Wilma den Hartigh
Kirstenbosch, which was established in 1913 to conserve and showcase the diverse flora of Southern Africa, is widely celebrated as one of the great botanic gardens of the world.
Picnicking is a favourite local pastime and the tranquillity and beauty of Kirstenbosch makes it one of the most scenic places to relax on the lawns and enjoy a truly South African spread.
“Being listed by National Geographic is a big international acknowledgement,” says Sarah Struys, events and centre manager at Kirstenbosch.
Struys adds that one of the many attractions of the garden is that it has been positioned as a leisure destination, instead of just being a botanical garden where people can only view plants.
“This makes it accessible to everyone. You don’t have to be a botanist or horticulturalist to enjoy Kirstenbosch,” she says.
Visitors to Kirstenbosch can also view the permanent stone sculpture display and other indoor and outdoor exhibitions.
Struys says that picnicking at Kirstenbosch became a popular activity when management introduced the Summer Sunset music concerts at the garden 20 years ago.
The concerts are held on Sunday evenings during the summer months, from late November until early April. Over the years, Kirstenbosch has featured many of the best local bands and artists, such as Freshlyground, Arno Carstens, Johnny Clegg and Goldfish.
International artists such as Michael Bublé, Josh Grobin and Cliff Richard have also performed at the concert venue.
The Kirstenbosch concerts have also been recognised internationally. In 2007 Time magazine featured them as one of the top things to do in Cape Town. It also described Kirstenbosch as a “garden of musical delights”.
Treasured natural heritage
Kirstenbosch was the first botanic garden in the world dedicated to preserving a country’s indigenous plant life. The garden is home to more than 7 000 rare and threatened species.
It is adjacent to the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP) and many hiking enthusiasts use the Skeleton Gorge hiking route, starting at Kirstenbosch, to hike up the slopes of the mountain.
Both the TMNP and Kirstenbosch form part of the Cape Floristic Region Protected Area, which was proclaimed a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2004.