Did you know?
In 2004 the Cape Floristic Region, including Kirstenbosch, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Tucked away between some 430 trees, visitors to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden should not forego the opportunity to traverse the Boomslang, an arboreal ‘bridge’ that offers stunning views over the garden and the mountain.
The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is often described as 'the most beautiful garden in Africa' for its magnificent views, showcasing the exceptional biodiversity of the Cape's flora. It is also home to many birds and animals, and the walkway offers the opportunity to enjoy birdlife at tree level.
The walkway was built to commemorate Kirstenbosch’s 100 th year in 2013 but, due to construction delays, only opened to the public in May 2014.
It is a steel-and-timber structure of 130m, starting at ground level and rising to some 12m above the ground. Because it’s crescent-shaped, the walkway ends a short distance from the start. It is also suitable for wheelchair users.
Its ingenious design makes it a sinuous structure that winds its way through the trees – like the indigenous tree snake it is named after that is rarely seen on the ground.
In an act of ‘bio-mimicry’, the outer steel frame resembles the rib cage of a snake enclosing the wooden bridge and looks a bit like a roller-coaster ride for pedestrians.
Construction had to take account of the sensitivity of the site; every tree in the arboretum was surveyed and drawn on a 3D map so that the path of the walkway could be plotted without causing any harm to the trees.
In fact, one tree was accommodated by cutting a hole through the bridge's timber – and it is now known as the ‘hugging tree’, which is sure to be a hit with children.
During assembly, the contractors brought in 6m lengths of the prefabricated steel structure to be bolted in situ, while the foundations were hand dug and filled in with reinforced concrete pads.
Throughout, the contractors were under strict instructions to keep the site squeaky clean so as to prevent harm to this mature part of the garden.
The walkway is located in the arboretum area of the garden, close to the cycad garden on the one end, and the concert lawn at the other.
Visitors to the garden do not have to pay an additional fee to use the Boomslang, but those who do not have a head for heights, or who might be put off by the slight sway of the curved steel bridge, might decide to sit this one out.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Tel: +27(0)21 799 8782/3
How to get here
Take a taxi or self-drive. The garden is also a regular stop on the City Sightseeing hop-on, hop-off bus route.
Best time to visit
All year as there is always something different flowering in the garden.
Around the area
Kirstenbosch lies in the heart of Cape Town's southern suburbs. Not far from here is the Cavendish Square Shopping Centre, which has a range of restaurants and shops.
Tours to do
The garden offers free guided tours at 10am and 2pm from Mondays to Saturdays. For those who don't wish to walk around, you can join a shuttle car tour (which leaves every hour) for an additional R55.
Within the garden, you'll have to walk. There are also shuttle car tours (at a cost of an additional R55 per person).
What will it cost
Entry into the garden is R45 for adults and R10 for children. Holders of a Botanical Society card get in free. There is no additional cost to enter the tree canopy walkway.
Length of stay
Spend at least a morning or afternoon here.
What to pack
Cape Town is a winter rainfall area, so take a rain jacket if you visit between May and July. Summers (November to February) can be warm but the weather is highly changeable. Wear comfortable walking shoes. Birders should take binoculars, and photographers will want to have their cameras with them.
Where to stay
Cape Town has a great variety of tourist accommodation, from B&Bs through to five-star hotels.
What to eat
There are two restaurants in the garden, one of which is a tearoom and the other a Moyo African-style restaurant.
Kirstenbosch has an active programme throughout the year. Check the listed website for details.
Natural history books and indigenous plants.