhole. We didn’t drive far and came across 3 lions having an early morning nap in the sun on the road near Bedinkt waterhole. We couldn’t believe it, we were the first car to view the sighting and had the 3 all to ourselves for nearly 20 minutes. We drove off and had coffee and nice rusks in the bakkie at one of the many waterholes along the road, before driving back to the camp for an afternoon nap. The following morning, we left as the gates opened at 07:00, made sure we are the first vehicle to exit.

Today is the day we are going to spot some hyena I told my husband, full of optimism we left and drove for about 10km next to the Nossob riverbed heading again in the direction of Polentswa waterhole when I spotted 2 creatures in the distance walking very fast, grabbed the binoculars and yes, it’s 2 hyena. I was in my element as I have never seen a hyena in the wild. We drove to get ahead of them, but they were still very far in the distance walking in the riverbed, and then they turned towards us and walked straight up to our bakkie and sniffed on the bakkie’s tires. What and awesome experience to see them so up and close. My day was made! Once again we headed to a waterhole and had our daily coffee and rusks in the bakkie before we drove on for some more game viewing and came back around 15:00 and set up camp and lit the fire. Nothing can compare to the peace and quiet and the night sky in the Kgalagadi with distant jackal calls in the distance.

On day 8 we headed to Mata-Mata, situated on the bank of the Auob River, this side of the park borders Namibia to the west. Mata-Mata offer 2 hour long guided night drives, we saw bat-eared foxes, muskeljaatkat, spring-hare, scrub hare, Cape fox, African wildcat, jackal and night owls and lots of antelope. The rest of our trip we stayed at Mata-Mata and travelled up and down the Auob Riverbed  and saw Masego the famous young leopard hunt an African wildcat in a tree next to the road after exploring various trees looking for prey, we followed her on this particular day for more than an hour between Dertiende and Veertiende boorgat.

The riverbed is also home to large herds of giraffe and we came across them everyday sightseeing, we saw Masego the leopard almost every day. One morning on our daily route we saw 2 hyena walking in the direction of Veertiende boorgat and followed them slowly, they reached the waterhole and both jumped in the water trying to cool off while drinking water. This was so interesting to watch as they were playing. Like at Nossob they walked straight up to our bakkie and sniffed on the wheels but this time biting at it with their sharp teeth, my husband had to pull away to avoid any damages to the tires. We spent the last two days at Twee Rivieren before heading back to Pretoria. During our trip, we were lucky enough to see a total of 32 lions, some leopard and two cheetahs in the distance near Mata-Mata, among others.

All three rest camps have little shops with all necessaries, a petrol station to refuel. Twee Rivieren and Nossob have swimming pools. We bought delicious freshly baked “rooster brood” every night while at Mata-Mata and Nossob. You can place your order at the shops in the morning and collect your items after 06:00. At Mata-Mata there is a little shop across the border on the Namibian side that sells delicious lamb chops and boerewors at a very good price. You are allowed to cross the border without a passport to visit the shop, just inform the security at the border.

Kgalagadi is an absolute must for bird lovers, we saw yellow-billed kite, black-breasted snake eagle, tawny eagles, bateleur, pale chanting goshawk, lanner falcon, Namaqua sand grouse, Namaqua Dove, spotted eagle owl, veer aux eagle owl and tow species of vultures. The camps are also home to yellow mongoose and ground squirrels. They are not shy at all and will even walk up to your camp chair if you sit very still. One even tried to take a dead butterfly out of my hand! Big herds of gemsbok and springbok can be spotted throughout the park along the roads and at waterholes. Unfortunately, we didn’t see meerkat up close, but maybe next time.

I can definitely say that this breakaway to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park was and will be remembered as one of our most memorable and relaxed holidays yet. We returned revitalised and the park definitely exceeded our expectations. The staff is friendly, fellow campers greet you in the morning on your way to the ablutions and on the roads. People are very considerate and everyone gets a chance to view a sighting. We are already planning our next trip with friends to the Botswana side of the park this year April. We cannot wait to put our feet in the sand and get that overwhelming feeling of joy that comes with it.