In addition to our beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which we showcase on our Flowers and Wine tour, and the various surrounding mountains, the city of Cape Town has a surprisingly large network of small reserves that showcase the amazing biodiversity of this unique floral kingdom. The floral region of the Cape is a Natural World Heritage Site and considered of universal significance to humanity. It is the smallest but richest of the world’s six floral kingdoms and is home to 9000 plant species, mostly fynbos, of which 70% is endemic to the Cape – in other words they appear nowhere else on earth.
Unfortunately this wealth of urban nature in Cape Town may not be with us forever. Many plants are severely endangered and in danger of being lost entirely. Some plants grow only in one specific small area, say a specific mountainside of a specific village. This floral kingdom is not only found on our mountains and large reserves but is part of the urban sprawl – which means they are under constant threat from development.
This precious vegetation must be conserved – plants remove carbon dioxide from the air; wetlands help to prevent flooding and to clean river water; these areas provide opportunities for environmental education and recreation; our unique floral kingdom forms part of tourism based economy, all these reasons make it crucial that we keep these natural open spaces.
Here are a few reserves situated in Cape Town on the peninsula. Some of them will surprise you!
Kenilworth Race Course – only accessible by appointment. Have you ever wondered what happens in the middle of a racecourse? Nothing – and that’s good news for vegetation. This is the largest stretch of natural vegetation in the southern suburbs. Click here for a stunning photo.
Rietvlei Wetland in Table View – between Milnerton and Table View. A birder’s paradise offering a variety of habitats from marshes to a lake. The area is being cleared of alien vegetation and is truly impressive with its rich diversity of wildlife and very large area.
Raapenberg Bird Sanctuary – between the Hartleyvale football grounds and the Astronomical Observatory. This is an important breeding ground for many duck species. Picnic areas, shady trees and easy access make this an ideal spot for family outings.
In Meadowridge, a small area known as the Common contains over 130 flowering plants of which 4 are endangered, and the endangered Cape rain frog. As a result of its small size and the low numbers of some plant species the risk of extinction is high. Uncontrolled dogs and no controlled fires add to the problem, so visit it soon!
Die Oog in Bergvliet. The Constantia Valley was once a large farm called Bergvliet. After much sub-dividing an area was designated as public open space and this is Die Oog. This is one of the few breeding grounds for the famous but endangered Western leopard toad – the one that Capetonians are asked to help cross the road on their way to their breeding grounds. Apparently the roaring of the frogs as they arrive at Die Oog is one of the true wonders of nature. In spring the area is a sea of colour as all four different biodiverse areas burst into bloom.
Edith Stephens Wetland Park in Philippi. Edith Stephens was a far-sighted botanist who donated land for the preservation of a rare plant species, Isoetes capensis, found nowhere else in the world. The city council added to the area later and named it after her. There is an environmental education centre, a wetland boardwalk trail, a picnic area, a medicinal garden and a bird hide.
Bracken Nature Reserve. This is a large space in the centre of the Brackenfell suburbs and industrial area. There are footpaths, breathtaking views and a vibrant birdlife. The area is still being worked on by the council to rehabilitate this former landfill but it promises to be something special.
These are just a few of the reserves and natural spaces on our doorstep. Although the local authorities and concerned citizens are doing their best to preserve and enhance these areas, there are still many challenges faced. Urbanisation, agriculture, invasive species, water pollution, inappropriate fires, lack of regular controlled fires and grazing, are some of the problems but with the city and various interested groups all working together these treasures can be protected. We can help by visiting the reserves, joining groups, volunteering to help remove alien species and litter, and reducing our carbon footprint by saving electricity and water, driving less, and recycling and re-using waste.
With some exceptions these are all open to the public and there is no entrance fee.
These reserves are not listed in our various tours but special arrangements can be made to visit them.