11 November 2021 | Tourismus
A feast for the senses
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden ranks among the truly magnificent botanic gardens of the world. The towering sandstone cliffs on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain provide an imposing backdrop, which is hard to surpass in grandeur alone.
By Christina Rockstroh
Only 36 ha of the 528 ha Kirstenbosch estate are cultivated. The rest is a protected area of isolated pockets of Afromontane forest and fynbos, which supports a wide variety of indigenous birds, reptiles, frogs, invertebrates and some mammals. More than 125 species of birds and about 2500 species of plants have been recorded here.
Kirstenbosch is indeed a magical place, a veritable slice of Eden.
As soon as you step through the entrance you are enveloped by the tranquility of nature, two dozen shades of green and the scent of moist soil and foliage.
Where to begin exploring?
The Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, dubbed the boomslang, was my first option on my most recent visit. It is a low-impact steel and timber bridge that winds through and over the trees of the arboretum over a distance of 130 metres. The highest point is 12 metres above the ground. Here you literally feel on top of the world while absorbing the splendour of the surroundings! The views are priceless.
The Fynbos Walk leads from a viewing deck through several “gardens” planted with the unique vegetation of the Cape Floral Kingdom. Especially in spring and early summer, it’s a festival of colour. Think of Namaqua daisies, vygies in brilliant hues of yellow, orange, red and pink, and proteas, of course. The fynbos flowers draw a rich variety of birds, many of which are the pollinators of these plants.
Keep a look out for Sunbirds and Sugarbirds.
Cape Town’s Jurassic Park is the Cycad Amphitheatre in Kirstenbosch. Cycads appeared before the age of dinosaurs, almost 280 million years ago. Five life-size dinosaurs and a pterosaur, all made of tin, draw attention to the fact that South Africa’s cycads are another species threatened with extinction – through mankind’s doing.
In the middle of the Otter Pond, surrounded by tree ferns and river pumpkin, a Cape Clawless Otter seems to be resting. The very lifelike sculpture was donated by a Cape Town family with the reminder that “our quality of life will depend on the ability of mankind to live in harmony with nature”.
Otters have become rare in the Table Mountain streams but they do occur at Kirstenbosch.
This botanic garden is visitor-friendly in every respect. A special map informs about wheelchair accessibility of its various routes. There is a braille trail, a self-guiding audio system or the opportunity to walk with a knowledgeable volunteer.
Capetonians love to visit Kirstenbosch for a picnic. Unfortunately, the popular Summer Sunset Concert series on Sunday afternoons has not been revived yet, which came to a halt due to COVID-restrictions of gatherings and public events.
The convenient shuttle car tours, which used to ferry visitors through the garden every hour, are also still suspended.
The natural area of the Kirstenbosch estate can be explored on five well-maintained trails. Those that are very energetic, can even hike up Table Mountain through Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine if they so choose.
In 2013 as part of Kirstenbosch’s centenary celebrations, the coffee table book, The most beautiful garden in Africa, was published.