not many people immediately think of a wild and unspoilt stretch of coastline. But it’s here nonetheless – and it’s beautiful. Blinded by mental pictures of carpets of spring flowers, few would be able to list Namaqualand’s other attractions either.
Not far from the park, in the Rooifontein area east of Kamieskroon, you can see examples of quiver tree houses too. The trunks of dead trees are sawn into planks, planted into a foundation trench and secured to each other using wooden pegs. The roof is also made of quiver tree logs and these houses are so cool in summer that people use them to make simple fridges.
If you drive around the Namaqua National Park some 22 kilometres west of Kamieskroon, you may meet two of its other attractions: the Namaqua speckled padloper, which is the smallest tortoise in the world, weighing in at around 100-150 grams and just 6-8 centimetres long; and the hardy and far less rare klipspringer.
These clever little buck aren’t dependent on water, but can soak up all the moisture they need from the plants they eat. They’re very nimble-footed too, with rubbery stuff under their hooves for added grip on steep and rocky mountainsides – the Pirellis of the animal kingdom. Their final natty trick is that the hair on their coat is hollow to insulate them against extremes of heat and cold, making them pretty well adapted to extremes of Namaqualand.
I’d even class the chalets at the Skilpad Rest Camp as one of the park’s attractions, perched as they are on a rise with a view out over layers of hills and valleys. The wide porch comes equipped with low-slung lounging chairs and folding aluminium windows so you can close the porch off against the cold or the wind if you need to.
The kitchen has both microwave and full stove (with oven), there are ceiling fans in the living area and bedroom and an air con in the bedroom too – bliss when it’s hot enough to melt your face. And there’s a braai/fireplace in the living area so you can make a fire when it’s cold and not even have to forego the pleasure of your braai. Truly a place for all seasons. We spent two nights there and it wasn’t nearly long enough.
If you come in spring you might prefer to stay at the Namaqua Flowers Beach Camp, even though its fully catered luxury carries a much loftier price tag. This tented camp operates only in August and September and you get there from Groen River in the southwest of the park along the coastal section that was incorporated into the park in 2008, so you’ll get a double whammy: both spring flowers and a chance to enjoy one of the most ruggedly spectacular and pristine stretches of South African coastline.
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