The main thing that comes to mind when you mention Namaqua National Park is the thick carpet of spring wildflowers.
But there is more than just the lush spring wildflower bloom, there is the sound of the Atlantic along the shoreline, star-filled clear skies, and giant mesmerizing rock formations.
Let’s not wait any longer and just dive straight into things!
What is Namaqua National Park famous for?
The park has some of the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world, with more than 1000 of its approximate 3500 flora species only native to the area.
The park forms part of Namaqualand, an area found within the semi-desert Succulent Karoo biome.
Initially, the park was established in 1993 as the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve, which now forms the nucleus of the new national park which was added an additional 500 km2.
To date, 270 km2 has been added making the park have an area of more than 700 km2.
For most of the year, Namaqualand is a semi-desert, with the months running from July to September seeing a burst of color after the rains.
These mid-year spring rains result in millions of flowers that transform the park’s landscape.
The park is also home to a variety of fauna, from the fleet-footed steenbok, the gorgeous elephant shrew, meerkats, and the world’s smallest tortoise- the Namaqua Speckled Padloper.
Along the coast, you might be lucky enough to spot the cape fur seal, but get your fill of the ocean.
Where Is Namaqua National Park Situated?
Namaqua National Park is located in the Northern Cape Province, near South Africa’s border with Namibia.
It stretches all the way along the western Atlantic Ocean coast, which forms the Northern Cape Province’s Western borderline.
On the Eastern side, the Park extends all the way from the town of Garies in the South to the border with Namibia in the North.
This Northern border is formed by the Orange River and East to the small town of Pofadder. The park is approximately 495 km North of Cape Town and 22 km northwest of Kamieskroon.
Below is a map of the park, just click on the picture to take you to Google maps.
How To Get To Namaqua National Park?
The airports nearest to the park are the international airport at Cape Town and the domestic airport at Upington.
From there you will have to travel by road. Alternatively, you can charter a plane and fly to the nearest airstrip; the Springbok airstrip in the Goegab nature reserve which is 67 km away from Namaqua National Park.
From Cape Town, take the N7 (highway to Namibia) and turn off to Kamieskroon.
Turn left towards the hotel instead of going right into town, follow the gravel road that passes underneath the N7 and continue west for about 22 km to get to the park.
If you plan to visit the coastal section of the park, then you’ll need to use the Groenrivier gate.
Take the N7 North from Cape Town, and turn off at Garies. Go through the town and turn west towards Groenrivier. Follow the gravel road for about 73 km to the park’s entrance.
Activities- What To Visit in Namaqua National Park?
Spring flower spectacle
This is a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle that should be on your bucket list, should you be traveling to South Africa.
With more than 3000 species of wildflowers, the bloom is spectacular and a sight to marvel at.
On bright sunny days, when the flowers are in full bloom, the landscape is bathed in color from orange, yellow, pink, and white to blue.
The best time to see this bloom is right after the winter rainfall, in the months of June and August.
Here’s a terrific video where you can see the Namaqualand flower route:
Also to note, spring isn’t the only time to spot the wildflowers but so is autumn. The big difference is that the carpets that bloom in spring aren’t there but there are flowers such as succulents and pink March lilies.
The Namaqua Camino
For those who are looking for more of a challenge, then the 10-day 260 km walk that is the Namaqua Camino, is the activity for you.
This hiking trail is a loop that starts and ends at Hondeklip bay (see below).
The walk takes you through a variety of landscapes, from pristine Atlantic coastlines to arid plains.
Each day the distance covered varies from 21 to 30 km, with the participants traveling extremely light, with supplies waiting at each camping site.
Although the overnight campsites are basic, you still get three meals a day, hot rationed showers, and bucket toilets.
If you’re an avid fisherman and enjoy the taste of shellfish and fresh fish, then a detour to Hondeklip Bay is a must.
At the bay, you might also be interested in visiting the lighthouse, and the wreck of Aristea; which has a very fascinating back story dating back to World War II.
If you’re an avid birder, then you should have your binoculars with you and a keen eye as you traverse the park.
Species like Ludwig’s bustard, Martial, and Verreaux’s eagle, long-billed lark, cinnamon-breasted warbler, and the cape bunting call the park their home.
Along the coastal stretches, you’ll find species such as the black oystercatchers, caper cormorants, and waders.
Mammals, and Namaqualand’s small creatures.
The park has both large animals and small creatures that are quite unique to the area.
The small animals include the Namaqua flat lizard, the barking gecko, and the Namaqua chameleon; said to be the fastest chameleon in the world moving at incredible speeds of up to 3 km/h.
You can also find the world’s smallest tortoise, the Namaqua speckled Padloper, and the angulate tortoise.
The park is also home to a variety of mammals with examples of carnivores like the caracal, leopard, aardwolf, and the African wild cat.
Though most of these carnivores can be reclusive, and on your drive through the park, you’ll more likely see animals like the gemsbok, red hartebeest, steenbok, and springbok.
Along the coastal section, you’ll find a variety of sea mammals from the cape fur seal, Heaviside’s dolphin, and southern right whales.
The spectacle that is the quiver trees
Even though the spring flower bloom is the main attraction, don’t forget to check out the park’s other flora, such as the amazing quiver trees.
Scientifically known as Aloe Dichotoma or locally Kokerboom, this large succulent becomes a yellow flower in winter.
The san hunters found the quiver trees’ fibrous branches handy as quivers to hold their arrows when hollowed out.
Other than quivers, these trees were in the olden days used as coffins and makeshift fridges to keep food from going bad.
Silver sands trail
This trail starts at Hondeklip bay, covering about 55 km over a period of five days. This beautiful beach hike takes place between the Spoeg and Groen rivers.
On the trail, you’ll have whale sightings, rock pools full of marine life, the second largest seal colony on the West Coast, and more than 150 species of birds.
If you want to see a fantastic video on the coastal area of this park, make sure to check out the video below!
Namaqua Caracal 4×4 Trail
Right in the heart of Namaqualand where the wildflowers bloom, is the Namaqua Caracal 4×4 trail.
This trail is in a part of the Northern Cape that is quiet and has sparse vegetation most times of the year: but that changes during spring.
This is a one-way route outside Kamieskroon from the Skilpad to Groenriviersmond for about 176 km.
The route takes about eight hours to complete depending on the driver’s skill and pace, and a formal grading of between one and three.
Along the trail, drivers are encouraged to explore the many nature trails on foot. Drivers need to tackle this trail fully equipped with food and fresh water.
Shipwreck 4×4 Trail
This route is between Koingnaas and Kleinzee on the North West part of South Africa’s coastline known as the Diamond Coast.
Expect gravel roads, lots of soft sand, pebbles beaches, and rocks. This trail is a guided route, suitable for all-year driving.
The coastline, much of which is owned by De Beers remains largely uncharted territory.
This trail links three major shipwrecks, the Piratiny, the Border, and the Arosa. The closest town in Kamieskroon which is about 80 km away.
Caracal Eco Route
This route is a 4×4 mountain to ocean experience covering a distance of 75-200 km.
The self-drive route is long and best done as an overnight drive as there are numerous campsites on the reserve’s coast.
The trail starts at Skillpad Rest Camp and isn’t difficult to navigate as it is well signposted.
Visit the locals
Visit some of the local communities surrounding the park-like Soebatsfontein, Rooifontein, Spoegrivier, and Leliefontein.
These people can trace their roots back to the Khoisan hunter-gatherers who came to the area about 2000 years ago.
Namaqua National Park Beach Camping
Between the Spoeg – and Groen rivers, you can find beach camping sites along the coastal section of the park.
From the North to the South of the park you’ll find 46 campsites set in clusters of nine, taking the breathtaking wonders of the park’s entire coastline.
Something to note though: Only some of the sites have enviro toilets and there are no showers, you will need to bring everything with you, from water to firewood, and there is no cell reception.
Namaqua Flower camps
During the peak flower bloom season, two luxury camps the Namaqua Flower Beach Camp, and the Namaqua Flower Skilpad Camp are usually open.
The Skilpad camp is in the Skilpad section of the camp and the Beach camp along the Groenrivier coastal section and both are fully catered for.
Amenities in the camp include paraffin lamps, generator-driven lights, charging points for your gear, proper beds with duvets and cotton sheets, with each tent having its own loo and shower point.
Luiperdskloof Guest Cottage
For visitors on the Caracal 4×4 Eco-route, this cottage makes a welcome stopover.
The cottage has three bedrooms and a shared bathroom, no electricity, a gas oven, gas fridge-freezer, paraffin lamps, and a fireplace.
Bring your own firewood and check in at the Skilpad reception by at least 2:00 PM as it is a three-hour drive from there.
Skilpad Rest Camp
This camp just has four chalets, perfect for relaxation and taking in the ambiance of Namaqualand.
Each chalet sleeps two in the bedroom, with an additional sleeper couch in the living room area.
There is a fireplace and air conditioning in the bedroom, and a well-equipped kitchen.
Planning Your Trip To Namaqua National Park.
Accommodation can be found within the park (above), but for those who might want a little more luxury and convenience, or find the camps available accommodations all booked out, then the town of Springbok (at 87 km), might be a good choice.
The accommodation there starts from as low as R600 for self-catering chalets to R1500 for comfortable guest houses.
For the Skilpad Chalet, the charges depend on the time of the year, from as high as R1390 from August to October (Spring) to as low as R800 from January to July.
Namaqua National Park Entrance.
Below is a table showing the park entry fees.
|Daily conservation fees for 1 November 2021||To 31 October 2022|
|South African Citizens and Residents (With ID)||R50 per adult, per day R25 per child, per day|
|SADC Nationals (With Passports)||R100 per adult, per day R50 per child, per day|
|Standard Conservation Fees (International Visitors)||R100 per adult, per day R50 per child, per day|
And here are the rules of the park regarding fishing!
Things to Note about this park.
- If you are not used to taking hikes, then some trails can be difficult. From the camp to the end and start of a hiking trail necessitates the use of a 4×4 vehicle and a fairly detailed map.
- In the inland areas, visitors can make use of sedans or 2×4 vehicles, but if you plan to fully explore the park then you will definitely need a 4×4.
- The coastal sections that are sandy, are very sandy and you will need to deflate your tires to avoid getting stuck.
- Beware of weather extremes.
- There are no ATM and fuel services within the park itself, but these can be found in the nearby town of Springbok which is 87 km away.
The nearest fuel to the Skilpad section is Kamieskroon and to the Groenrivier section is Garies which is 73 km away.
- Vehicle repairs, post office, and police services are available at Kamieskroon. Medial services only in Springbok.
My Final Conclusion.
Namaqua National Park is a great place to visit, a wonderful place to marvel in the beauty of nature.
Also due to its remoteness and pretty poor cell reception, a visit to the park can be construed as the perfect time to not only relax, sightsee, or go for a hike but also an electronic detox.
Planning your trip during Spring is a perfect time to catch the wildflower bloom the park is famous for.
If you have any more questions on Namaqua National Park, please feel free to ask them below in the comment section or join me on one of my social media pages below for more pictures of my travels to Africa!
I wish you happy travels!