As I prepared for my trip to Cape Town I kept coming up on Kirstenbosch Gardens as a “must-do”.
Though I enjoy nature, I don’t necessarily think of myself as a botanic garden kind of person. Living in Singapore we have Gardens by the Bay with bio-domes and super trees, so I wasn’t in a rush to schedule Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens into my Cape Town itinerary. However, I did – and I’m glad for it.
Getting to Kirstenbosch Gardens
I penciled it in for Saturday morning, after visiting the Old Biscuit Mill Markets. (Which, as well as cool stuff for sale, has the most amazing food to choose from for breakfast!) The weather was cloudy but clear. I got an Uber without any trouble and a short 20 minutes later I was dropped off at the main entrance, right next to the ticket counter.
Another popular way to get to Kirstenbosch Gardens is via the Hop On Hop Off bus, but the essence of Hop On, Hop Off can rush some people – make sure you allow a couple of hours.
It was 10.30am. Three minutes later after paying 75 rand, I had a ticket in my hand and followed the signs to the entrance.
Once you enter there is a large map board worth taking a look at to get your bearings. Of course, with Table Mountain looming over you, you have a pretty good reference point no matter where you go.
What is Kirstenbosch?
Kirstenbosch is a large park of 36 hectares that meanders along the bottom of Table Mountain. Its location alone is stunning.
After considerable lobbying by botanists who wanted to preserve the Cape’s unique biodiversity, Kirstenbosch Gardens was given the go-ahead in 1913. Work began on the overgrown farm in earnest.
Today it is a beautiful space with tree glades, walking paths, flowers, hiking trails and many large grassy spaces for picnics. Cape Town locals love their picnics and Kirstenbosch is the perfect place. You’ll find sculptures and history as you walk.
In 2013, to celebrate 100 years of Kirstenbosch they opened the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway.
I followed signs to the Canopy Walkway which took 5-10 minutes to get to. All the blog posts I’d read about Kirstenbosch kind of raved about this tree walk. Well, this is not one of those blog posts. It was pleasant. And it was over some trees. But it wasn’t particularly high up, nor long in length. The free Forest Walk through the Telok Blangah Park in Singapore is a much better canopy walk.
From there I picked walking trails at random. There were people walking around with guides (I think some of them might have been paid guides) and there are free guided tours of the gardens available.
The further I walked, the more grateful I was for those who had dedicated park benches in the name of loved ones. You are never far from a park bench, which is awesome.
I wandered through protea trails, magic forests, and wildlife. Taking my time and breathing in nature is what it’s all about at Kirstenbosch. I watched sunbirds (which look just like hummingbirds) buzzing around tall colorful flowers. The sound of scratching followed by baby cheeps alerted me to a mother bird and her chicks in one of the gardens.
At one point I noticed that trailhead marker to Skeleton Gorge because it was one of the hikes up Table Mountain I had considered. But instead, I hiked up via Platteklip Gorge a few days later.
Two hours later, and I was ready for lunch. Two hours might not sound like a lot to true botanic garden goers – but for me, it was a lot – and a testament to how much I enjoyed it. Clearly, walking in an outdoor botanic garden in Cape Town in 20 deg C is a lot more sustainable than Gardens by the Bay, Singapore which is 30 deg C.
I headed to Mojo restaurant inside Kirstenbosch Garden grounds. They have free wi-fi which is a major selling point for me.
Sitting outside, with views towards Table Mountain I ordered a sandwich with fries and a mocktail. It was seriously delicious. Lunch cost 154 rand plus tip. Tipping of 10-15% is expected in South Africa.
The service was great, the climate was just right, so I took my time.
Schedule Kirstenbosch Gardens into your Cape Town itinerary
Eventually, I headed back to the main gate and organized a ride back to Cape Town via the Hop On Hop Off bus.
Kirstenbosch is unpretentious, expansive and inviting, even on a cloudy day. And it’s worth a stop if you have some time free. Next time, I’m going back with a picnic basket and some friends. Or I’ll hike Skeleton Gorge that Keith and I talked about as we hiked up Table Mountain.
Trip taken October 2019.