Tag Archives: Spring Flowers on West Coast

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Clanwilliam, Lamberts Bay

The Background

With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, we decided to do a similar, but different, trip in September 2022. Our planned route was to take us to Tulbagh for one night, then three nights each in Clanwilliam and Paternoster. To round off the trip we treated ourselves to a three night stay in Cape Town’s Vineyard Hotel, in celebration of our birthdays which “book-ended” the trip,

I would recommend clicking on the images where appropriate to view in larger scale and appreciate the beauty and perfection of the flowers.

Clanwilliam Wild Flower Show

After a solid breakfast served on the stoep of the Yellow Aloe Guest House with a view over the lush garden, we set off to find the “Blommekerk / Flower Church” where the annual Wildflower show is held and which the reports suggested was well worth a visit.

Well, we didn’t have far to go as we found it was right across the road from our guest house!

Clanwilliam

The displays of living flowers take up the whole internal area of the small, historic church and are wonderfully done and arranged so that they represent different regions

Wildflower show, Clanwilliam
Wildflower show, Clanwilliam
Wildflower show, Clanwilliam
Wildflower show, Clanwilliam
Wildflower show, Clanwilliam

A side room of ‘special’ flowers was really interesting with every imaginable, and some unimaginable, shapes colours and sizes represented. A plaque nearby had the words of the well-known Afrikaans poet DJ Opperman inscribed on it – his description of the wonder of the Namaqualand flowers is stirring (if you understand Afrikaans)

Wildflower show, Clanwilliam

Equally fascinating was a display of unusual succulents with the cutest names that had us smiling, even chuckling, along with others around us

The common name for this one in Afrikaans translates as “baby’s bum”

Argyroderma testiculare – Bababoudjies – Wildflower show, Clanwilliam

And this one is – you guessed it – Thumb and finger!

Dactyloptis doigitata – Duim-en-Vinger – Wildflower show, Clanwilliam

Ramskop Wild Flower Reserve

After a short spell of shopping for some necessities we headed to the Ramskop Wild Flower Reserve just outside town, overlooking the Clanwilliam Dam.

Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam

The gardens were superb and we spent a good hour or two wandering along the pathways, seeing new species at every turn and taking lots of photos

I haven’t tried to describe the flowers – in this case the photos do the talking. Oh, and I haven’t named all of the flowers as I am no expert in botanical matters and in any case I don’t have all my reference books with me in Mossel Bay (a hazard of living in two places)

Quiver Trees – Kokerbooms – atop a rise in the flower bedecked Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Cape Robin-Chat, Clanwilliam
Erica (Heath family), Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Wachendorfia multiflora – Common Butterfly Lily – Kleinrooikanol – Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Lampranthus – Vygie, Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam

While I was photographing the vygies a butterfly flew past literally under my nose and momentarily fed on the flowers – I took a few images of which one came out showing a nice side view of the butterfly as it landed on the flower – what a stroke of luck!

Citrus Swallowtail butterfly on Lampranthus species – Vygie, Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Protea compacta (?), Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam
Ramskop Wild Flower Garden near Clanwilliam

Lamberts Bay

With much of the afternoon left and feeling like a late afternoon lunch, we drove through town and headed to Lambert’s Bay about 60 kms west of Clanwilliam. Gerda had read about Isabella’s Restaurant at the harbour being the place for fresh fish (makes sense) so we went straight there and enjoyed an excellent meal – I had Kabeljou, Gerda had Yellowtail and we finished it off with a small but decadent waffle.

Lamberts Bay harbour – the turrets on the building in the far background are where the bird hide is

I was keen to see and experience the bird hide on the “island” where Cape Gannets breed and roost – the island is in fact joined to the mainland at the harbour by a walkway. Unfortunately, the walkway was closed for maintenance until December and the last boat trip was already back in the harbour so there was no way to view the Gannet breeding colony except from afar – oh well, maybe another time….

Lamberts Bay

To end the day I went for a walk through the streets of Clanwilliam as dusk fell

Clanwilliam

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Tulbagh to Clanwilliam

The Background (Repeated from the first post)

With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, I said to Gerda some time during July – “Let’s go see the flowers again”. She responded positively and the game was on!

First step was to decide on our route and where to base ourselves along the way – the main drivers in those decisions were to avoid travelling too far from our Mossel Bay home and to spend three nights in a couple of strategic places which would allow two full days of exploration in each without feeling rushed in any way. This is how you do it when you reach that age where the second special tax rebate kicks in ….. in fact the trip was our birthday present to ourselves, falling nicely between our two birthdays just 13 days apart.

Day 2

Google Maps suggested the 151 kms from Saronsberg near Tulbagh to Clanwilliam would take 1 hour 42 minutes – we managed to stretch it to almost 6 hours through some serious meandering and plenty of stops!

Map Tulbagh to Clanwilliam

After checking out, we first visited the Saronsberg cellar and came away with half a dozen wines – two for us, the rest presents for family – and a bottle of olive oil

At the gate, on a whim, instead of heading left we turned right and travelled a few kms to Twee Jongegezellen winery where we had a walk around the historic wine farm.

Twee Jongegezellen Estate Tulbagh
Twee Jongegezellen Estate Tulbagh

It was disappointing to hear that Nicky Krone, a classmate of mine from the 60’s and one of a long line of Krones who ran the farm for generations, no longer owns the farm after losing a costly legal battle with a supplier of bottles some years ago. It seemed to us that the farm had lost its spirit when the Krones departed, retaining only the physical beauty.

Twee Jongegezellen Estate Tulbagh
Twee Jongegezellen Estate Tulbagh

Haeding back down the road towards Tulbagh, we stopped in the town at MIT (Made in Tulbagh) and bought more local wine after chatting to the owner and a friendly local gent who had popped in and knew the ins and outs of the Tulbagh wine route.

Tulbagh

The owner also advised us against the ‘back road’ route I had in mind to get to Citrusdal, so instead we took the shorter route via Gouda and Porterville along roads we have never travelled before. Prominent along this route were the Canola fields in full bloom and when we passed some fields with a wind farm in the background it was a photo opportunity not to be missed. I stopped and clambered up an embankment to get to the high fence so that I could poke my lens (well, the camera’s actually) through the mesh.

Near Tulbagh

Once we intersected with the N7 National road we headed north and soon found ourselves at the start of the Piekernierskloof Pass where, again on a whim, we pulled off at Kardoesie Padstal where we had a pleasant light lunch and bought some padstal ‘stuff’ – dried figs and peaches, home made cookies.

Piekernierskloof Pass
Piekernierskloof Pass

While having lunch I googled the name of the pass – Piekernierskloof – and came up with some fascinating information about the pass; the first known route through the mountains was a bridle path in the 1660’s; much later in 1858 Thomas Charles John Bain, the famous builder of many a pass in SA, built the first road, a gravel route named Grey’s Pass after the then Governor of the Cape. In 1957 the current route was completed and renamed the Piekernierskloof Pass.

Piekernierskloof Pass

If, like me, you are wondering about the name, let me put you out of your misery – Piekernier came from the Dutch word for pikemen, who were lancers equipped with pikes (a long thrusting spear used in European warfare) posted to the area in the 1660’s to protect farmers from Khoikhoi raids

Piekernier / Pikeman

While Gerda was exploring the padstal shop, I was exploring the surroundings for birds and spotted a Rock Kestrel perched on a pole – it took off just as I was taking some shots and I was fortunate to catch it nicely in flight with wings spread. We were to come across this species several times over the ensuing days

Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus Kransvalk, Piekernierskloof Pass
Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus Kransvalk, Piekernierskloof Pass

Back on the N7 we stopped a couple of times to view and photograph some of the interesting roadside flowers, especially the yellow flowered bushes that we had seen along the road where it cut through the mountains

Piekernierskloof Pass
Piekernierskloof Pass
Piekernierskloof Pass

At last, we reached Clanwilliam and found our ‘home’ for the next 3 days – Yellow Aloe Guest House just off the main road through the town. Once settled in we enjoyed a rest with the sliding door opened wide to take advantage of the cool fresh air – the weather had turned surprisingly warm and just in time as it was 1 September – “Spring Day” in SA.

Yellow Aloe Guest House, Clanwilliam

The abundant bird life in the garden kept us entertained for the next while, including all 3 species of Mousebird – Speckled, Red-faced and White-backed.

The garden at Yellow Aloe Guest house, Clanwilliam

We were looking forward to exploring the town of Clanwilliam and the surrounding area the next day, in the hope of finding those massed flower displays that the facebook pages were raving about

Spring Flowers Trip 2022 – Mossel Bay to Tulbagh

With wonderful memories of our Spring Flowers trip through parts of the Western Cape in September 2021 still fresh in our minds, I said to Gerda some time during July – “Let’s go see the flowers again”. She responded positively and the game was on!

First step was to decide on our route and where to base ourselves along the way – the main drivers in those decisions were to avoid travelling too far from our Mossel Bay home and to spend three nights in a couple of strategic places which would allow two full days of exploration in each without feeling rushed in any way. This is how you do it when you reach that age where the second special tax rebate kicks in ….. in fact the trip was our birthday present to ourselves, falling nicely between our two birthdays just 13 days apart.

Day 1

Day 1 (31st August 2022) was all about getting to Tulbagh from where we would ‘launch’ our flowers trip proper. The drive of around 350 kms from Mossel Bay was comfortable yet busy on roads which seem to get fuller with each passing year. Our route took us past Swellendam, Ashton, Robertson, Worcester and Tulbagh to our overnight stay on Saronsberg Wine Farm where we had booked one of their Vineyard Cottages, which turned out to be comfortable and well fitted out.

Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh
Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh

After arriving at 4 pm and settling in I had a look for birds near the cottage, then set off on an exploratory walk around some of the farm roads.

The first bird that caught my eye was the very common Southern Fiscal – not usually of specific interest but this individual was struggling with some sort of prey so I stepped closer and found it had caught a small snake and was busy trying to “butcher” it by hooking it on to a protruding twig and pulling – presumably to expose its flesh.

Common Fiscal Lanius collaris Fiskaallaksman (race collaris), Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh
Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh

Birding on the farm while walking produced the usual species for the most part, with a few specials such as Alpine Swifts, a Purple Heron and a Spotted Eagle-Owl in the tall Eucalyptus trees that line a part of one of the farm roads.

Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh
Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh

Dinner was Roosterkoek – traditional grilled bread filled with savoury mince and cheese – bought at a popular roadside restaurant at Buffeljagsrivier near Swellendam – they call them “Sloppy Joes” and are very filling to say the least!

On the way we had seen occasional signs of emerging spring flowers and on Saronsberg the unplanted fields had a sprinkling of yellow flowers, which augered well for the trip to some of the renowned flower hotspots over the days ahead

Saronsberg Estate Tulbagh

So, a quiet start to our Flowers Trip but lots to look forward to, with our next stop being Clanwilliam the next day

Tietiesbaai ! (Cape Columbine Nature Reserve) – Flowers, birds, beaches and a lighthouse

It was our last day in Paternoster and we were in two minds as to where to spend it – there are a number of wild flower spots within comfortable driving distance from the town, but in the end we decided to limit our driving and explore Tietiesbaai (Cape Columbine Nature Reserve), right on the doorstep of Paternoster.

What a good choice it turned out to be!

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Firstly, if you mention to another South African you have been to Tietiesbaai, it is bound to raise a smile, even a snigger. Why? Well translated directly Tietiesbaai would be the equivalent of “Boobs Bay” in English.

Depending on which source you prefer, the name Tietiesbaai derives from either a prominent fisherman of years past called Jacob Titus who drowned there or from the smooth round boulders that are a feature of the bay. Whichever you prefer, it is a worthwhile place to visit, especially in spring flower season.

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

In complete contrast to our visit to the West Coast National Park the previous day, we had the whole nature reserve almost to ourselves, apart from a handful of other intrepid visitors. This gave us the chance to stop on a whim and climb out to have a closer look at some of the attractive flowers, explore the isolated and mostly deserted beaches and coves and generally just do as we felt like.

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Just as an introduction to Tietiesbaai / Cape Columbine, some facts –

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve lies on the west coast near the village of Paternoster

It is the furthest westerly destination in the Western Cape Province and covers an area of 263 hectares along the rocky stretch of coastline

It was declared a nature reserve in 1973 and boasts the last manually controlled lighthouse to be built in South Africa.

The lighthouse was built in 1936 on Castle Rock and is usually the first lighthouse to be seen by ships coming from Europe, being visible from up to 50 kms away

It was just after 11 am when we set off through Paternoster and were soon on the neatly scraped gravel road to Tietiesbaai, the sea almost always in view and the road increasingly lined with a multitude of colourful wild flowers.

The road between Paternoster and Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Numbers of birds were enjoying the bounty of Spring and I soon added Rock Kestrel, Large-billed Lark and Grey-backed Cisticola to my list.

Rock Kestrel Falco rupicolus Kransvalk, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)
Large-billed Lark with small insect in beak Galerida magnirostris Dikbeklewerik, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

After entering the gate where we had to fill in a form and pay the nominal entrance fee, we headed into the reserve proper and found ourselves at a turn-off, signposted “Sea Shack” which seemed worth exploring – the track was just wide enough for one vehicle, so we hoped we wouldn’t encounter any returning vehicles.

We needn’t have worried as we were literally the only car on the track which wound its way down to the rocky shoreline, where we found a small cove with a line of simple ‘shacks’ – the Sea Shack on the signpost. There was just one gent in residence and he drove off soon after we arrived, so we had the cove to ourselves.

Sea Shack, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

There were birds on the rocks a short way out, but just too far to see clearly with the binos, so I clambered over the seaweed and small rocks close to the shoreline to get a better view.

Cormorants and Terns, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)
Cormorants and Terns, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Cape Cormorants were well represented as were Swift Terns and a lone smaller bird turned out to be a Ruddy Turnstone – always a special sighting.

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres Steenloper, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

As I watched the Turnstone, a Pied Kingfisher came into view, diving for a small fish right in front of me and flying off with its catch – I tried to get a photo in flight but could only capture a fleeting glimpse of it disappearing with the fish held in its beak.

Pied Kingfisher with fish catch Ceryle rudis Bontvisvanger, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Nearby, we found the perfect spot to enjoy our tea and snacks, parked at the end of an even bumpier track that ended amongst the rocks at the sea edge.

Teatime spot, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Patches of colourful wild flowers had established themselves everywhere, looking as if they had been planted by a landscape gardener

Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

We were so engrossed in enjoying the flowers, the time passed without us realising it

We continued along the track, stopping frequently at Gerda’s behest to view and photograph flowers we had not yet encountered, until we found ourselves at a junction with the ‘main’ road where we turned back, somewhat reluctantly, towards Paternoster.

A Cape Bunting on a small rock had me stopping yet again for a quick photo

Cape Bunting Emberiza capensis Rooivlerkstreepkoppie, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

Even the unusual lichen on a dry bush was colourful enough to warrant closer inspection

Lichen, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

The road back passed by the lighthouse, which sits on one of the higher points in the reserve, then took us back to the entrance gate.

Lighthouse, Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)
Cape Columbine Nature Reserve (Tietiesbaai)

All in all a spectacular day among wild flowers and rugged coastal scenery.

West Coast National Park – a Feast of Spring Flowers

Top of our list of things to do during our visit to Paternoster in September this year was the trip to West Coast National Park and specifically the Postberg section which is only open during August and September each year and which has a reputation for producing spectacular displays of wild flowers at Spring time.

West Coast National Park

It was our first full day in Paternoster, having arrived the previous afternoon and we had already tasted some of the culinary delights that this small town has to offer – a beautifully prepared Kabeljou with rice and veg at De See Kat restaurant.

West Coast National Park (WCNP) is around 120 kms from Cape Town – the map shows its position relative to Cape Town and Paternoster –

After a superb breakfast at our Paternoster guesthouse, we set off for the West Coast National Park via Vredenburg and the R27, a distance of just over 60 kms to the gate. As we approached the turnoff to the gate, we were amazed to find a queue – two abreast – of cars waiting to enter the Park and joined the back of it. I was very glad we had chosen a weekday for our visit as, judging from the popularity of this park during the wild flower season, the weekend was bound to be a lot more crowded.

West Coast National Park

Fortunately the queue moved along nicely and a half hour later we were into the park and heading in the direction of the Postberg section, along with a string of cars all heading the same way.

We made a couple of stops along the way to Postberg section, which lies in the northernmost part of the park, mainly to break out of the stream of cars, but also to have a closer look at some of the roadside flowers. One of these stops was at a parking spot overlooking the lagoon.

West Coast National Park

All along the road were patches of flowers which just begged closer inspection and of course a few images

A turn-off from the main road through the park took us towards the sea, the road bordered by masses of flowers

West Coast National Park

At Tsaarbank picnic spot we lunched on – wait for it – Provita with cheese spread and the tea we’d brought along (talk about fine dining!) and watched wild waves crashing into the rocky shoreline.

Tsaarbank, West Coast National Park
Tsaarbank, West Coast National Park

Then we entered Postberg proper and found ourselves surrounded at times by multi-coloured flowers spreading across fields and hills – what a display!

West Coast National Park

Fortunately the many cars had by now dispersed in different directions, giving us and others the freedom to stop and admire the many varieties of flowers and just take it all in.

The road took us on a circular route, eventually joining the exit road, which took us past more magnificent displays of flowers, until we found ourselves back at the entrance to Postberg.

All that remained was to make our way slowly back to the main entrance gate where we had entered earlier and head back to Paternoster along the R27 road, reflecting on a truly memorable day.

Paternoster – Spring Flowers, Birds and Beaches

Continuing the story of our ‘Wild Flower Season’ trip to the West Coast town of Paternoster…..

Getting there

After breakfast we left Klein Welmoed Farm near Stellenbosch, dropped granddaughter Megan off at her university hostel, then headed to Paternoster via Wellington, Malmesbury and Vredenburg.

The road runs through the wheat belt of South Africa – almost endless fields of dark green wheat with smaller fields of canary yellow canola providing a dramatic contrast.

Occasional patches of ‘natural’ veld held colourful sprinklings of wild flowers to break the monotony of the cultivated fields and had me braking and reversing to get some photos.

Then we were in Paternoster and soon found Paternoster Dunes Guesthouse which, as the name suggests, lies on the land side of the dunes overlooking a wide expanse of unspoilt beach

The view of the beach
The Guest House

Just to get us further into flower appreciation mood, the patch in front of our room, the middle one in the image above, held some bright orange flowers

After a rest (we are pensioners after all) I took a walk along the beach to the end of the bay and looked up at the dunes which were covered in growth with a mass of yellow flowers

I climbed to the top of the dune and walked to where the houses stopped, finding a view into the distance with more yellow flowers in abundance

Caterpillar of unknown species, specific to the plant on which I found it by the looks of it as they were only in one small area

During our visit I discovered that there were a few bird species which found the patch in front of our room to their liking, including the Yellow Canaries and Karoo Scrub-Robin pictured below as well as Cape Bunting, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and many Common (European) Starlings


Yellow Canary (Geelkanarie) Crithagra flaviventris in full song
Karoo Scrub-Robin (Slangverklikker) Erythropygia leucophrys scanning the surroundings from its favourite perch on a low bush

On a morning walk along the beach in front of the guesthouse, camera in hand, with the wind blowing the sea into a frothy jumble and overcast skies, several Kelp and Hartlaub’s Gulls wading in the shallows caught my eye and with some gentle persuasion lifted into the air, providing some nice photo opportunities in the soft, even light

As I walked along the sand I spotted movement on the dry sand ahead and approached cautiously, knowing that the subject matter would race off if I got too near. Sure enough, three tiny White-fronted Plovers watched me carefully as I got closer, initially moving away in slow short bursts, then speeding off like top 100m sprinters, barely touching the sand between strides

And a few more photos of Bek Bay at different times of the day

I came across this interesting beetle scavenging among the rocks

The last afternoon produced the most spectacular sunset of all as the cloud-filtered sun cast its rays on the choppy sea. Many Terns were plunging into the sea offshore – too far to differentiate between species until a Common Tern seemingly chased a much larger Caspian Tern so that they passed close to where I was watching from the beach

Paternoster turned out to be an excellent choice as our base for the short stay, being within an hour’s drive from West Coast National Park and literally next door to Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, both of which we visited – more about that in upcoming posts