A visit to Cape Town is not complete without a visit to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Set in a 36-hectare site on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, it certainly lives up to its reputation as a wonderful showcase for South Africa’s indigenous flora.
Kirstenbosch was established in 1913 to promote, conserve and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa. Over 7000 species of indigenous plants are found here, including many rare and threatened species. In addition, there’s also a rich collection of bulbs, alpines and ferns.
In 2004, Kirstenbosch as part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, became the first botanic garden in the world to be included as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Nature and flower lovers will no doubt be blown away by this place. The are a number of stunning themed gardens connected by hidden trails that offer little surprises at each turning. There is a lovely wooden tree canopy walkway giving breathtaking views of the rich and colourful landscape, with the majestic Table Mountain standing as a backdrop.
Inside the Visitors’ Centre entrance and at the main lawn is a bust of Nelson Mandela standing next to a pepper-bark tree (Warburgia salutaris). The bust was sculpted by John Francis Gardner, who gifted it to Kirstenbosch to commemorate Mandela’s planting of the tree during his visit on 21 August 1996.
It portrays Nelson Mandela during the pivotal years of his presidency and captures his radiance and generous spirit for which he is so well known.
Strelitzia reginae ‘Mandela’s Gold’ is a rare, yellow form of the crane flower and famous orange bird of paradise. This spectacular flower has flaring, yellow petals and a blue tongue reminiscent of a crested tropical bird. The grey-green leaves can grow to a height of about 1.5 metres and the large bird-like flowers stand above the foliage on the tips of long, sturdy stalks during winter and spring.
Too bad that we were given only an hour-and-a-half to roam around – which was hardly enough time at all, considering that six of us spent about half an hour going round in circles, trying to find the right path that would lead us to our meeting point at the second entrance to Kirstenbosch. Nevertheless, it was a morning well-spent in a very tiny corner of the African continent where for a while, everything was peaceful, balanced and beautiful.