The Namaqualand region of the Northern Cape is bordered in the North by the Orange River and Namibia border and in the West by the rugged coastline of the Atlantic Ocean.
The area is best known for the profusion of wildflowers that burst into colour during the Spring months of August and September. Normally a drab colourless desert during the remainder of the year, the annual Spring rainfall is enough to germinate millions of flowers turning the desert into a mass of brilliant colour. The Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve has recently been incorporated into the Namaqua National Park. Skilpad is situated in a mountainous area about 25 kilometres from Kamieskroon. The reserve sits on shrubland and abandoned wheatlands and is a site that should not be missed by visitors to the area.
The largest and most important town in the Namaqualand region of the Northern Cape is Alexander Bay. Diamonds were discovered along the West coast of South Africa and Namibia in 1925 and Alexander Bay became well known for its mining activities. Situated at the mouth of the Orange River, the town is no longer a high-security area and permits are no longer needed. The town takes its name from Sir James Alexander, who shipped copper ore that was mined in the Richtersveld and transported in barges down the Orange River for export from the town. On the Orange River estuary there is a bird sanctuary renowned for its numerous species, and on a hilltop to the East of the town is the world’s largest lichen-field where 26 species of lichen can be found.
The Namaqualand region town of Springbok (formally Springbokfontein) is set in a narrow valley that bisects the granite hills of the Klein Kopperberge (small copper mountains). The town gets its name from the vast herds of springbok that used to drink at the waterholes in the area. There are plentiful reminders of the early days when copper was mined in this area, including the original shaft sunk by the Cape Governor Simon van der Stel in1685. Just a few kilometers outside the town is the Goegap Nature Reserve, a wildflower reserve of more than 12000 hectares. During the Anglo-Boer War the British built a fort on the hillock in the centre of town. The fort was later destroyed by dynamite planted by a commando led by General Jan Smuts. Across the town square, at the famous Springbok Lodge, photographs adorn the walls and there is a fascinating collection of mineral samples and semiprecious stones. Springbok is an important stopover for any visitor to Namaqualand.
A few kilometers to the South of Alexander Bay lies the small holiday resort of Port Nolloth. Port Nolloth has a small harbour with an entrance too small for ore carriers. The town has developed into a small centre for small-scale diamond recovery and crayfishing industries and is the only holiday resort on the Diamond Coast. There is good line-fishing to be enjoyed here, and fish and crayfish can be bought from the factory in season.
At the southern extreme of Namaqualand lies the town of Nieuwoudtville and its adjacent nature reserve. Nieuwoudtville lies on the bokkeveld Escarpment and is another area famous for its unique vegetation. The small town is full of charisma and has colourful sandstone buildings. Close to the town is the impressive Nieuwoudtville Waterfall. The sight is an interesting example of river capture, the Doring River being one that originally flowed inland and was captured after the breakup of Gondwanaland some 195 million years ago. The main waterfall is over 90 metres high, and Black Eagles have been seen nesting there.