Covering 36 hectares, Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens is situated in Cape Town, South Africa at the foot of the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.
A well known exhibitor at Chelsea Flower show, displaying the floral diversity found in southern Africa, this natural paradise offers a comprehensive taste of the Cape's flora and fauna.
Enjoyed by locals walking their dogs and tourists alike, often seen picnicking on the manicured lawns which lead to ponds frequented by bird life, an afternoon can be had in the warmth of the sunshine and peaceful sound of Cape reeds moving in the breeze, perhaps only marginally dogged by inquisitive and noisy guineafowl.
Permanent Shona stone sculptures from Zimbabwe are positioned around the grounds while organised events including changing art exhibitions showcasing contemporary, local talent and botanical drawings can be viewed and purchased. During the year bonzai and orchid workshops are held as well as summer concerts in the warm evenings under starry, African skies.
Craft markets provide outlets for local communities to showcase their work while the deli and restaurant offer local specialities and champagne breakfasts. The ever popular tearoom refreshes hikers with cups of rooibos tea and tasty cakes.
Ancient cycads are housed in their own protective amphitheatre while rockeries and streams provide interest for youngsters. The shady camphor avenue offers some respite from the heat of the day and if you are lucky, the sighting of owls, almost hidden in the upper branches. This is near the conservatory, home to southern African succulents and cacti, the majestic baobab, the smaller kokerboom and rock plants.
Paths for children, the blind (sensory trail) and wheelchair users are all catered for while longer trails radiate into uncultivated areas and the surrounding Table Mountain National Park. These surrounding routes, enjoyed by dedicated walkers follow in the footsteps of historical figures such as General Smuts, leading to native silver trees which shimmer in the sunlight and the location of van Riebeeck's hedge on the slopes of the mountain - the Dutch national credited with establishing a refreshment station for seafarers at the tip of Africa in the1650s. Here the occasional mountain tortoise can be spotted ambling along on the hot, dusty sand.
Energetic visitors can walk past beds of ericas and proteas to embark on a winding route up Nursery Ravine to Castle Rock, the imposing stone hunk above the gardens and admire the vegetation or fynbos, as it is called, from above. You might be lucky to spot a disa orchid, indigenous frogs or just admire the sunbirds and sugarbirds darting around dipping their long beaks into nectar rich blooms.
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