22 May 2014
A 130-metre treetop canopy walkway, winding through the forest canopy on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and offering spectacular 360-degree views of the city and mountainside, has opened at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town.
Taking advantage of the sloping ground, the crescent-shaped, galvanised steel and timber structure winds and dips through the forest canopy, resembling the ribbed skeleton of a huge snake – hence its nickname, the “Boomslang” (Tree Snake).
Rising in places to over 11.5 metres above the ground, the wheelchair-friendly walkway gives visitors the opportunity to experience the forest from above, and to see birds and other animals that are normally difficult to spot from ground level.
Kirstenbosch horticulturist Adam Harrower describes how “one can experience tree dynamics – how the treetops move in the wind and how the crowns of the trees interact with one another.
“The walkway then bursts through and above the canopy, giving you an impression of what it is like to be above the forest. At this point, the walkway provides spectacular 360-degree vistas comprising Cape Town and the surrounding majestic mountain slopes.”
The structure was designed by architects Mark Thomas and Christopher Bisset, and built at a cost of around R5-million – funded entirely from bequests – to mark Kirstenbosch’s centenary.
Established in 1913, Kirstenbosch was the first botanical garden in the world to be devoted to a country’s indigenous flora. Displaying a wide variety of the unique plant life of the Cape Flora, known as fynbos, as well as plants from all the diverse regions of southern Africa, it has over 7 000 species in cultivation, including many rare and threatened species.
The 36-hectare garden is part of a 528-hectare nature reserve bordering Table Mountain National Park and lying at the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, which was declared World Heritage Site by Unesco in 2004.