As a city, Cape Town’s known for its “Big Six” attractions – meet them all through SA Logue’s Cape Town Big Six tag!
Tourists seeking out Cape Town’s botanical gardens have two choices, essentially: the free walk through the Company’s Gardens in the CBD, or the trek out to the National Botanical Institute’s Kirstenbosch Gardens in upper Newlands (entrance on Rhodes Drive – map).
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You can probably tell which option Your Correspondent prefers. Don’t get me wrong, Kirstenbosch is a glorious celebration of all things botanical in South Africa, and is decidedly the most informative experience a plant-lover can have here. But it’s also the more snooty of the two gardens, by quite a ways. The upside of the snootiness is that you don’t get approached for a contribution to a homeless person’s lunch; the downside is that, for all its botanical color, the place comes off as rather chilly and bloodless.
Entrance to Kirstenbosch is R25 per adult, and there’s plenty to see and do: take a guided tour, or a self-guided one with the garden’s audio system; rent a golf cart and scoot around; spot birds and mammals – including the gorgeous sugar bird and the grey mongoose; take a gentle stroll, then spread out a blanket and have a picnic; make Kirstenbosch your starting point for a challenging hike up Table Mountain, via Skeleton Gorge or the Nursery Ravine; buy plants and seeds at the impressive nursery; go to an outdoor concert; or spend the morning drifting through the Kirstenbosch stone sculpture garden and conclude with a lunch in its cafe.
The cafe, though, is another bone that needs picking. Your chances of decent food and service are 50-50 on both counts. Safest order is probably scones and tea.
It’s possible that my bias is of the not-sufficiently-well-informed kind (except on the food & service fronts), in which case I grant that I may one day step into enlightenment with regard to Kirstenbosch. But for now I still prefer the sounds and human color of the Company’s Gardens over the pious hush of this exclusive preserve.