Every year, a miracle happens in Spring in the dry and arid desert situated on South Africa’s West coast. A seemingly lifeless expanse of desert plains and Rocky Mountains bursts into life, giving a flower
Every year, a miracle happens in Spring in the dry and arid desert situated on South Africa’s West coast.
A seemingly lifeless expanse of desert plains and Rocky Mountains bursts into life, giving a flower show better than the Chelsea Flower Show. Following spring rains, some 350 endemic species together with hundreds of others burst into bloom, carpeting the landscape in colour and life.
So, if you have time in the first half of September during your visit to South Africa, head north-west to this ancient biome, a rich cultural and botanically diverse landscape.
Despite a very low average annual rainfall, there are several climatic conditions which allow an amazing diversity of botanical life to thrive. These include fog off the Atlantic coast and sometimes night time dew. Temperatures can reach 50°C in high summer but winters are more temperate at 20-25°C.
The Richtersveld contains the world’s most diversified lichen fields near Alexander Bay and the wider region is home to more than 5,000 plant species, of which around 40% are endemic.
In its awarding of the World Heritage Site status, UNESCO also honoured cultural aspects of the region in which the indigenous Nama stock farmers still practice their traditional way of life. These farmers use an ancient form of transhumance (seasonal migration), moving their small herds of sheep and goats to different grazing outposts. Some of the Nama still live in traditional dome-shaped grass homesteads, called “matjieshuise”, or reed houses. These houses are incredibly basic and a far cry from the state-of-the-art advances you’d find at an online casino Sri Lanka or any other real-world or virtual space,
An Unlikely Eden
Not only will your travels north-west into the Richtersveld afford the traveller a flower spectacle like no other but there are also many unique plant species you will never see anywhere else.
These include the “halfmens” or half person, a large stem succulent or tree succulent. It has a tree-like trunk with a sprout of leaves at the top, symbolising the head. The head of the Halfmens always leans to the North.
Then there are kokerbooms or aloe trees, some of which reach 10 metres. A forest of these intriguing trees can be found in the Richtersveld National Park.
Other interesting plants found naturally nowhere else in the world include Vygies (Mesembs) with their annual bright sunny faces attracting pollinators; the botterboom (butter tree) a short and chubby succulent with a thick stem; Hoodia, a natural appetite suppressant now used in diet pills and the Bushman’s Candle, a small shrub with waxy bark that protects it from sandstorms.
Places Of Interest
Places and towns of interest to visit include Niewoudtville, where you can view plains of geophyte bulbs, Okiep, the site of a historical old copper mine, the coastal town of Port Nolloth where diamonds are still harvested off the ocean floor and Aix Aix, a spa on the Fish River Canyon across the border in Namibia.
As you reach the most northern border of the Richtersveld, there is no better way to end your trip than a rubber duck trip down the mighty Orange River, where there are many operators with expert guides.