Namaqua National Park, in South Africa’s Northern Cape, is part of the semi-desert Succulent Karoo biome, which is the richest bulb flora of any arid region in the world. This is what the park was established to conserve, first as the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve in 1988, which was later incorporated into the park when it was founded in 2002.
The coastal section between the Groen and Spoeg rivers was added as part of the park in 2008.
Though typically dry and quite harsh, after the rains which fall in between May and July, the park is transformed by millions of brightly colored varieties of flowers, lilies and aloes, the famous phenomenon of the Desert blooming.
Namaqua National Park was named after the Khoikhoi of the area. “Nama” is the area that they are from, and the suffix, “qua”, means “people”.
The cultural history of Namaqualand stretches back hundreds of thousands of years. Hand axes, presumably made by humans Homo erectus, have been found in the Namaqua National Park.
The San, a hunter-gatherer people, inhabited the region for thousands of years, moving seasonally after game, edible plants and water.
Evidence of hunter-gatherers is dotted all over Namaqualand along the Gariep River, along the coast, in caves and on the rocky outcrops.
The descendants of the San and Khoi people are still living in Namaqualand today, although having lost a great deal of their original culture and traditions; during colonial times, in the 1700’s, the Europeans moved in and settled as stock farmers.
The Namaqualand region of South Africa falls within the Succulent Karoo biome, it has approximately 6,356 plant species, 40%, 2,542 are endemic; Namaqualand alone has about 3000 species, 1,500 are endemic.
The amazing quiver tree, or kokerboom, Aloe dichotoma, is a large succulent bursts into yellow flower in winter, its fibrous branches came in handy for San hunters who hollowed them out to use as quivers to hold their arrows.
Large trunks or branches were used in the old days as coffins and fridges to keep food from spoiling.
The floral richness of the Succulent Karoo is mirrored in its faunal diversity especially the invertebrates and reptiles.
Reptiles are plentiful and the protection of angulate tortoise and speckled padloper is a top priority.
Cunning black-backed jackal survey the surroundings daily, and nocturnal insectivores like bat-eared fox, aardvark, aardwolf and Cape fox own the night.
Baboons, klipspringer, duiker, steenbok, are registered in the park and, if you visit the coastal section, you may encounter rookeries of Cape fur seal.
Caracal and African wild cat reside in the reserve and the largest predator in the park is the leopard.
Birdwatching is amazing, birds include Verreaux’s eagle, martial eagle, Kori bustard, Ludwig’s bustard, Namaqua sandgrouse, southern black korhaan and spotted eagle-owl, and along the southwestern coastal section of the park between the Groen and Spoeg rivers is possible to see the African black oystercatcher.
Along the rocky section of coastline and along the beach there is the chance to see humpback whales and the Heavyside’s dolphins.