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FFynbos, a uniquely South African fine-leaved vegetation, largely makes up the tiniest floral kingdom in the world.
Spread in a narrow cupped crescent, the Cape Floral Kingdom of fynbos is found in a rim along the country's southernmost reaches, never more than 200km from the sea.
With Vanrhynsdorp as its far north-western limit, the fynbos biome broadens as it swings south in the vicinity of Cape Town, and narrows eastwards, tailing off near Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape.
In this small area, equivalent to a thinly smeared Portugal, there are more than 9 000 plant species, and of those, 70% are endemic. A full 3% of all the world's plants are found here, on less than 0.05% of the Earth's land surface, making fynbos incredibly concentrated.
The Cape Peninsula alone has 2 285 species on an area a third the size of greater London. It has three times more plant species per square kilometre than those fabulously lush rainforests.
For this, it was declared one of the world's 34 biodiversity 'hotspots', and in 2004, was confirmed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
South Africa's conservation of fynbos is critical to the survival of this botanical treasure. Many fynbos species are specialists and some occur on only a few hectares – nowhere else. Encouragingly, 20% of this kingdom is officially conserved, but its sheer diversity means that much remains unprotected.
South African fynbos vegetation includes proteas, ericas and restios (reeds). This flower kingdom is the origin of some of the world's favourite plants: gladioli, freesias, nerines, agapanthus and ixia. And, of course, those beloved geraniums and pelargoniums.
TTravel tips & planning info
How to get there
Cape Town is the epicentre of the fynbos kingdom. Fly from any major airport or take a drive along the famous Garden Route. You could also catch a bus or a train.
Best time to visit
There's always something to see, but the fynbos is at its most beautiful in spring (September/October).
Things to do
The Fynbos Trail is a hiking trail close to Hermanus that gives hikers the opportunity of a guided tour or self-guided trail experience.
What to pack
If you plan to do a tour, good hiking shoes or boots, a hat and sunblock are a must.
Where to stay
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden in Cape Town is a good option for fynbos viewing. There are a variety of accommodation options available near Kirstenbosch as it is a short drive from the city centre.