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January 15, 2009

There’s more to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens than the tea room


Photo courtesy of Derek Keats

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden was established in 1913 to preserve South Africa’s unique flora.

While many visitors enjoy the garden’s dramatic setting at the foot of Table Mountain by having a lazy picnic on the lawns or a quiet coffee at the Botanical Cafe outdoor coffee shop, there are other ways to explore this Unesco World Heritage site.

The paved pathways make a casual stroll around the gardens a pleasure, while signboards provide you with information about the thousands of indigenous plants to which the garden is home.  There is a daily walking tour (at 10h00, no cost) as well as golf cart tours every hour (for only R25).

If you’re in the mood for some more strenuous activity and would like to see some of the surrounding sights, there are two popular hiking paths – the Skeleton Gorge and the Nursery Ravine – which wind their way up Table Mountain. If you’re feeling fit you can follow the contour path north to the Rhodes Memorial, which boasts a spectacular view of the city below. From here, you can access the pedestrian path down to the University of Cape Town and explore the striking old buildings of South Africa’s oldest university.

The most popular activity in the gardens during these sultry summer months, however, is the Sunday evening open-air concert, held from 17h30 to 18h30 every week. It’s best to arrive early to claim a patch of grass on which to lay out your picnic and leisurely sip your Cape wines.


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