Cape Town’s beloved Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens has welcomed another addition to its horticultural family – the Tree Canopy Walkway. Officially opened on 17 May this year, the walkway celebrates 100 years of the gardens’ existence. This steel and timber creation overlooks some of the most impressive collections of indigenous flora in the region and also allows for breath-taking panoramas of the surrounding areas. A collaboration between Mark Thomas Architects and the engineering firm Henry Fagan and Partners, the canopy is structurally innovative whilst at the same time being respectful of its African surroundings.
Nicknamed ‘The Boomslang’ which means ‘tree snake’, the walkway appears to be exactly that. Designed to mimic the skeleton of a snake, this mammoth metal walkway curves and winds its way through the richest and most indigenous gardens in the Southern Hemisphere. The Kirstenbosch tree canopy walkway is located above the Arboretum and snakes its way through the Concert Lawns (famous location for local or international acts that perform during the Kirstenbosch concertperiod in summer), the Protea Gardens, Mathews Rockery and the Amphitheatre. Starting at ground level, ‘The Boomslang’ gently twists and turns for the next 130 metres. The highest point reached is 11, 5 metres making it the perfect vantage point over the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. Visitors should remember that the walkway has been designed with some leeway and is not meant to stay completely still – particularly important on Cape Town’s characteristically windy days.
We visited the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden last weekend to have a look at this marvellous structure and take a tree-top stroll for ourselves. It’s cleverly designed to be inconspicuous – blending in with the local flora. The walkway fits in so well, in fact, that we struggled to find it! Once we were on the walkway, feeling quite close to the clouds, we were rewarded with magnificent views of the gardens, Table Mountain, False Bay and the distant Cape Winelands – all the natural beauty that makes Cape Town so magical.
The designers have made sure that all guests to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden have the opportunity to experience the 360° vistas as the walkway is 100 per cent wheelchair friendly. Although, getting to the starting point may require some elbow grease as the Arboretum is located quite high up.
There is no extra charge for using the walkway, which is probably because the funds for the canopy were entirely donated. Nearly R5 million was raised for the construction from benefactors far and wide, including the late Mary Mullins. As we said earlier, finding the walkway is a bit of a treasure hunt, but all you need to do is walk up from the Concert Lawns towards the Cycads and Proteas.
Kirstenbosch Gardens is one of the most famous landmarks in Cape Town and has become known as a place of calm and serenity. So much so, in fact, that the Dalai Lama referred to it as spiritually powerful. Whether families with small children, lovers with romantic picnics, grannies who love looking at flowers, school tours or foreign tourists, everyone is sure to find a patch of grass to call their own for a little while. And it is exactly this “keep ON the grass” rule that helps to make Kirstenbosch Garden so special.
International visitors who’d like to find a place to stay nearby have many options but we recommend staying at the Vineyard Hotel for its spectacular mountain views or the Cellars Hohenhort Hotel, both of which are only a stone’s throw away from the gardens.