From the open savannahs and rolling red dunes of the Kalahari Desert, to the beautiful carpet of vibrant flowers that cover Namaqualand each year, the Northern Cape is an alluring destination. The largest of South Africa’s provinces, visitors come here to experience the magic of the wilderness; to see the black-maned lion; the spectacular display of wild flowers and the iconic red desert sands.
The Northern Cape is equivalent to the size of Germany, covering almost a third of South Africa, but with only 2% of the country’s population. Bordering both Namibia and Botswana, the province incorporates South Africa’s longest river, the Orange River, which rises in the Drakensberg Mountains, flowing westwards, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. Added to that, the river basin extends to both neighbouring countries.
One of the area’s biggest attractions is the wild flowers that blanket the usually arid dusty plains of Namaqualand during late August and early September. The riot of red, orange, purple and yellow flowers is a sight that never ceases to amaze, whether you drive, hike or bike, through this spectacular floral display. With over 3,500 different plant species, watching the butterflies skip and dance through this miracle of nature is one of our favourite sights.
The busy little town of Springbok lies at the heart of Namaqualand and we think it makes a great base from which to explore the area. There is plenty of scope to experience a range of activities here, including discovering the nature trails by 4x4, on foot, or mountain bikes. Or, for those that prefer to relax on the water, we’d suggest a rafting trip, or a spot of fishing on the Orange River. The area also has some atmospheric ancient Bushman rock art and a guided visit is the perfect way to discover more about the area’s first hunter-gatherers, the San people.
But for those looking to experience South Africa’s last great wilderness, we recommend immersing yourself in the Kalahari dunes. This southern part of the desert, is green desert, containing semi-arid grassland with open savannahs, which is rich in a diverse array of habitats. Sheltered by the Korannaberg Mountains, the land supports 80 species of mammal and over 240 species of birds. The area is also malaria-free, making this a great option for a family safari. You will see plenty of plains game, including zebra, buffalo, giraffe and many different types of antelope. These attract all the large predators, including the famous black-maned lion. This is also one of the best places in the country to see the excitable meerkat, along with rarer species, such as aardvark, pangolin, honey badger and African wild cat.
We would recommend staying on a private reserve for an intimate safari experience, where the number of people and vehicles on a game drive is strictly controlled. With a range of children’s activities, as well as the opportunity to experience guided walks, horseback safaris and hot air ballooning over the Kalahari, we think the personal approach offered by a private reserve makes for a truly unforgettable experience.