Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: The Ultimate Happy Place

A collection of Cape Town spots is not complete without a visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It might not be in the CBD itself, but we all know that it’s necessary to get out of the city every once in a while. And a trip to Kirstenbosch is always worth it. Especially seeing as Summer might actually be on its way.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens have officially been around since 1913, but seeing as this area lies against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, it has pretty much always been a place for nature. What they did in the gardens was create a place where biodiversity flourishes and all the different plant species indigenous to the Cape are showcased. It really is one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world, with what seem like endless footpaths twisting through new hidden benches and wide open green slopes. Following these paths up to one of the highest points brings you to the start of Skeleton Gorge, a very scenic and canopied route up Table Mountain – not that it’s possible to have a less scenic route.

But back to the grassy slopes. These bring out the kid in everyone. It just invites you to twirl around on one spot, role down or run aimlessly. And it’s so green. You won’t find a dry spot anywhere in the gardens. Also, the conveniently placed drinking fountains help with the post-twirl thirst. Another, much more relaxed, activity for which the gardens are perfect is the trusty picnic. Whether you’re just chilling out under a tree eating a packet of chips with a book or wether you go all out with ‘frikkedelle’ and boiled eggs, there is enough space and happiness for all. Sundays are the only days you might not get your favourite spot, because it’s family day where moms and dads, uncles and aunts lounge in the shade while the kiddies are playing underneath the giant willow tree and exploring the footpaths. I would know, I was one of them.

What probably makes the gardens so incredible is the fact that it stretches up Table Mountain. It might make the walks a little more strenuous that in Green Point Park for instance, but it’s definitely worth it. It’s a pretty amazing feeling standing in the middle of a massive garden and overlooking a part of the city. Then, when you turn around, you stare up at a gigantic mountain. It is therefore no wonder that Kirstenbosch was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2004.

Naturally, this is not only a showcase but also a place where many conservation efforts are taking place. On the SANBI website you can look at the research and programmes that are currently running in order to preserve the biodiversity of the area. But merely having all the species together in one incredible garden already does a lot for conservation. I strongly believe that constantly preaching environmental messages and threatening people with global warming and an earth that can’t sustain us all is not always effective. Rather let people experience biodiversity and see the different species for themselves. Let them stroll around in a wonderland of trees, plants and invitingly green grass. Showing off all this natural beauty inspires awe and wonder and hopefully a sense of caring too.

Either way, Kirstenbosch Gardens is the epiphany of Summer picnics and nature strolls. And on 20 November it is time once again for the Old Mutual Summer Sunset Concerts,  where bands and musicians will be performing on Sunday nights and you can bring along your food and wine and be entertained while being in this green wonderland. I can think of few better things to do than this.

One downside to all this is that it costs R40 for adults to get in. If you’re a student, count yourself lucky for only having to pay R25. Scholars pay R10 and children under 6 years can go run on the slopes for free. There is, of course, the option of membership which I think is thoroughly worth it. Membership means free entry into the gardens for an entire year and a few other benefits. It costs R330 for working people and R205 for students (under the age of 25). There are also special prices for family memberships, scholars and so forth. Read all about it on the Botanical Society of South Africa’s website.

But whichever way you do it, go to Kirstenbosch. It’s too pretty to neglect.

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