Suggestions for a bulb-viewing trip to South Africa?

Chris Whitehouse
Fri, 08 Jan 2016 23:11:03 PST

Great idea for an anniversary trip. Here are my thoughts (with a rather Overberg focus):

--I'm an enthusiast for winter-growing bulbs. What's the best time to visit
the Cape area in order to see the most bulbs in bloom? I'm thinking
August-September. Is that right?

Absolutely, although you will get bulbs right from June up to December (and Amaryllids in late summer/autumn), but August-September is peak. Peak flowering generally starts in the north and works south. However, flowering is very dependent on rain and unfortunately this is impossible to predict. I remember a trip to Nieuwoudtville in August one year and there was barely a flower around as the winter rains had been so poor and late. Further South the rains are more reliable and the flowering more predictable.

--I'm especially interested in seeing peacock Moraeas and their relatives in
the wild. Are there particular places we should be sure to visit?

You will see plenty of Moraea, but the peacock Moraeas themselves are very localised and usually on private land.

--Is it safe for us to wander around on our own, or should we be part of a

My personal view is that travelling around on your own is fine - I have done it plenty. Many tourists will hire a car and head off on their own. Crime in South Africa is generally restricted to city areas (be particularly careful on the Peninsula and Table Mt) but wherever you are just be vigilant. There are always unfortunate cases of tourists getting robbed or attacked but these are exceptionally few (hence why they catch the headlines). More of an issue is whether you will know where to visit, unlike big game parks, good bulb areas are not usually well publicised.

--If a tour, are there tours or guides that focus specifically on bulbs as
opposed to wildflowers in general? (Although I like annuals, I'd be
frustrated spending my whole time looking at daisies.)

I am not aware of any. My understanding is that Cameron Mcmaster has had to stop operations but you could always ask. If you find yourself in the Hermanus area, then you can book me up for a day's guided flower walk and we can go specifically on a bulb hunt (there are plenty of bulbs around here, even if it is not the centre of diversity - have a look here for a list of what we have seen on our reserve:… ).

--This is off the bulb topic, but my wife loves cute animals, so we're
planning to visit penguins and meerkats. Any other suggestions? I'm thinking
of things like petting zoos and baby animal sanctuaries -- maximum cuteness
and fuzziness is the goal.

Boulders Beach is the obvious one for Penguins but Stony Point, Betty's Bay, is less touristy. Near Gansbaai there is an African Penguin and Seabird Sanctuary,, I have not visited myself but probably best chance for interaction with penguins. Meerkats can be seen at many of the big game parks such as Addo Elephant National Park. They also occur in other areas - this is a possible way to see them:
A word of warning on animal sanctuaries, do check the ethos before going there. In particular, many of the big cat ones support the canned hunting trade. Depending on your views on that will affect how comfortable you are supporting such a venture:…

  --Any other suggestions? Places we should go, people we should meet, things
to watch out for, etc?

That is a very big question - lots to see, but many of the mountain passes are worth taking a detour to drive over just for the scenery.

All the best with your plans


Christopher Whitehouse
Phillipskop Mountain Reserve
P.O. Box 1059
Stanford 7210
Western Cape
South Africa
Cell: 073 621 1808
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