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12th September 2016

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – The Boomslang

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The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens recently opened a new attraction, namely the Boomslang walkway. Literally translated, from Dutch or Afrikaans, Boom-slang means “tree-snake”, and what an apt description for an elevated walkway that twists and turns, allowing it to fit in naturally with Africa’s premier – and most spectacular – botanical garden. The design and construction of this wood and metal hybrid is aesthetically beautiful and, like the snake, gives you the unique experience of passing through the upper canopy of a forest.

The walkway is by no means long, measuring in at 130 metres, but it does elevate you to the degree that you gain a new perspective of the gardens below, and a wonderfully unobstructed view over and beyond the neighbouring suburbs of Cape Town. The walkway is a little hard to find, it being somewhat sandwiched by a small grove of trees, but it’s just beyond the venue of the summer concerts; and most passersby seem to know the way, too.

We went at first light to watch the sun rise over the Hottentots-Holland mountains, and the peace and tranquillity was only disturbed by the happy chirping of birds and the occasional hiker. We packed some rooibos tea, rusks, and warm jackets and all three were a treat while sitting on the bench, taking in the view, and waiting for the sun to warm us up. Although the gates open at 7am in summer and 8am in winter, if you’re a member, or have the intention of hiking up the mountains, they should let you in beforehand, which I’d really suggest that you aim for. You won’t have the bench all to yourselves otherwise, and you’ll find people staring greedily at your tea and rusks!

Of course, the garden has many other wonderful features to explore, and of particular interest to me was the cycad garden, conservatory, and fragrance garden – where one is expected to interact with the plants, rubbing the leaves and enjoying their varying scents. There really is something for everyone though, and kids who have boundless energy or pensioners just wanting to amble along the many weaving paths, will equally be at ease here. Regarding the actual flora, the diversity is a botanists dream, though thankfully there are plenty of signs and boards with information to enlighten you, and even free guided tours running from Monday to Saturday at 10h00 and 14h00.

If the weather is reasonable, I’d highly suggest prioritising Kirstenbosch Gardens on your tour, and here is a brief itinerary if you have limited time: Grab a map as you come in, go up to the Boomslang walkway and then work your way down and across the gardens, stopping at points that interest you, possibly ending with a bite to eat at either the café in the garden or the restaurant right by the main entrance. Whether you have two hours or ten, you will not be disappointed, and will more than likely find yourself wanting to revisit over and over again.

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