If your cruise ship docks in Cape Town when the Mother City is shrugging off its chilly winter woollies then enquire about the status of the west coast wild flowers first before you commit your time on shore. If the veld has become a riot of colour then hire a car, and follow the shoreline to the northwest for approximately ninety minutes to Darling Fields. At the sign turn sharp right and , which is a typical ‘Karoo’ town slumbering in its past.
Darling Western Cape near Cape Town, South Africa
Darling Western Cape in South Africa is famous for three things. The first two are superb butter and a semi-retired cross-dresser named Pieter-Dirk Uys alias Evita Bezuidenhout. He has been crossing back to male attire since South Africa’s dark days to mock its politicians. However even his gregarious nature becomes dull and grey compared to nature’s finery spread out like a magic carpet.
The display of more than 1,200 unique varieties (many of which exist in areas as small as tennis courts) depends on copious rains to bring the bulbs to life in the normally dry soil. If rain does not come at the appointed time then the flowers miss the cycle, and Darling loses the tourist income that keeps it going.
Tienie Versveld Reserve
After a short while you begin to see bursts of colour culminating in named after the wife of a local farmer who decreed her husband should not plough the field. This area is especially rich because it straddles five different veld types known as the Sand Veld, Strand (Beach) veld, Renoster (Rhinoceros) Veld, and Riet (Reed) Veld. I mention this just in case you wonder why the flora changes as you drive.
It’s best to walk into the fields because there is nowhere to park the car if you drive along the narrow, rutted tracks (and if you put a single wheel onto the wild garden you may learn a few choice Afrikaner words). Forty years ago, I walked gingerly between the flowers. That was okay then because few other people came and you could even picnic,.
Wild Flowers on the Beach
After you have saturated your sense of colour – and enjoyed a slice of cake and coffee at the Pieter-Dirk Uys restaurant if you have the time – head back towards the ocean and turn left back to where your cruise ship waits patiently in Cape Town. Along the way you may see dirt tracks heading towards the coastline. Follow them and you may see wild flowers etched against the ocean such as only fisherman ever see.