Kirstenbosch Gardens are made up of 36 hectares of gardened land on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and another 500-odd hectares of wild fynbos. The estate borders the Table Mountain National Park, in the bosom of the Cape Floristic Region - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It being a garden, there are ever-changing sights to see, as the seasons bring blossoms and shed leaves. Then there are the restaurants, the streams, the concerts and the newest addition, the Boomslang tree canopy walkway!
Fynbos is what the Western Cape is famous for, in plant terms. Well, that and grapes - let's not forget our famous wines. Here at Kirstenbosch we're talking naturally growing flora. The type that grows with wild abandon in the 'non-agricultured' areas of the Western Cape. The Fynbos Walk extends to the upper regions of the gardens offering spectacular views across to the Hottentots Holland Mountains.
Expect to see the best that fynbos has to offer - restios, proteas, buchu and ericas, to name a few. Kirstenbosch plays a big role in protecting these indigenous plants.
The Dell and Cycads
This is the oldest section of the garden and has Colonel Bird's bath - fed by natural springs - in its centre. It's a magical place, surrounded by tree ferns. If you're looking for fairies or wanting a drink of fresh mountain spring water, this is the place to look.
Above the bath are the endangered cycads in a natural amphitheatre - 29 of the 40 species are in the gardens, a further eight are kept separately, making Kirstenbosch's collection of 38 of the 40 pretty darn spectacular!
Below the bath is Pearson's Grave. Harold Pearson was the first director of Kirstenbosch. Look out for the massive fig tree further down, with its amazing trunk which is hugged by aerial roots
Useful Plants & The MagicTree
The useful plants garden is fascinating. It contains many of the plants used for hundreds of years as traditional medicines and foods. Here you get the double-whammy: learning about South Africa's history and botany, all in one go!
Below the useful plants garden is the sundial. Stop off there to check up on your time - it's easy to lose track of it in the tranquility of the gardens.
Next to the sundial is what Capetonian's fondly refer to as 'The Magic Tree'. Initially the 'tree' was made up of two huge yellowwoods, whose branches touched the ground, creating a cool cave beneath them. Tragically, one of the trees was struck down in a fierce thunderstorm in 1984 and had to be removed.
The remaining tree fell prey to yet another storm - we're not called the Cape of Storms for nothing - in 2005, and was split in half. Luckily, the clever people at Kirstenbosch managed to save it and its well on its way back to 'cavedom'.
Indigenous Gardening Gardens
Close to Gate 2, and below the Tea Room, are a number of small, 'themed' gardens. These include the Garden of Extinction, Garden of Weeds and Water-wise Garden. Their names speak for themselves.
Also situated here is the Fragrance Garden which is a feast for all the senses. Unlike the rest of the garden where touching and picking are not allowed, here visitors are encouraged to touch the leaves, feel their textures, and smell their amazing aromas. The garden has also been designed with the visually-impaired in mind and has a guiding rail throughout and braille information.
In between all these organised sections of the garden are rolling lawns, streams and beautiful big trees under which to picnic or just lie on the grass and watch the clouds scud by. There is an ever-changing exhibition of beautiful stone Mambo sculptures too. The gardens are well sign-posted, with paved paths.
Food, Glorious Food
You're welcome to pack your own picnic basket and take it into the gardens. Check out their website to see what you are and aren't allowed to bring in or do..
The gardens are vast and there are many perfect picnic spots.
Kirstenbosch Tea Room
A favourite breakfast spot, the tea room has indoor and outdoor seating and serves breakfast, light meals and 'proper' tea with scones. It's open from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm daily.
If carrying your own picnic stuff from home seems too much of an effort, the tea room offers a picnic take-away menu too. You can even hire your picnic blanket from them.
Situated close to Gate 1 at the bottom of the gardens, moyo, too, has outdoor seating under the trees (or in nifty little tents) and indoor seating. They offer a range of deli meals, light snacks and full-on main meals. They also have a take-away picnic menu.
moyo prides itself on fresh food with an African flair and their friendly staff will paint your face in the traditional Xhosa way - with delicate white spots.
The restauant is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Friday and Saturday nights for dinner. Booking is essential for dinner.
Hip, Hop and Happenin'
Each year Capetonians and visitors to Cape Town alike, wave the winter goodbye and welcome summer with open arms. Why? Well, there are many reasons, but one that's right up there is the annual Kirstenbosch summer concert series. Each Sunday (and some other days, for special acts) from 4:00 pm during summer, people amble up the camphor avenue and set up their picnics on the concert lawns below Mathew's rockery.
Concerts start at about 5:30 pm and last about an hour to an hour-and-a-half and feature both international and local acts. The setting is spectacular. It's an experience not to be missed.
Auld Lang Syne
If you're looking for something different to do to bring in the new year, Kirstenbosch hosts a New Year's Eve concert each year.
What better way to bring in the new year than at the foot of the mountain under the stars, while great performers sing for you?
Kirstenbosch's newest - and very exciting - addition is the Centenary Tree Canopy Walk, opened in 2014. Made of steel and wood and closely resembling the body of a snake, it winds its way from forest floor, through the tree canopy and out above the trees over 130 metres.
It offers the visitor an up-close-and-personal look at what it's like to be a tree, and the incredible views the trees have, up the mountain one way, and over the Cape Flats, the other. Who's never wondered what it's like to be a tree, hmm?