Take it slowly like a tortoise this season

THOSE who have ventured north to dusty Namaqualand on the N7 and veered off the tar to Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve have been treated to a magic carpet glowing with orange daisies – incandescently luminous from kilometres away.

Named after the world’s smallest tortoise, the Namaqua speckled padloper, the skilpad section of the Namaqua National Park is only open in flower season.

We visited at the end of August and found hillsides set on fire with Namaqualand daisies, the unfortunately named Pietsnot – a pretty little yellow blossom – and patches of white and blue sporries. But every day the palette changes.

“The flowers have responded well after the recent good rains,” park manager Bernard van Lente said.

“Numerous other daisy species and gazanias are also reacting well to the rainfall.

“The access road to Skilpad has taken a bit of a hammering with the recent rains but is driveable with normal sedan vehicles,” he said.

Just take the road slowly. We were fine without a high-clearance gas guzzler and probably saw more than if we had hurtled along. After hours in the car, it was also great to stretch our legs on one of the circular walks around the park, stopping to smell the flowers.

But if you want to explore the rest of the park, you may wish you had a 4×4 as many of the floral treasures are tucked away on terrible roads. You can also stay in the park and there are tents for hire until mid-September.

More information on the Namaqua National Park from (027) 672-1948, www.sanparks.org, or see the West Coast flower newsletter.

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