The Cape floral province is rightly considered one of the wonders of the floral world, with a dazzling array of flowers, yet no tour other than this, focuses on the remarkable late season flora which includes giant red amaryllids overlooking Cape Point, unique blue orchids and King Proteas on Table Mountain, fresh burns coloured with fiery heaths and blood lilies, as well as architectural Quiver Tree ‘forests’ on the edge of the Karoo. Add to this warm Mediterranean weather, beautiful landscapes and fine wines and you have an ideal break from the wintery Northern Hemisphere.
Day 1 Arrival and Lion’s Head (17 March)
Following our early afternoon arrival at Cape Town we transfer to our hotel and freshen up. In the late afternoon we’ll take an excursion tour below the familiar local landmark of the Lion’s Head, in the northern part of the Cape Town National Park (CTNP). Here we hope to find the first of our exciting autumn bulbs Amaryllis belladona. A familiar garden plant and widely planted around the city here they are truly wild and grow beneath fine stands of tree-like Leucadendron argenteum or Silver Tree. Overnight Cape Town.
Day 2 Table Mountain
Table Mountain is a constant and iconic presence above the city rising to over a thousand metres. A cableway whisks us quickly onto the top of the impressive sandstone ramparts. The mountain is swathed in extensive highland fynbos and includes such singular delights as Blue Disa, Cluster Disa and a variety of shrubs such as the spectacular Protea cynaroides. Depending on walking ability there will be the chance to explore further, the network of trails, flora and impressive viewpoints. Overnight Cape Town.
Day 3 Kirstenbosch and to Cape Point
The vast Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden extends right up onto Table Mountain and contains a superb array of native flora. The morning will be spent in the gardens where sunbirds and sugarbirds feast on the various flowering proteaceae. In the afternoon we’ll transfer south towards Cape Point stopping to admire good clumps of scarlet Erica cerinthoides, the intense red drumsticks of Haemanthus sanguineus or Kniphofia uvaria and perhaps the peculiar spotted cream stars of Orbea variegata. Overnight Cape Point.
Day 4 Cape Point
The extensive tracts of Cape Town National Park (CTNP) will occupy us today and they traverse a range of fynbos habitats and coastal areas. Scarlet Watsonia tabularis are frequent rising above a scrub with occasional Protea cynaroides, and many flowery bushes of Erica mammosa. In recently burnt areas we can find Gladiolus brevifolius, Bulbinella favosa and clumps of Haemanthus sanguineus. The spectacular coast at Cape Point has the immense Brunsvigia orientalis that explode out of the low scrub like red fireworks. If there’s time in the day we’ll explore other areas of fynbos for more showy species such as Tritoniopsis triticea. Overnight Cape Point.
Day 5 To Nieuwoudtville
A long but rewarding day will see us heading north of Cape Town, stopping along the picturesque coast for populations of Haemanthus pubescens, fine clumps of Amaryllis belladona and more immense Brunsvigia orientalis. By early afternoon we will be among the big pink amaryllid Ammocharis longifolia before climbing above the rugged landscape to a higher plateau where the bizarre ‘clocks’ of Crossyne pepper the local churchyard. Overnight Nieuwoudtville.
Day 6 Nieuwoudtville and Quiver Trees
Around the botanic garden in the town are large populations of spectacular Brunsvigia bosmaniae usually with a variety of colour forms. To the north a seasonal river plunges over waterfalls in some fine canyon country and along its course are extensive colonies of Crinum variabile with their outsize, scented white trumpets that age to deep-pink. And more colonies exist further north within sight of the incredible Quiver Tree ‘forests’ a remarkable assemblage of the architectural tree-like succulent Aloe dichotoma and a delight to wander around in the late afternoon when the sun brings out the rich colour of their textured bark. Overnight Nieuwoudtville.
Day 7 To Clanwilliam
The morning will be spent exploring the area around a deep and spectacular gorge where we should find Brunsvigia striata and diminutive Empodium sp. Turning south again we make the journey towards the Cape Mountains seeing more fine populations of Brunsvigia bosmaniae, quartzite flats with Aloe falcata and then around the reservoir at Clanwilliam stands of endemic A. comosa. the delightful dwarf blood lily; Haemanthus crispus is also common in this area. Overnight Clanwilliam.
Day 8 To Ceres
Continuing south we climb into a superb scenic pass with large stands of architectural flowering Protea nitida and the fiery scarlet of Nerine sarniensis, a variety of heaths and colonies of Brunsvigia striata. Overnight Ceres.
Day 9 To Napier
A circuit of interesting passes gives us access to some excellent areas of flowery fynbos, where many heaths such as Erica parilis, E. pinea, E. subulata and E. nudiflora will be in flower as well as the dazzling Brunsvigia marginata and plenty of flowering Protea laurifolia. The landscape is rugged and beautiful throughout the day a final drive on through rolling countryside to Napier. If there is time, the nearby hills also support a population of rare Aloe plicatilis for those interested in unusual succulent flora. Overnight Napier.
Day 10 Napier
The hills around Napier have some excellent, diverse fynbos with many good species of heath including abundant E. coccinea. Broad heads of Brunia albiflora stand alongside Mimetes cucullatus and Protea susanae, whilst the upper slopes have plenty of P. cynaroides, cerise-red Tritoniopsis pulchra, Gladiolus brevifolius, Disa ferruginea and the unusual white spikes of Erica grisbrookii. In the afternoon we'll cross over to an area of resnosterveld where pink Nerine humilis should have started flowering amidst stands of stately Aloe ferox. The delicate Gladiolus vaginatus grows close by. Overnight Napier.
Day 11 Cape Agulhas & Bontebok
After breakfast we’ll drive to the southernmost point in Africa; Cape Agulhas. Here within range of the salt spray grow plenty of Haemanthus coccineus. The coast is pleasant to stroll along ansd sample the fresh sea air as waves crash on the rocky strand. From here move onto our very comfortable hotel in Swellendam and visit the nearby Bontebok national park has the cryptic Gladiolus emilae, delicate Pelargonium dipetalum and plenty of the pink form of Erica discolor, whilst areas closer to the mountains harbour rich pink Tritoniopsis ramosa. Overnight Swellendam.
Days 12 Tradouw Pass and Karoo
A diverse day, beginning on the green Tradouw Pass where lovely carmine Erica vestita grows with the red form E. discolor, plentiful Aloe arborescens crowd rock crevices. Our route takes through a section of drier karoo, where if the rain has been sufficient there will be delights such as Aptosimum indivisum, but regardless the cactoid stems of Hoodia pilifera, orange-leaved Crassula brevifolia, pale yellow Monsonia crassicaule, dense clumps of Haworthiopsis viscosa and white Bulbinella alba provide plenty of interest. Our circuitous route brings us back over another green pass where the soft pink flowers of Tritiniopsis revoluta grow among fynbos alongside the pale-yellow stars of Protea aurea. Overnight Swellendam.
Day 13 To Hermanus
We will stop for the striking Tritoniopsis burchellii flowers amidst dense fynbos before reaching the pleasant seaside at Hermanus. After settling into our comfy hotel we'll spend the afternoon exploring the rich slopes of Fernkloof nature reserve. Here we'll find the pretty pink Tritoniopsis lata, Protea cynaroides, Erica vesicaria, plentiful Phaeonocoma prolifera and the attractive restio; Elegia persistens amongst many other fine plants. A final treat is the thriving population of Gladiolus carmineus that decorates the cliff top here. Overnight Hermanus.
Days 14 To Cape Town for flights
We'll drive onto Cape Town and with luck a local colony of dazzling Nerine sarniensis will be flowering above the ocean waves that lap the sandy shores below. We leave this to the last minute as their flowering time usually starts at the beginning of April, but with luck we'll see some now. Then it will be onto the airport for our flights home.