This is the last article about the gardens we have visited in South Africa and we go out with a bang : the world renowned Kirstenbosch Botanical garden. Kirstenbosch was founded in 1913 to conserve and promote the unique flora of South Africa, but it’s equally known for its stunning setting on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.
The name Kirstenbosch derives from the 18th century land manager J.F.Kirsten and the old Dutch word “bosch” which means forest or bush. It was Cecil Rhodes, former prime minister of the Cape and colonialist, who gave the land to the state when he died in 1902. It’s only when botanist Henry Pearson from Cambridge University came to South Africa for a new position at the newly founded Cape Town University that the idea came to start a botanical garden. Pearson had the tough job to start the garden with very limited budget and the land was completely overgrown and infested with pigs roaming around. The cycads he planted can still be admired today.
Nowadays Kirstenbosch manages to combine scientific work, preservation, education and entertainment. The different themed gardens are very interesting and give some practical advice. A good example is the water-wise garden, where you can see which plants you can grow in this drought sensitive area of the world. In the garden of extinction you get an overview of about 1500 local plants that are on the brink of disappearing. Overdevelopment, industry, pollution, climate change, just to name a few, put great pressure on South Africa’s wild and unique plant world.
Quite stunning is the boomslang, tree canopy walk. This beautiful elevated walking path brings you up into the trees and gives you some nice views on Table mountain and the gardens.
In the upper garden you’ll find the fynbos garden, with its gorgeous protea collection. Further up you can take some trails up to the mountain, leaving the more manicured gardens behind. But always check first if it is safe to take the trail with local staff.
It would bring me way too far to mention all the other parts of the gardens and it’s an understatement to say you can easily spend a whole day here. Wander around, get lost or take a break in one of the restaurants. Try to go on a cooler day during the week, that way you avoid too many people and it makes walking around more pleasant. In summer concerts are also organised, so check the website to see what is going on.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens : Rhodes Drive , Newlands, Cape Town, 7735, South-Africa