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South Africa: Namaqualand Spring Bulbs 2024

The Cape Floral Kingdom is renowned for its floral diversity, particularly its geophyte and succulent flora. This tour will cover a large swathe of this biodiverse area at the height of spring, targeting a wide range of habitats with many endemic and localised species.
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Please note that this tour will leave the UK on 19 August and return to the UK on 4 September 2024.

Bulb diversity in Nieuwoudtville

Starting at the metropolis of Cape Town, we will head up to the famous arid plains of Namaqualand where the normally barren landscape transforms into a floral paradise. The granite hills near Springbok are filled with rare bulbs and the plains below beset in a sea of daisies. The isolated Kamiesberg holds a range of endemics which we will seek out before heading south via the quartz plains of the Knersvlakte, rich in localised succulents. Heading up the escarpment, we arrive at one of the most diverse areas for bulbs in the world – Nieuwoudtville. We cross the mighty Cederberg to explore the rich valley full of bulbs and pockets of endemism. Heading out to the coast, the flower fields of West Coast National Park beckon, sandwiched between the Langebaan Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean. Nearby is the bulb rich town of Darling which we will take in before finishing off our tour in the lush Cape Peninsula. We will encounter many endemic birds over the wide range of habitats this tour covers as well as the potential for a number of mammal species.

Our tour begins with a visit to a local nature reserve in the middle of the city, the last remnants of a much larger habitat. The following morning, we begin our trip in earnest, heading north along the Cederberg Mountains, stopping along the way to admire the bulb rich mountain slopes with several range restricted Sparaxis, Moraea and Gladiolus species. We make our way further north where the mountains transition into the flat and arid Knersvlakte, covered in distinctive quartz stones and filled with rare succulents and bulbs. Heading into Namaqualand proper we will start seeing the distinctive cerise theme with Pelargonium incrassatum, Lapeirousia silenoides and Babiana curviscapa, all attracting the same long-tongued fly pollinator.

Goegap Nature Reserve

The large communal nests of Sociable Weavers are a feature of the region and often cover whole trees and telephone poles. Goegap Nature Reserve has one of the biggest displays of annuals with oranges, pinks and yellows covering the flat plains interspersed with Babianas, Ferrarias and Ornithoglossums. The rocky hills are home to a range of interesting desert adapted plants from towering quiver trees to the large leaved Massonia bifolia as well as some interesting wildlife including the strange monotypic Dassie Rat. Exploring more of these rich hills to the West of Springbok, we search for special Lachenalias, and marvel at the diversity of mesembs scattered throughout the rocks. The vast Namaqualand National Park is covered with a sea of orange Dimorphotheca sinuata which hide a diversity of special bulbs beneath their petals. The regal Gladiolus equitans and porcelain petalled Lapeirousia arenicola are some of the many species we will search for. To the east of the park the Kamiesberg massif rises to 1700m, towering over the rocky plains and holding a number of endemics including the stunning Romulea kamiesbergensis, Aloe khamiesensis and Hesperantha latifolia all among the inselbergs.

Heading back south, we will explore the unique quartz strewn Knersvlakte with its unparalleled diversity of succulents before heading up the escarpment to the Bokkeveld Plateau, and the town of Nieuwoudtville, widely regarded as the bulb capital of the world. The dolerite and sandstone soils surrounding the town host over 300 bulb species, many from of the Iridaceae family.

We have two full days to explore the areas around the town where tall yellow Bulbinella nutans dominate the fields among many species of Lachenalia, Nemesia, Moraea, Romulea, Ixia and Geissorhiza. The breathtaking Romulea sabulosa steals the show although tough competition is provided by the arrow marked velvet petals of Lapeirousia oreogena and the tulip-like cups of Hesperantha vaginata. The town keeps on providing spectacles, with one of the largest populations of Quiver Trees (Aloidendron dichotomum) covering the hillsides north of the town.

We next head to the mountainous Koue Bokkeveld, rich in orchids and many more Iridaceae including the spectacular Moraea villosa, Moraea galaxia, Gladiolus recurvus, Gladiolus hyalinus and more! Orchids could include Batholina burmanniana, Disa biflora, Satyrium coriifolium among others. The following full day we will continue to explore sites around the area including those in the Tulbagh valley, where the deep purple petals of Sparaxis grandiflora grandiflora beckon along with the crimson Babiana villosa and scarlet Geissorhiza erosa.

Heading out into the plains we make a special stop among the farmlands for the rare Geissorhiza tulbaghensis and with luck Moraea tulbaghensis as well. We have the rest of the next day to explore the West Coast National Park which will be covered in flashy Asteraceae displays and harbouring specialised endemics in the mix of coastal sands and granite outcrops that surround the large lagoon. This is also our best chance to encounter several antelope species including the graceful Bontebok and Imposing Eland. The park supports a diversity of avifauna including the endangered Black Harrier and striking Southern Black Korhaan. The following morning will see us travelling through the sandy coastal plains of the West Coast before arriving at the small town of Darling, rich in spectacular endemic bulbs including the localised Geissorhiza radians and similarly striking Babiana rubrocyanea.

An exploration of the rich Cape Peninsula will be a fitting end to the tour with a recent burn providing an opportunity to discover rare bulbs that only flower in the first year after a fire. We will make a stop at the world-famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the slopes of the biodiverse Table Mountain. The horticultural collection transitions into natural flora extending up the mountain with the peninsula endemic, Leucadendron argenteum being the star of the show. We should have close views of the endemic Cape Sugarbird and Orange-breasted Sunbird, both important pollinators of many Protea and Erica species.


Mayur Prag has been leading tours and doing botanical exploration for over five years. He spends many weekends exploring botanical hotspots around his home town of Cape Town, although he is currently spending part of the year in Oxford completing his PhD. His knowledge of the sites and ability to find tricky orchids and Iridaceae in the field is exceptional, and he is very talented at helping people to take really striking photos. Mayur is also an excellent birder with an all-round natural history knowledge.


Most of the botanising will be close to the road with just a few miles of walking on some days – ideal for photography. Altitude will not be a problem. The best flower viewing is usually in fairly flat areas, with some mountain paths being explored.


Mostly three star local guesthouses with warm showers.


Transport for the duration of the trip will be via minibus and a small car.


We are visiting the area in spring, which brings mild temperatures ranging from 10-27 °C. We
advise taking a thin jacket, light clothing, walking boots, lots of sun cream!

West Coast National Park

To book please contact our office by email: or by phone 01386 554790 (Monday-Thursday, 10.00am – 4.00pm)