Have you ever stepped onto a boomslang? A quick review of the Kirstenbosch Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway

Well if you had you probably wouldn’t be reading this. But nonetheless the “boomslang“(a steel and wooden bridge of sorts) that I’m talking about is anything but dangerous. In fact it’s outright mesmerizing. And is, you could say, a monument to the botanical society of Cape Town’s merciless ambition to protect, preserve and nurture Mother Nature’s creations.

Something we believe the “boomslang” is at the forefront of contributing to the Kirstenbosch Gardens. What, with its undisturbed views of the gardens, the Cape flats and Table Mountain, it allows for a more intimate experience of the inner workings of the arboretum – the garden of trees. And left us feeling like we were a couple of monkeys swinging through the trees as we ducked under and around the branches of the canopy. While fast flying bumblebees whizzed past our ears and unseen treetop critters went about their business – all bundled into one of the oldest parts of the garden, the Dell.

Where, just over a century ago, founder and first honorary director of the society Harold Pearson laid the foundations to what we have today. Our very own Garden of Eden, complete with an enchanted forest, numerous lilly covered ponds and endless fields of spring flowers in bloom. It justifiably makes the addition of the “boomslang” a fitting tribute to his legacy and to those of all the people who slaved away over the decades to make it possible for us to have fun picnics and mad hatter style tea parties.

So if you’re in for an experience not possible when one is living on the ground, that involves walking inside the body of a slithering wooden snake, ribbed and coiling all in the company of nature then what are you waiting for? Just don’t forget to look out for an actual Boomslang, you might just step on it, and it won’t be as much fun. (jokes).

Quick facts/ highlights:

  • The bridge itself is revolutionary in that it was built in what is considered a low impact, low maintenance sculptural raised platform. Made of steel and timber its design was inspired by that of a snake’s skeleton.
  • The walkway is 130 m long, crescent shaped (taking advantage of the sloping ground), and is 12 m above the ground at its highest point.
  • Construction of the walkway began in late 2013 and was completed in early 2014, and was officially opened to the public on the 17th May 2014.
  • The Boomslang offers stunning views of the mountain, the Garden and the cape flats/ suburbs and Hottentots Mountains for as far as the eye can see.
  • Not far from the Boomslang is one of our favourites spots called “the garden of extinction”.  Where you will find a collection of plants that are considered to be extinct in the wild. It’s awesome but I would’ve named it Jurassic Park (probably a copyrighting thing).
  • Originally a farm, Kirstenbosch was purchased by Cecil John Rhodes and handed over to the botanical society for the preservation and education of Cape Town’s indigenous flora upon his death.
  • Dr Harold Pearson, the first head of the botanical society and first director of the Garden, took up the post from 1913 to 1916. He lived in the gardens with his wife and was subsequently laid to rest near the cycad amphitheatre. The inscription on his tombstone “if ye seek his monument, look around you” is a testament to his legacy .

through the looking trees

Tips for virgin boom-slangers:

  • If you’re a first timer to the Gardens don’t rush through it. Just get there early in the day bring a picnic basket and take your time, exploring and relaxing.
  • The gardens offer up numerous hiking trails that cater for all skill levels and will keep you busy all day as you figure out which one is best for you.
  • The history of the Kirstenbosch Gardens alone is enough to keep a buff such as myself busy all day. So why not grab a map from the visitors centre and take a walk along the many “historical miles” and places of ruins they have dotted all over the gardens.
  • The Kirstenbosch Gardens also cater for music and/ or film lovers during the Summer months. So if you’re into live entertainment in the soft embrace of the Gardens them don’t miss out on their outdoor summer concerts and open air cinema screenings.
  • The Boomslang is a little shaky, but not too worry it was built to sway for your own safety. So just hold on and enjoy the ride.

Our Kirstenbosch “Boomslang” walk, ranks highly on the Nomadic Existence: Fun Things to do this summer in Cape Town.

Special thanks goes to the ladies at the Kirstenbosch tea room for providing us with a picnic lunch, our fellow hikers/ explorers for providing us with companionship and advice. And last but not least to all the fallen heroes who persevered in saving such a beautiful slice of the Cape peninsula.

Some information was sourced from the SANBI/ Kirstenbosch website and us.

Our walk took place on Thursday 16th October.

By Slippery Joe Lyzard © (Writer for Nomadic Existence)

Photography: Nomadic Bug © 

Nomadic Existence 2015 ©

 Explore. Conserve. Discover.


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