One of the best ways to get your nature fix without heading deep into the wilderness is to visit some of South Africa’s most incredible and polished botanical gardens. These gardens sport impressive collections of plants and flowers, both native and imported from around the world. So get ready to stop and smell the flowers, here are the best botanical gardens of South Africa you have to check out.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
The most well-known and highly-favored garden in South Africa is Cape Town’s own Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. The garden garners so much attention due to its large space (1,300 acres) with mountains and an elevated observatory walkway called “The Boomslang” for visitors to admire the manicured gardens from the top. It’s common to find art installments in various spots throughout the are and people picnicking on the lawn with Table Mountain in the backdrop. Keep on the look out for a wealth of wildlife including owls, turtles, butterflies and more that make the garden their permanent home. While you can visit the garden anytime, it’s advised to attend during one of its popular festivals that include concerts, snake handling demonstrations and more. However, the five-day long Chelsea Flower Show that’s held every May at the garden is one of the biggest must-do for nature enthusiasts. The event is so popular that the Queen of England has previously paid a visit.
Durban Botanical Gardens
If you’re in the KwaZulu-Natal region, you’ll want to check out Durban Botanical Gardens in the heart of the city. This garden is believed to be the oldest surviving botanical garden in all of Africa (it first opened in 1851) at 37 acres wide. Today, visitors can browse through various exhibits including a herbarium, palm walk, sunken garden, Japanese garden, indigenous forest and many more. Do you have an appreciation for orchids? Then you’ll love this. There are over 8,000 orchids found in the Ernest Thorp Orchid House, both natural and man-made. Visitors can expect to find various orchid species brought in from all over Africa to enjoy their unique looks.
Johannesburg Botanical Gardens
A short drive outside of Johannesburg is the quiet suburb of Emmarentia, where flowers thrive. Lovers of roses, this is your place. The garden was first established in the 1960s and continued to expand. Today, there are about 10,000 roses for visitors to admire (imagine how heavenly it smells in the Rose Garden) at the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. Theater geeks can combine their love of classic literature and nature by attending one of the many orchestrated Shakespearean events held at the garden. In fact, there is a designated Shakespeare Garden filled with plants and herbs mentioned in the late author’s books. Looking to expand your knowledge of plants? The garden prides itself on being an educational place since it’s home to a library with more than a thousand books on plants, a herbarium with more than 5,000 specimens, and an arboretum with 20,000 exotic trees.
Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden
Looking to find plants that you won’t find anywhere else in the world? Then Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden is the place to put your curiosity to rest. Since 1902, the garden has been collecting and preserving extremely rare plants, many of them indigenous to South Africa. Some plants are so rare that they’re actually extinct in the wild but guests can get a glimpse of the species in the garden. In addition to the rare plants collection, the garden is home to the largest bonsai tree exhibit in the country. There are other themed gardens found at the destination such as waterlily ponds, a fern house, a tropical glasshouse and more.
Pretoria National Botanical Garden
Pretoria National Botanical Garden is one of a few members of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). Unlike most botanical gardens, the Pretoria location is only partially manicured, letting some portions of its garden go wild for visitors to see true undeveloped natural beauty. In the manicured section, visitors will find various gardens like a succulent garden, cycad garden, medicinal garden and an added artificial waterfall to enhance the aesthetics. Come hungry, you’ll want to dine at its African Pride Cafe with the view of the wetlands.
Karoo Desert Botanical Garden
If you go deep into the Western Cape, you’ll find Worcester, a small town at the foothills of Hex River Mountain ranges. Once arriving, guests will immediately be transported into an exotic desert landscape in a 380 acre garden full of succulents, wildflowers, desert trees and more. There are an estimated 400 plant species found throughout the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden. Because of the area’s enormous size and distance from larger cities, it’s common to spot wildlife like mongoose and rabbits in the midst of the flowers.
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