Now that it’s winter in the northern hemisphere I thought of some winter days I spent in Paternoster, South Africa, some years ago. Winter in August still sounds a bit strange to me, but only because I grew up in Europe.
Now winter in South Africa is very different winter in The Netherlands, and on the West Coast of South Africa it gets cooler, but average maximum temperatures are still between 10 and 15 degrees centigrade. This is a nice temperature outside, the only problem is that most houses do not have heating, so you have almost the same temperature inside… So this is the perfect opportunity to spend as much time outside as possible!
Paternoster is a lovely little town on the beach and it has kept its character. The houses can be any colour as long as it’s white. It’s situated on a beautiful long beach and is next to the Cape Columbine Nature Reserve. It has a laid back atmosphere and if you like eating fish, you probably want to stay here longer. Paternoster is a perfect place to stay when you want to visit the West Coast National Park. This park is great for bird watching, but in winter, also for its wildflowers. You will need to drive all the way through the park around the lagoon to the Postberg Nature Reserve. This reserve is only open for a limited time each year when the flowers are blooming.
West Coast National Park
The flowers are blooming only in winter, so August is a great time to visit this area. It starts blooming from the second half of July until the end of September. While this depends on how much and when it rains, the second half of August should be your best guess. If you don’t like to wake up early, this is for you. The flowers close during the night and only fully open with the warmth of the sun. So you don’t need to wake up early, because the flowers would still be closed and would not display their magnificent colours yet.
Photographing the wildflowers can be a bit tricky. You are not allowed to walk off road, and rightly so, because the flowers are fragile and it should be for everyone to enjoy, not just you or me. This is not too much of a problem because the flowers grow everywhere, also right next to the road. You might just have to look a little longer to find a composition you like.
To show the vastness of these wildflowers I would (and did) use a wide angle lens. This way you can get close to the flowers and still show much of the fields.
Another great part of your visit to the Postberg Nature Reserve is that there is some wildlife there, like bontebok, zebra, eland and ostrich. This makes a visit to these area even more exciting.
The bontebok was almost extinct. It was reduced to just 17 animals thanks to a farmer that had these last bontebok on his farm. The farm was not the right habitat for bontebok though and in 1931 the Bontebok National Park was created to save these animals and the species from extinction. The was still not the ideal habitat though and reproduction was slow. When half of the population died from an infection, the park was moved to where it still is today, near Swellendam. Here the bontebok prospered and have been moved to other parks as well, including the Postberg Nature Reserve.
Apart from the bontebok there are several other animal species and you will probably see zebra and ostrich. Watch out for the leopard tortoises that are frequently walking on the roads, especially after it has rained. Like everyone knows, they’re not the fastest animals, so give them the time to cross the road. It will also give you the time to have a good look around.
Enjoy Paternoster and the West Coast. Even though it’s only a few hours drive from Cape Town, you will notice there are much less tourists around, which makes the experience even better.