Green Point Urban Park
This beautiful park was opened in 2011 as an extension of the Fifa World Cup Stadium development and saw the revitalisation of the old Green Point commonage that has been central to the life of Cape Town for generations. It includes a fitness park for outdoor training, an adventure park, a heritage park, an events park and a tea room.
In the 18th century, the common was known by the Dutch as De Waterplaats (the Foreshore), extending all the way from Three Anchor Bay to town. It has for long been a site of recreation and, in the 19th century, it was a place for rambling, golfing and horse-race meetings.
At the heart of the park is a Biodiversity Garden. The Cape has the richest floral kingdom on earth, and this delightful garden offers a glimpse of the region’s many vegetation types, from renosterveld and strandveld to lowland fynbos and coastal thicket.
Green Point commonage. Open daily 07h00 to 19h00. Free entry.
This small botanical garden in the heart of Claremont features six of South
Africa’s most remarkable trees. When the Department of Water Affairs and
Forestry introduced a law in 2003 protecting designated ‘Champion Trees’, Arderne Gardens turned out to have the largest single collection worthy of protection.
The 37-metre tall Moreton Bay fig with its sinuous spreading roots, is affectionately known as the Wedding Tree, as many generations of Capetonians have had their nuptial photographs taken beside it. The 40-metre Aleppo pine is double the usual height for this species and is thought to be the largest in the world. And a 43-metre Norfolk Island pine is the ancestor of the first Norfolk pine in South Africa.
Most of the trees were planted by the gardens’ creator, Ralph Henry Arderne, a timber merchant who bought the land in 1845. The gardens are now a national monument.
222 Main Road, Claremont. Open daily 08h00–18h00. Free entry.
Tygerberg Nature Reserve
This lovely reserve was established in 1973 to protect one of the last remnants of critically endangered Swartland shale renosterveld vegetation. This veld type is named after the rhinos that used to roam the area. The reserve covers 309 hectares and boasts 562 plant species. Of these, 23 are threatened, eight are endemic to Cape Town and three endemic to Tygerberg itself.
Just inside the main gate is the Kristo Pienaar Environmental Education Centre with conservation displays, as well as an aromatic and medicinal-use garden. As you ascend the hill, the path splits into a number of walking trails, ranging from a few hundred metres to more than three kilometres. There are also two attractive picnic sites and a wheelchair route. The magnificent views from the summit of Tygerberg Hill take in the sweep of the Cape Flats and both False and Table bays.
Main gate on Totius Street, Welgemoed; secondary gate on Meyboom Avenue, Plattekloof; Open daily 07h30–18h00. Entry R20.
Koeberg Nature Reserve
Africa’s only nuclear power plant seems an unlikely place to go mountain biking or for a relaxing beach walk. However, Koeberg Power Station, just 25km north of Cape Town,
is surrounded by a 3,000-hectare nature reserve, complete with herds of eland, zebra, gemsbok and springbok, as well as more than 170 species of birds, thriving in the rare and threatened West Coast strandveld.
The reserve is the property of Eskom and was established in 1991 as part of the power utility’s environmental policy. You can explore the reserve on two walking trails or a mountain-bike trail. All trails start from the visitors’ parking lot, where there is an information kiosk providing pamphlets and a map. The best time to visit is in spring (August to September) when a spectacular display of wild flowers carpets the reserve.
Approximately 25km north of Cape Town off the R27. Open daily between sunrise and sunset. Entry free, but bring identification for gate security.
Many Capetonians visit the Western Cape’s largest shopping complex unaware that at its centre lies a beautiful and valuable wetland reserve. The 16-hectare nature area is home to more than 200 species of indigenous plants and 120 bird species, as well as important breeding heronries for water birds.
Before the property developers arrived, the land was covered in thick alien vegetation and the wetland hidden from view. Fortunately, the Century City developers chose to preserve it and created Intaka Island. It began as a simple, low-budget affair, but today is one of the best-run wetland reserves in South Africa. There are three perennial ponds, while the eastern side of the reserve has a seasonal pan that has been left untouched.
Visitors can stroll along the self-guided footpaths or be shown around by a field ranger. Alternatively, you can take a boat ride around the island on the Century City ferry.
Park Way, Century City. Open daily 08h00am–19h00 Oct–Apr; 08h00am–17h30 May–Sept. Entry R25.
Rondevlei Nature Reserve
This large, brackish lagoon is home to about 280 indigenous plant species, 230 species of birds, a variety of reptiles and small mammals, and the only hippopotamus population in Cape Town.
Hippos were once plentiful on the Cape Peninsula. Just 18 days after Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape in 1652, his men shot a hippo in what is now central Cape Town. By the 1700s, all the hippos in the Western Cape had been hunted. Then, in 1981, two male hippos were relocated from KwaZulu-Natal to try to control an invasive South American grass smothering the wetland. They were joined three years later by two females. As hippos tend to stay underwater during the day, your best chance of spotting one is to arrive as early as possible in the morning or late in the afternoon, or take a boat tour.
Rondevlei Nature Reserve, Fisherman’s Walk, Grassy Park. Open daily 07h30–17h00. Entry R12.
The Company’s Garden is the green lung at the centre of the Mother City, a vibrant urban space where buskers entertain passersby, children play and office workers sun themselves during lunch hour. It is the oldest garden in South Africa and an important heritage site, originally created in the 1650s by the first Dutch settlers to provide fresh produce for ships rounding the Cape.
The garden is home to some spectacular flora, including a huge ginkgo tree, rubber tree, ancient saffron pear and an 80-year-old bamboo plantation. It’s also crammed with historical landmarks, including St George’s Cathedral, known as the ‘people’s church’ and site of the famous anti-apartheid march of 30,000 people led by Archbishop Desmond Tutu in 1989. The garden is also home to the National Gallery, South African Museum, South African Jewish Museum and a fine restaurant.
The Company’s Garden, Queen Victoria Street. Open 07h00–20h30 in summer and 07h00–19h00 in winter. Free entry.