A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town

A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is considered one of the top 5 Botanical Gardens in the world. But it’s not just about big trees and beautiful flowers. Kirstenbosch also has an incredible geographic location on the slopes of Table Mountain. Add to that an incredible variety of birdlife – you’ll see species of birds here that you won’t see anywhere else in the world.

Lots of photos in this post. I also have a little history as well as tips on tours and events at Kirstenbosh.

Below: some of the flowers we were to see on this visit.

flowers at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens


A bit of history: Cape Town can thank Cecil John Rhodes, one of Africa’s most famous personalities, for the botanical gardens. Ironically he had no interest in the land, letting it go to ruin after purchasing it in 1895. He allowed herds of pigs to feed and wallow in the pools. Luckily he died in 1902, upon which event he bequeathed Kirstenbosch to the people of the Cape as part of his Groot Schuur estate.

The person who turned the land into a botanical garden was Professor H Pearson, a botanist from Cambridge University who came to South Africa in 1903. He thought a botanical garden on this spot would be a great idea and in 1913 made it his mission to clean up the overgrown estate. He died in 1916, before the gardens were completed. He is buried in the Garden, his epitaph reading, ‘If ye seek his monument, look around’. What a great epitaph.

The gardens were completed and have expanded and improved with time. Just last year they completed the incredible “Boomslang” Canopy walkway over the forest floor. Kirstenbosch has become one of Cape Town’s most popular tourist attractions in recent years and is definitely a ‘must see’ while in the area.

Below: entrance into the gardens. “Birds of Paradise” in the foreground – about $15 for a single flower in a bouquet in Montreal, here they grow freely everywhere.

Birds of Paradise at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town


A good introduction to the gardens is a golf cart tour. Every hour, on the hour (until 3pm), a guide drives you around the property on a golf cart and points out some of the highlights along the way. It last 45 minutes. We did this tour, had a snack, then spent 3 hours walking much of the same route on foot.

Below: Our guide pointing out South Africa’s national flower: the King Protea. It opens one petal at a time, looking like the photo below when in full bloom.

King Protea at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town

King Protea at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape TownBelow: more flowers.

flowers at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town


One of the most spectacular aspects of Kirstenbosch is it’s location. Looking out over the gardens, you see the Cape Flats and the mountains beyond (where the wineyards of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are located) while behind the gardens are the slopes of Table Mountain. Want to do some hiking? There are several hikes up Table Mountain from the gardens.

Below: views over the Cape Flats and mountains beyond.

A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town .
Below: Bushes, trees and shrubs.

trees and bushes at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Below: Walking the really cool Boomslang tree canopy walkway. (more on that here)

A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Boomslang tree canopy walkway. A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town.

Below: It was our first weekend in South Africa and one of the highlights for us was seeing the local wildlife, mostly birds, in the gardens.

A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town

bird. A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town

exotic birds. A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town

birds and flowers. A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town

birds at Kirstenbosch

Below: Silver Trees and views beyond.

A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape TownBelow: Views on the colourful gardens and the slopes of Table Mountain.

A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town

Below: “Safari Frank”. Note the beautiful bench – the installations throughout the park are fabulous.

Safari Frank at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town



A few tips and resources

The Official website of Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Getting there: You can take aTaxi or Uber from downtown (the 20 minute ride cost us less than 100 Rand with Uber). Citysightseeing (the hop on/hop off bus) has the Blue Mini Peninsula Tour which passes through Kirstenbosch every 15 minutes. It is the most convenient way of getting there. Book your City Sightseeing ticket here.

Time to visit: I’d give it 3 – 4 hours, depending on how much you like botanical gardens and the amount of time you have in Cape Town. Note that if you take the Blue mini Peninsula Tour you should start off very early because there are lots of great attractions on that route (the Blue tour is the best of the 4 tours in our opinion. The Hop On Hop off really is great in Cape Town, it’s a city built for it).

Tours around the Gardens: see here. Note: they refer to the Golf cart tour that I mentioned above as the ‘shuttle car’ tour.

Concerts: In summer they have concerts on the lawns. See here. Bring your own wine and a picnic.

Hiking. I mentioned hiking further up and included a link. If you’re feeling adventurous you can hike up Table Mountain to the top, coming back down another route or taking the cable car.


Related: 15 Things to Do in and around Cape Town


 Whatever you do, don’t miss Kirstenbosch on your next visit to Cape Town.

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A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
A visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

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  1. I LOVE this article!!! I thoroughly enjoyed every spectacular photo!!! The flowers are so beautiful, the animals amazing, and I had no idea there was a penguin colony in South Africa! Very interesting and so informative!!!

  2. Wow! Those are some crazy beautiful flowers!. Were most of them scented as well as being pretty and unusual? Everything is so green and lush and colorful – and great bench by the way.

    p.s. Thanks for the comment on the charities, greatly appreciate the support! I was a bit surprised by the harshness of the comments but sometimes we have to take the sour with the sweet, so I just gave it a lot of thought to find the right words in response. Thanks, Frank!

    1. Thanks Patti, lots of smells and so well organized. On the comment – people can be so hateful and maybe they don’t bother thinking before leaving a comment. Maybe I went a little overboard in my blast but I saw red when I saw her comment.

      1. You didn’t go overboard, you said exactly what I wanted to say. Her comments were harsh and not at all appropriate. There are ways to say things. I gave a lot of thought to not publishing her comments, but then I told myself to take the high road and come up with a good responses, which hopefully, she’ll return to read. And then you came along and had my back… perfect! 🙂

  3. I’m not usually a fan of botanic gardens – I prefer everything wild in natural disorder rather than a perfectly arranged garden. But the photos do look amazing, I must admit and I love the fact you can extend your trip to the top of the table mountain! I wish I was in South Africa now and could escape the gloomy months in the northern hemisphere.

  4. And another one, Frank ! Thanks for the great posting and beautiful photos . Its very hard to capture the overwhelming beauty of the place up against the back of Table Mountain, but you went a long way in doing so … I know its a bore for most, but I find some of the stats and facts of the Cape Floral Kingdom – of which Kirstenbosh is an important part – not only intriguing , but extremely interesting – so if you can bear with me…. ? The plant diversity of the Cape Floral region is incredible and unique. Nowhere on earth is there such a variety, diversity and wealth of plant species in such a small area . Whether interested in flowers or not, it can still be appreciated and valued for its beauty alone – and should make us reflect on the amazing richness and ways of Nature – and makes Kirstenbosh well worth any visit. Kirstenbosch itself is a World Heritage Site.

    The entire Cape Floral Kingdom is in a different ‘setup’ and equilibrium to the rest of the world’s plant species… eg:- sunbirds depend on its flowers (proteas, pincushions etc) for their food, while the flowers need the sunbirds to pollinate them. No butterflies or bees here…. And plants, like the proteas depend on wildfires in order to germinate their seeds – without fire, they would all die out pretty rapidly !

    Table Mountain National Park alone has more plant species in its small protected 22 000 hectares than the whole British Isles or New Zealand put together….and the narrow stretch of land up the coast to Port Elizabeth , covering only 90 000 square kilometres, (or 0.05% of the earth’s land area), contains 3% of the world’s plant species – over 450 species per 1 000 square kilometres – the most in the world outside of the tropical rain forests . Of the 10.000 odd species of plants found in the Cape floral kingdom, 70% are endemic, ie:- occur nowhere else on earth.

    Flowers, Blah ? Cricket instead ? Oh well ….

    1. You’re always great with the numbers Tony, thanks for the detailed comment.
      And you made me realize that I forgot to mention that Kirstenbosch is a World Heritage Site.
      I don’t know how people can’t look at a beautiful flower and appreciate it’s beauty and intricacy. Oh well…

  5. I wasn’t much into botanical gardens when I was younger but now I love them. Sometimes during the seemingly endless gray winters in Germany I just crave the sight of greenery and flowers. This place looks gorgeous.

  6. 3 hours is like an old fashioned movie. They have beer and food and sometimes dancers and music. It’s called 20/20 cricket.

    How long does baseball last? Cricket is way more interesting btw

    1. I kind of agree that baseball is not so exciting…but I can have beer and food while watching dancers and listening to music on the computer. Why do I have to go for a cricket game for that? 🙂
      I’m just kidding, really don’t know anything about the sport…just like contact sports a bit more. I could become a big fan of rugby and Aussie rules football for sure.

  7. Great images as usual. I like the views, but l would most likely skip this, l am not a big fan of flowers 🙂 🙂 ..no matter how pretty. Shall we call you “hot legs” from now on? 🙂 . Glad you got over the cold..

    1. I’ve never met a woman who doesn’t like flowers. Did something happen to you in childhood? I know Lissette has a fear of dogs from having been cornered once…did you maybe have a flower pot smacked on your head or something? 🙂
      Hot Legs huh? You better be careful or Spanky will be pulling out a bat for a smackdown…maybe a cricket bat…

      1. Haha! It would be a great story if l had one about flowers 🙂 . Glad to be the first woman you know who hates them… 🙂 . Waste of money in my book..and one more thing to take care of..and they die.. I hate a lot of “romantic” crap…very low maintenance..hahha!! Scared of Spanky now..might have to set my little dog on her to lick her to death with the stinky breath 🙂 🙂 🙂

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