16 April 2014 by Shona Bagley

Sunny South African picnics

Want a break from hotel and restaurant fare? Take a basket, fill it with scrumptious deli delights, roll up a blanket and have a picnic in one of South Africa’s natural beauty spots.

Part of the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

There is little more blissful than a perfect sunny South African day, and what better way to celebrate glorious weather than with a picnic? This country abounds in places of beauty crying out for a picnic blanket and alfresco food.

If you’re in the Cape Town area, one of the most beautiful settings for your picnic is the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Kirstenbosch is spectacularly located against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and features over 7 000 species of indigenous plants, including many rare and threatened species. It covers 36ha in a 528ha estate containing protected mountainside supporting natural forest and fynbos, along with a variety of animals and birds.

Vergelegen Estate. Image South African Tourism Vergelegen Estate. Image South African Tourism

For a scenic drive out of the Mother City, head for the Cape Winelands, where there are numerous lovely places to picnic, including the Vergelegen Estate in Somerset West, where tables are laid in the shade of the majestic 300-year-old camphor trees. There are 17 themed gardens to explore and fine wines can be sampled in the wine-tasting centre.

At Boschendal estate, you don’t even have to take your own food. Collect your wicker picnic basket filled with freshly baked baguettes and an array of homemade pâtés, cold meats, salads, and cheese and biscuits, and enjoy it beneath the fragrant pines with the majestic Simonsberg mountain as a backdrop.

At Spier wine estate outside Stellenbosch, visitors can enjoy picnics on the lawns overlooking a pellucid lake. Here, too, food is available: picnic boxes can be pre-ordered, or you can choose from a selection of deli delights.

If you’re in vibrant Johannesburg, head for the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Roodepoort, voted the best picnic spot in Gauteng five years in a row. Set up your site near the cascading Witpoortjie waterfall or anywhere else in the 300ha of landscaped and natural veld areas. There are more than 600 naturally occurring plant species. Take your binoculars – 220 bird species and small mammals, including dainty antelope and jackals, live in the garden.

If you’re in Durban and surrounds, it’s worth your while to take a trip (about 75km) to Pietermaritzburg, to picnic in the KwaZulu-Natal National Botanical Garden.

Wander along the paths at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. Image courtesy of Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden Wander along the paths at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. Image courtesy of Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden

Established in 1874, it features swamp cypress, tulip trees, camphor trees, plane trees, giant figs and magnolias. One of the most breathtaking features is the avenue of London plane trees, planted in 1908 specifically to attract birds. The Garden boasts over 150 avian species.

The Useful Plants Garden displays plants used by the Zulu people for medicine, crafts and food. Take along a picnic blanket and enjoy the concerts the garden plays host to.

If you prefer something closer to Durban, try the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve in Kloof – an upmarket suburb of Durban. This 584ha reserve is situated on either side of the Molweni River. There are three waterfalls, one of which is 90m high, and two picnic sites. A 20km nature trail affords breathtaking views of the Krantzkloof gorge.

Fancy a beach setting? Try Anstey’s Beach on the Bluff, which is away from the madding crowds of Durban’s main beachfront and is a lot less commercial. Shark nets and lifeguards make for safe swimming in the warm waters.

Nearby Cave Rock beach is renowned for its surf. There are also rock pools, whales in the winter and dolphins throughout the year. Fishing and diving are also popular and the odd monkey may even try to steal your picnic on the beach.

It’s a perfect sunny South African day. What are you waiting for? It’s picnic time!

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