There’s amazing collection of rare and common plant and animal life on show at each of the Cape Town Big 6 attractions. Here’s what to look out for on your next visit.
Kirstenbosch is the jewel in the crown of South Africa’s floral kingdom. It was the first botanical garden in the world to dedicate itself to indigenous plants of a single country. The network of walks and trails will take you through forest and fynbos, the two main natural vegetation types in Kirstenbosch. If you’re looking for a complete list of all plants, take a look at the official Kirstenbosch Estate Plant Species List.
Kirstenbosch isn’t only about plants, however. The natural vegetation and sheer size of the estate (at 528 hectares) means a diverse number of birds, insects, reptiles and mammals are a common sight across the garden. More than 125 birds have been recorded, rich insect life is plentiful, and a number of animals live and breed in the garden. While they are typically shy and tend to appear at dawn or dusk, the likes of grysbok, caracal, small spotted genet, and Cape fox have all been spotted. Water mongoose and Cape clawless otter are around but seldom seen, while you’ll almost definitely spot the ever-popular Grey squirrels bouncing along the lawns and between the trees. For comprehensive information on all animal life present in the South Africa’s Botanical Gardens, download Havens of Biodiversity.
The V&A Waterfront is a hive of human activity, and located so close to the Cape Town city centre, one might not immediately associate it with diverse fauna and flora. But take some time to look around and you’ll see just how wrong you are. The world-class Two Oceans Aquarium is located in the V&A Waterfront precinct, and it’s home to a variety of local and exotic aquatic life. With 88 species on display, from the popular Western clownfish, right through to African penguins and ragged tooth sharks, it offers fascinating insight into the ocean waters which lap the harbour wall just a few feet away. Aquatic life isn’t limited to the aquarium – seals abound throughout the harbour, and on the odd occasion dolphins have been spotted seeking the sanctuary of the calmer waters.
Nearly 1500 trees have been planted at the V&A Waterfront, with a focus on indigenous species, which means plant and animal life is seldom far away.
Robben Island Museum has been controlling the number of animals on the island in order to improve its natural vegetation cover. Stellenbosch University’s Department of Conservation Ecology has confirmed that there has been a major improvement on both the vegetation density and diversity, specifically with the reintroduction of indigenous plant species.
Robben Island is home to African penguins and black cormorants species, both of which are considered endangered, while the island also has various species of antelopes – springbok, steenbok, and fallow deer. A number of reptiles and amphibians including lizards, geckos, mole snakes and three species of tortoise can also be found.
Since 2013, Robben Island has established a partnership with Weltevrede Wine Estate, who uses vineyards located on Robben Island to produce a limited edition wine. Two bottles were given to late former President Nelson Mandela on his 94th birthday, and another to American president Barak Obama during his most recent visit. The future sales of the wine will be donated to Age of Life Fund, Welteverde Wine Estate Workers Trust and to Ex-Political Prisoners Fund.
From the moment you pass through the entrance gates to the Cape of Good Hope it’s clear that this is a haven for plant and wildlife. The park falls under the greater Table Mountain National Park region, and as such it shares much of the same characteristics. Cape of Good Hope, however, is the only fenced region of the park, and as such is home to wildlife not found elsewhere in the Cape Peninsula. Red Hartebeest, Bontebok, Zebra, Baboon and Eland all roam freely throughout the region and are spotted regularly. The park is also home to a variety of birdlife, including ostriches and African penguins, as well as an array of reptiles often found sunning themselves on the warm tar roads and surrounding rock faces.
Plant life in the reserve is also diverse, with fynbos being the dominant vegetation type. As part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the smallest and richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms, it is home to roughly 1100 species. Prescribed burns are planned for the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park for early autumn this year. This forms an intrinsic part of ensuring the longevity and diversity of this national treasure.
Table Mountain Cableway
Table Mountain Cableway lifts you to the summit of Table Mountain, where a fascinating array of fauna and flora await at a thousand meters above sea level. As with Cape Point, this section also forms part of the Table Mountain National Park, and as such is an incredible destination for nature lovers.
Perhaps the most common animal spotted on the mountain is the rock hyrax, or dassie, however there are a signs that shy and seldom spotted animals, including otter, genet, lynx, and caracal, are present in the surrounding regions. Reptiles are a frequent site on the mountain as well – there are more than 20 species of snake that have been recorded, and most warm rock faces are occupied by beautifully coloured lizards absorbing the warm Cape sun.
The incredible diversity of plant species on Table Mountain, as well as vast open spaces and rock faces, make it a paradise for birds. These range from tiny sugarbirds right through to large raptors, and just a five minute pause at almost any location on Table Mountain will reveal the fascinating birdlife that surrounds you.
If you are looking for more insight into the fauna and flora that’s present on Table Mountain, join Table Mountain Cableway on their free guided walks, which are offered on the hour from 09h00 to 15h00 and leave from the Twelve Apostles Terrace, below the Shop at the Top and Table Mountain Café.