Located at the back (eastern side) of Table Mountain is one of the world’s greatest botanical gardens; Kirstenbosch. Kirstenbosch covers 528 hectares, of which only 36ha is cultivated garden and the rest is natural fynbos and forest inhabited by a wonderful diversity of fauna and flora on the mountain slopes.
Influenced by Harold Pearson, chair of Botany at the South African College, the government of the Union of South Africa established Kirstenbosch as the country’s first National Botanical Garden in May 1913. It was the first of its kind in the world to focus its efforts on protecting and showcasing a country’s native flora, the richness of South Africa’s unique fynbos vegetation coming to the world’s attention then already. Pearson died just three years later and was buried in the beautiful garden he worked so tirelessly for. The inscription on his gravestone speaks volumes.
Kirstenbosch exhibits an untold variety of indigenous South African plants both in the laid-out gardens and the extensive tract of natural vegetation on the slopes of the mountain. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Kirstenbosch won the gold medal at the annual Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show 37 times out of the 44 times it took part in the exhibition!
Kirstenbosch is incredibly rich in wildlife. More than 125 species of bird have been recorded here. Of the 34 species of mammal that’s been encountered in the garden you are most likely to see is the four-striped grass mouse, but even caracals roam here! The list of fauna in the garden is completed with the addition of 2 types of indigenous freshwater fish, 8 kinds of amphibians and 24 reptile species.
Kirstenbosch is open every day of the year. Visitors come here to picnic in the beautiful gardens and to hike, jog and cycle on the extensive network of trails that traverse the areas of “wild” vegetation. A highlight is the raised walkway through the tree tops in the arboretum, dubbed the “Boomslang” for its resemblance to the well known tree-living snake. For the price of your entry ticket, which can be purchased online in advance, you can join guided walking tours of the garden on weekdays. These last about 90 minutes. The conservatory is not to be missed – in this facility plants from more hot and arid parts of Southern Africa is displayed, including the remarkable Welwitschia mirabilis. There’s a restaurant, tea room and coffee shop on the premises and also a curio shop, a book shop and a nursery. On summer evenings musical performances by local and international acts draw many visitors to the garden, while the gardens are dotted by wonderful sculptures. Accommodation is available in the garden at the Kirstenbosch Manor House, where there’s also a small meeting venue available. A much larger conference centre is also available and is a popular venue for wedding receptions.
While exploring the Table Mountain National Park and Cape Town during December 2022, we based ourselves at the Eland Cottage inside the Cape of Good Hope section of the Park. Eland Cottage has two lounges, a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, bathroom, three bedrooms, outside shower and lapa! In addition to Eland visitors to this part of the Park can also book the Duiker Cottage, similar to Eland, and Olifantsbos House – a luxury unit with an exclusive setting right on the beach. DeWetsWild will gladly assist you with bookings in these units, other accommodation options in the Table Mountain National Park, at one of five hotels in metropolitan Cape Town or at the Goudini Spa in the Cape Winelands if you are planning a visit to Cape Town and surrounds.