Vira Natura

Orchids of the Western Cape - South Africa

4-18 December 2024
From $5,800.00 per person


The richness of the Western Cape spans several months and by late-spring many of the regions finest orchids are in flower. They occupy an array of habitats from fynbos to seep and importantly recent burn sites. This year (2024) has seen a lot of fires in prime locations so we anticipate a good orchid season with many species that can only be seen after fires. And it is not only orchids, there will be a great diversity of other plants including showy Mimetes, Erica and later flowering Gladiolus.

Day 1     Arrive in Cape Town

Land in Cape Town, short drive to our accommodation and explore a local reserve or the world famous grounds of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens if the time allows.

Day 2     Cape Peninsula

Heading down the Cape Peninsula, we explore some pristine lowland fynbos with a diversity of Proteas from the minute Diastella divaricata to the grandiose Mimetes fimbriifolius and rare Mimetes hirtus. The gem of this park is the standout Disa purpurescens which stands high above the surrounding scrub. Along the coast, the strange arms of Euphorbia caput-medusae rise out of the sand dunes with waves crashing behind them. 

Day 3     To Hermanus

Today we leave the enchanting Cape Peninsula for the coastal town of Hermanus, stopping along the way to find the delicate Disa venusta in the middle of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve. This corner of coastline is the most diverse area of the already superfluous Cape Floral Kingdom and we will see evidence of this diversity in the number of Erica and Protea species present along the coastline. Old burns in the lowland fynbos will also be explored for any interesting species that may be present. We may encounter some of the well-known Chacma Baboon troops that forage around the coast. 

Day 4     Kogelberg & Fernkloof

We have some time to explore the lush valleys of the Kogelberg and Fernkloof Nature Reserves to target some special orchids including Disa atricapilla in damp areas, Disa tripetaloides along the rivers and the intricate Bartholina etheliae along the sandy coast. On top of all the orchids we will be immersed in more pristine fynbos with a large number of other species for the day.

Day 5     South Coast

A day exploring various burn sites along the coast. Precise itinerary to be decided later once more information on flowering is received.

Day 6     Overberg

Heading east from Hermanus we enter the wheatbelt of the Overberg with remnant scraps of renosterveld remaining in between the farms. We will visit several protected sites all of which host a variety of endemic species such as the spectacular Erica ampullacea as well as orchids such as Disa filicornis and more. A few recent burns in the area could turn up a number of new orchid species such as Disa tenuifolia and a variety of Satyrium spp

Day 7     Napier

We have a whole morning to explore a large burn site near the town of Napier which should hold a variety of orchids and other post-fire specialists such as the alien like Pachites bodkinii and the fractal Disa bivalvata, before heading further east to the edge of the garden route – a large tract of Afromontane forest where a different variety of orchids can be found. 

Day 8     George

We start our day by heading into the fynbos clad mountains overlooking the town of George where we hope to find the spectacular Cerantandra grandiflora, C. globosa, Bartholina etheliae and more. Here we are at the edge of the Cape Floristic region, but nonetheless there will be more species of proteas and ericas to find! 

Day 9     Wilderness

Our first stop of the day will be a visit to the afromantane forest in Wilderness where we hope to look out for some epiphytic orchids such as Mystacidium capense and Cyrtotchis arcuata before heading north. As we head inland, the landscape becomes progressively drier with the fold mountains near the coast casting a particularly strong rain shadow. We eventually find our way to the base of the intimidating Swartberg Mountains which rise to 2325m at its highest. A spectacular pass crosses this range, with each bend holding new botanical gems. 

Day 10     Swartberg

We have most of the day to explore the full length of the pass and its many twists and turns. We hope to find a flush of orchids in a recent burn as well as some specialties such as Gladiolus aquamontanus and Disa multifida and several endemic Erica. After getting our fill of the pass, we make our way back west to the town of Barrydale. 

Day 11     Tradouw & Swellendam

Our morning will be spent exploring the Tradouw pass just south of Barrydale, crossing over the Langeberg Mountains towards the town of Swellendam. Here we will walk a short way up the mountain path to search of the golden Disa aurata which grows in the streams nearby. 

Day 12     Harold Porter Botanical Garden

We head back to the busy city of Cape Town, with a detour to the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens near Betty’s Bay which will hopefully contain blooms of the magnificent Disa uniflora.

Day 13     Table Mountain

We end off the tour by ascending the world-famous Table Mountain with the cable car, taking us right into the middle of prime fynbos habitat. A short walk across the remarkably flat plateau will give us a view of the robust Disa cornuta, dainty Disa ocellata and long tubed Disa harveyana. If we are feeling adventurous, we will make a detour on a path heading down the back table, passing by dripping sandstone faces covered in fabulous orchids including Disa glandulosa, D. vaginata and the prize – Disa longicornu, a luminous blue beauty. 

Day 14     Return flights

Return international flights from Cape Town.



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