Editor's Note: Cape Town is currently experiencing a drought that visitors should be sensitive to. Learn more about this crisis if you are planning to visit Cape Town before July 2018.
Many travelers visit South Africa to see the Big Five animals, soak in the views from Table Mountain, or relax on a beach where two oceans meet—essential experiences in this multicultural nation. There is so much to offer in South Africa, that one of its most unique qualities can sometimes go overlooked. The world is divided into six Floral Kingdoms, also called Floristic Regions. South Africa is home to the smallest—by far—and most unique Floral Kingdom, as designated by plant geographers. Thirty percent of the plant genera in South Africa’s Cape Floristic Region are found nowhere else in the world.
Here are five ways to experience the unique flora of the fynbos, or fine bush, in this UNESCO World Heritage site all within a day’s drive from Cape Town.
For a Peaceful Afternoon: Kirstenbosch Gardens
On the edge of bustling Cape Town, find yourself in a colorful, kaleidoscopic escape. The 1,300-acre garden is expansive and beautifully organized. Get lost in the hills of color, follow a detailed map, or join a free walking tour (after paying the five dollar entry fee.) The garden is also home to frequent music and movie events on summer evenings. And not to be missed on a clear day is the Boomslang Tree Canopy Walkway, a steel and timber bridge that winds (like a boomslang, or “tree snake”) through the canopy providing aerial views of the gardens and Table Mountain.
For an Athletic Exploration: Table Mountain National Park
From most areas in Cape Town it is hard to miss the New7Wonder of Nature that is Table Mountain. A cable car can take you up and down the mountain should you choose to skip a hike, just be sure to check the site frequently for weather and wait time updates. Table Mountain National Park boasts more plant species than all of New Zealand, so hiking, especially with a guide or naturalist, will give you the opportunity to truly experience the unparalleled diversity. Consult with a guide company like Hike Table Mountain to find which of the hundreds of possible routes is best for you.
For a Solo Flower Safari: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
For a luxury flower experience, a two-hour drive east of Cape Town will take you to one of the eastern coasts premier nature reserves, Grootbos, a National Geographic Unique Lodge of the World, although “unique” doesn’t begin to do it justice. In addition to offering breathtaking excursions around the Walker Bay area, a guide at Grootbos will accompany you on a flower safari to get up close and personal with the rare and compelling flora they work to protect. Learn about the controlled burnings that keep the fynbos thriving, search for rare orchids, and soak in the rolling hills covered with Erica irregularis, a flower found only in the Walker Bay Region from May through July. Grootbos is sure to make you fall in love with its unique environment, and as an added bonus, the food and wine is unparalleled and produced mainly with fresh ingredients from their own garden.
For a Beach Picnic: Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope
Add some beach time into your flora exploration at Cape Point, where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean. While some opt for a hike to the Old Cape Point Lighthouse, a stroll over the rocks and boardwalk that connect Cape Point to the Cape of Good Hope is a must. The coastal walk is full of stunning proteas and other fynbos species, as well as fauna including baboons and Cape mountain zebras. If you have the energy to make it down the 150-or-so steps, you might just find the secluded Diaz Beach all to yourself.
For a Camping Adventure: West Coast National Park, Postberg Region
On the Western Cape, two months out of every year (August through September) brighten the Postberg Region with daisies and bulbs in vivid colors. This area is teeming with many well-known spots to satiate your flower quest, but this vibrant drive is only 90-minutes from Cape Town, making it perfect for a day trip. Or book ahead and you can make it a weekend trip by taking on the Postberg two-day hike, open to only 12 people at a time. Peak-bloom and sole operating hours of this area is August through September. Though the flower season in the park is growing in popularity, you can always find bird watchers, kayakers, or cyclists enjoying everything the Western Cape has to offer.