Northern Cape & Kalahari
South Africa’s vast Northern Cape province is a relatively remote region and home to six national parks, including two Transfortier parks crossing into world-famous safari destinations such as Namibia and Botswana. Empty landscapes, blossoming succulents and wild animals roaming the Kalahari dunes are any photographer’s dream, though it should be mentioned that this unique part of South Africa is not the easiest area to tackle as a visitor.
Kalahari & Kgalagadi
The semi-arid Kalahari Desert that extends across South Africa, Namibia and Botswana is both a harsh and magical destination. With towns far and wide between, scorching hot daytime temperatures in summer and freezing night temperatures, travellers to the Northern Cape Kalahari need to come well-prepared. Wide-open spaces in a wilderness landscape with rippling orange-red dunes, glistening salt pans and fascinating wildlife makes for an unforgettable travel experience.
Isolated and truly impressive, the Kgalagadi Transfortier Park was the very first transfortier zone created in Southern Africa and the successful result of a shared vision between Botswana and South Africa. In the Kgalagadi, meaning “thirsty land’’, annual rainfall is 200 mm a year and no permanent surface water has flowed across this ancient landscape for thousands of years. With wildlife having to rely on waterholes and the Kalahari melon as their only water supply, wind pumps have been erected in the waterholes, attracting all sorts of wildlife early morning and late afternoon.
On the outskirts of the Park, descendants of San hunter-gatherers and nomadic Khoi pastoralists have been living in small communities for thousands of years.
Every year around August or September, the dusty plains of Namaqualand are suddenly transformed into a brilliant tapestry of Namaqualand daisies and other wildflowers – a natural phenomenon that never ceases to delight. The Namaqua National Park, approx. 500 km north of Cape Town and just off the N7 route to Namibia, is home to the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world. It is estimated than more than 1,000 of its 3500 plant species are found nowhere else on earth. Evidence of flowers can already be seen in Cape Town and a small part of the West Coast National Park near Langebaan, but you would need to travel further north closer to Garies and Springbok to see the ‘’real deal’’. Combine your self-drive flower-viewing with a hiking or cycling route in the Goekap Nature Reserve near Springbok.
Cape West Coast
Stretching from Cape Town to the Northern Cape, the Cape West Coast is mostly known for its small fishing villages, quaint historic towns, spring wild flowers, incredible surf, surf fishing and the stunning Cederberg Mountains.
Just outside Cape Town, the charming town of Darling is the perfect spot to have lunch and purchase Darling’s local wines and craft beers. Further along the coast the picturesque West Coast National Park is the closest spot to Cape Town where one can view spring wildflowers. Contrasted against a turquoise-tinted ocean and white sandy beaches, the small towns of Paternoster, Langebaan and Lambert’s Bay are not only postcard pretty but also offer fantastic open-air beach restaurants where fresh seafood is prepared on open fire.
The Cederberg Wilderness, a mountainous terrain nestled between the towns of Clanwilliam and Citrusdal, is famous for its rugged beauty, hiking routes, wild camping and stunning views of wild yellow, orange and purple spring flowers.
Richtersveld National Park & Orange River
If nothingness and desert landscapes are your thing, the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfortier Park on the border South Africa and Namibia will not fail to impress. Desert flora, impressive cliff faces and unique plant and animal species that have carefully adapted to survive in a seemingly barren desert landscape makes for an interesting visit. Challenging 4×4 routes are abound while river rafting and fly fishing are some of the exciting activities that can be enjoyed on the Orange River. Those simply looking to relax can enjoy stunning river views, sunsets over the mountain ranges and silent, starry nights.
Augrabies National Park
Augrabies or ‘’Aukoerabis’’ Falls National Park, meaning ‘’Place of Great Noise’’ was first named by the Khoi people. The Park’s main attraction is the impressive 56-meter Augrabies Waterfall, the largest waterfall of the Orange River and among the major large-river waterfalls in the world.
The powerful flow of water thundering down when the Orange River is in full flow is quite a sight to see. The waterfall can be admired from several scenic points in the Park. Though Augrabies is not primarily a wildlife destination, animals that you can look out for include the dainty klipspringers, springbok, gemsbok and interesting reptiles such as the famous Broadley’s flat lizard. The area is also known for its beautiful quiver trees dotted all across the landscape.