When I first heard about the plans to build a treetop canopy walkway at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, I was in disbelief.
A number of fab artist’s representations were doing the rounds on social media at the time to showcase what the walkway would look like. It looked amazing, but what if it was all just a pipedream and we were being taken for fools? If something looks too good to be true, it usually is!
However, a Future Cape Town article happily proved me wrong. This ambitious 130m-long steel-and-timber structure was the real deal: it was to be built in celebration of Kirstenbosch’s 100th birthday in 2013, would wind and dip its way through and over the beautiful indigenous trees of the Arboretum and, most importantly, it would be called boomslang (Afrikaans for “tree snake” – a rather beautiful but very venomous sub-Saharan African snake that loves to chill out … in trees! *dum dum dum!*)
Anyway, it took them slightly longer to build, and the Boomslang Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway was finally opening to the public in May 2014. Needless to say, it was an instant success!
With a maximum height of 11.5m above the ground, there is really no better way to admire Kirstenbosch’s incredible natural beauty.
And yet, despite my initial excitement, it took me almost two years to experience this marvel myself.
I know, I should be ashamed! But, I just never got around to it. I guess it’s a typical case of being a local and thinking “there’s always next time”.
So, on Sunday, I finally made my way to Kirstenbosch and the famous Boomslang. It was an incredibly hot day and having slept late (as one does on weekends) my hubby and I only arrived around 13h00.
After paying the entrance fee, we enjoyed a relaxing stroll along the lovely shaded Camphor Avenue toward the treetop canopy walkway, admiring the huge old trees and beautiful Fireball Lilies along the way.
We soon discovered, though, that we could not access the Boomslang in the usual way – we had to take a longer route, as preparations were underway for a sunset concert in the garden. The alternative route was up a steep slope and the sun was really baking down on us – I’m sure it was Mother Nature’s way of chiding us for neglecting her beautiful Cape Town garden for far too long! Or, perhaps it was a clever trick to make us appreciate the Boomslang even more?
The long walk to shade was totally worth it! The tree canopy walkway is situated in the wonderfully cool Arboretum area, enchanting its visitors with the presence of 450 wise old indigenous trees. Like its namesake, the Boomslang blends in perfectly with its surroundings, gently snaking its way from the forest floor up a gradient to 11.5m at its highest point before returning to the ground, 130m later. The structure is wonderfully unobtrusive and from its highest point provides incredible panoramic views of the mountains, garden and Cape Flats. It’s a photographer’s dream!
Visiting the Boomslang was an absolute highlight and I can highly recommend it. In fact, this fantastic architectural design (by architect Mark Thomas and structural engineer Henry Fagan) has been such a hit with thousands of people to date, that it was voted South Africa’s Most Beautiful Object in 2015. Nuff said!
Entry to Kirstenbosch is R55 per adult (R15 for kids) and access to the Boomslang tree canopy walkway is free. The route to the walkway is wheelchair accessible (some assistance is needed to negotiate the steep gradients and mulch paths en route). You could also visit the Boomslang as part of a Kirstenbosch garden tour in a “golf cart”. Contact Kirstenbosch for more info.
(Pic of boomslang snake by William Warby)