Escape to Cape Town's esteemed botanical garden
One of the best sights in Cape Town is the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Nestled against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the garden is a richly realized project 100 years in the making. While flowers are on display year round, this winter brings some of Cape Town's biggest blooms and hottest months, providing a balmy escape for travelers from colder parts of the globe.
A centennial of diversity
The botanical garden was started in 1913 to promote and preserve the flora of South Africa. It is the first garden of its kind in the world to be devoted to the preservation of indigenous flowers, and from those beginnings, it has come to house over 7,000 different species of flowers. Apart from outdoor gardens, the conservatory is home to a number of greenhouses that preserve all the kinds of flora transported from across the region, from alluvial areas to more arid climates.
The diversity of flowers means that there is always something to see. Yet, each new season brings new and interesting blooms. Summer for Cape Town stretches from November to March, with weather largely resembling a Mediterranean climate. The sun is hot and there is little rain, but respite can be found in the beautiful purple agapanthus flowers that reign over the garden grounds.
These flowers - tight bouquets of violet on long thin green stalks - are everywhere, and come in a variety of species that bloom at different times during the summer. These flowers have accompaniment in the form of the trumpeted, purple primrose and the bright, contrasting, orange fireball lilies. A grand sight come January is the purple canopy of umzimbeet found in the Center for Home Gardening.
Visitors to the garden are allowed to have picnics anywhere on the grounds. Dogs, too, are allowed in parts of the park, though visitors should check the garden's map for restrictions.
Apart from the natural vegetation, the park is home to a number of manmade works. Travelers can make a tour of the mambo sculptures, an ever-changing exhibition of African stone sculptures that explore traditional as well as contemporary themes of the region. Visitors may also want to visit the bust of Nelson Mandela, which stands guard next to the pepper-bark tree that the beloved South African leader himself planted in 1994.
More exploration awaits just outside the gardens, in the adjacent Table Mountain National Park. Hikers can keep a lookout for the birds, foxes and butterflies that populate the region.