By Bill Warelis
If you watched the FIFA World Cup in South Africa last year and saw a game played in Cape Town you couldn’t miss the iconic view from the V&A Waterfront complex looking towards the city and its famous backdrop, Table Mountain. I certainly had that vista in mind when I set out to visit the city recently.
While it is a superb view, I still believe Vancouver and San Francisco have better. However, what those two cities don’t have is the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, which sits on the eastern slopes on the “other side” of Table Mountain.
The Garden covers 90 acres within the 1,300 acres Kirstenbosch estate that lies at the heart of the Cape Floristic Region. Created in 1913 to conserve and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora and wildlife of southern Africa, the garden was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. It is the first botanical garden in the world to be included within a natural World Heritage Site. It displays a wide variety of the unique plant life with over 7,000 species in cultivation including many rare and threatened species.
After a fantastic day touring the Cape Region we finished with a tour of the Garden and a picnic. As you’d expect there is an information center, restaurants and shops, but we bought our food and drink at a roadside market along the way.
A couple of hours eating and walking on a sunny Sunday afternoon made for a wonderful visit, but it was much too brief. I could have spent days walking the many trails studying the unique flora, keeping a watch for birds and small animals and enjoying the Sculpture Garden, which houses a permanent, but often changed exhibition of work by local artists.
It’s unfortunate that when I visited none of the sculptors who can sometimes be seen developing new pieces was at work. My timing was also off in that I missed enjoying one of the Summer Sunset Concerts held from mid-December to early April in the open-air amphitheater.
Parts of Garden can be difficult for some to walk with it being set on the hilly edge and at the foot of Table Mountain. Still, it is worth the effort. Kirstenbosch calls itself the most beautiful garden in Africa. I haven’t seen many, but I can’t imagine that they are exaggerating.