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Imagine a wild open space; a place where the air is clear and filled with the promise of re-discovery. Now imagine yourself right there, immersed in the magical land that is South Africa’s Namaqua West Coast.

Easily one of the Cape’s most unique travel destinations, the Namaqua West Coast is a place of iconic beauty. Experience its extraordinary botanical heritage, from the drama of blooming vygieveld in spring to the dwarf succulents of the Knersvlakte. This land is ripe for exploration; a land where you can truly find yourself.

You’ve never seen a field of flowers like the patchwork blankets that bloom every year throughout Namaqua West Coast, but, look a little closer to that desert area too and in the windswept silence you’ll discover the seething life on the fascinating crust of the open plain.

The Knersvlakte is home to a third of the world’s dwarf succulents. It also has one of the largest concentrations of endangered plant species in the world. Namaqualand has some 35 different lichens and possibly even more, with more than half being endemic to the region.

No wonder it’s world renowned for its spectacular bio-diversity. A vast number of plant species – many endemic – are represented in the region’s fynbos, salt marshes, vygieveld, gannabosveld, renosterveld and strandveld.

The Knersvlakte is one of the richest and most diverse succulent regions in the world. Its miniature succulents come in all shapes and sizes and are known colloquially by names like baba-boudtjies, krapogies and vingers-en-duimpies.

The Knersvlakte, one of the crown jewels in the country’s rich botanical treasure trove, has been added to the national network of protected areas

The new 85 500-hectare reserve falls within the Succulent Karoo region. Located north of the Olifants River, it stretches from Klawer to just south of Kliprand in the Western Cape and Northern Cape respectively. The Knersvlakte is known for its characteristic white quartzite gravel that conceals unique vegetation, including rare dwarf succulent plants with an indomitable instinct for survival. Though most people traveling on the N7 highway will think this region is a vast, flat desert-like area with very little vegetation, a surprise awaits them when they stop to look between the white quartz pebbles.

Don’t overlook the soil lichen! These delicate fungal and algae structures function as a single plant and are easily missed in a landscape of towering mountains and vast plains. Soil lichens form a delicate layer of plant material on the soil’s surface and help to protect the soil from wind and water erosion.

Although the Knersvlakte Nature Reserve is closed to the public there is private land owners that offer tours.

All this succulent wonder happens from May to November, longer than the fields of blooming flowers that attracts most of the tourists. Go of the beaten track and discover the unexplored!

Book through a tour company like Namaqua Tours to guide you. Join them on one of their fun and very informative Namaqualand flower tours! For more information contact them 0828966444. A Knersvlakte tour is included in their flower bus tour but Mike Spies, owner and local field specialist and all-round nice guy, will do smaller tailored tours. Have a look on their website for more details: https://namaquatours.com/

Nature lovers are now able to hike the Quaggaskop Private Conservation area thanks to the owners, the Wiese family. Their passion for conserving the Knersvlakte stretches over generations. While exploring the endless horizons of the Knersvlakte, you will find 200 different endemic succulent species. Approximately 27 km north of Vanrhynsdorp, lies the Quaggaskop Private Conservancy, owned by the Wiese-family since 1965.

The family currently allows nature lovers the opportunity to explore this previously inaccessible area of South Africa by means of various eco walking trails developed on the conservancy. These trails were mapped such, to expose hikers to the rich botanical and geological riches of the area. Unfortunately, no unauthorised access is allowed on the Conservancy, therefore interested hikers need to contact the owners prior to visiting the area. Call 027 219 1062 for a reservation.

Day visitors are accommodated but need to check in at Kokerboom Kwekery, Vanrhynsdorp, prior to heading out to the Conservancy.

Contact details: 081 576 0292 ; 076 391 4700; kokerboom@kingsley.co.za

Explore the little town of Vanrhynsdorp which is seen as the succulent capital of the word. It is the only rural village in South Africa with seven registered succulent nurseries! Make sure to include a nursery visit on your travels.

Knechtsvlakte Nursery inside the Old Jail in Vanrhynsdorp has a wide variety of succulents for sale and when you are not able to hike the Knersvlakte yourself they bring the Knersvlakte to you with a succulent display. These displays portray the real deal.

Enjoy succulent tours at Letsatsi Road Lodge were Brinki, the groundskeeper, will explain and answer questions passionately. They have more than 2000 aloes and succulents on the property. The benefits of these tours at Letsatsi, are that they have unique plants which can be seen touched and experienced. Contact them today for more info on these unique tours. 027 219 2828 / letsatsi@webmail.co.za

Vanrhynsdorp is a great base for exploring the Namaqua Westcoast and with a wide variety of accommodation you are sure to get what fits your needs. From luxury lodges to quaint little cottages, camping and self-catering farm stays where it is only you and nature. And at the end of the day, you can relax with a local wine and delight in local cuisine from the restaurants or small farmstalls dotted all over the town and the region.

All info on http://www.namaquawestcoast.com/places/vanrhynsdorp/

Want to explore more of the region? Contact our registered tour guides:

Nelda van Zyl, Weskus Wonders & Wine Tours www.wwwtours.co.za
Tania Fouche, Noordkykers Stap Toere 072 154 3887 ; noordkykers@mylan.co.za
Salomé Willemse, Namaqua B.I.R.D club 027 219 1202 / 0724 714 083 ; japiewillemse@telkomsa.net
Silent Steps http://www.silentsteps.co.za/


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