Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens are a must-see attraction when visiting Cape Town.
The gardens are easily accessible from anywhere in Cape Town, via public transport or motor vehicle.
Apart from the wonderful gardens and outstanding plant collections to be enjoyed here, the Botanical Gardens also set the scene for romantic weddings, family picnics, and laid-back summer concerts on the sprawling lawns.
The latest addition to the Kirstenbosch experience is the ‘Boomslang’, officially called the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, a discreet steel and timber boardwalk that winds its way among the leafy canopy of the gardens, just like its namesake.
Construction on the R5 million structures began in 2013 and it was completed in May 2014 after months of judicious planning, and careful painstaking construction, to avoid disturbing the floral inhabitants of the gardens or the thousands of guests that visit every year.
The masterminds behind this mammoth task were Henry Fagan and Partners consulting engineers, and Mark Thomas Architects. The Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden’s benefactors met all the costs.
The Boomslang was constructed off-site to minimise disturbance, and the foundations were dug by hand to reduce any impact on the surrounding vegetation. Great care was taken not to disturb any established root structures.
Six-metre lengths of this curved and undulating structure were built at a time, lowered into place by a crane, and then carefully bolted together. The framework consists of a spine of tubular steel, with welded ribs and a light mesh forming the cross bracing. Stained and treated pine placed on edge and spaced in accordance with the bridges curves, forms the decking. Shaped timber handrails run along the length of the boardwalk.
If this sounds more like an anatomy lesson than a construction task, that is because the boardwalk’s design is based on the flexible skeleton of the tree-snake, or Boomslang, itself.
The placement of the supporting posts was planned down to the centimetre for maximum concealment amongst the forest and all that can be seen of foundations now is an unobtrusive concrete stub at the base of each steel pillar.
Likewise, the modern, clean, flowing lines of the boardwalk do not intrude on its surroundings; instead they compliment the beauty of the gardens by providing visitors with an alternative experience of the forest canopy – from above.
The walkway starts and ends at two different points of the Arboretum, sweeping among the treetops in a rough crescent shape for 130m, dipping right down to the ground in places and swooping over the treetops at others.
Those who venture to these great heights, apart from being totally safe with handrails along the length of the walkway to hold onto, will enjoy panoramic vistas of the Gardens, the Cape Flats and the surrounding mountains.
Entry to the Boomslang is included in the Gardens entry fee and the boardwalk is accessible to visitors in wheelchairs with a just a little help from their friends.
Have you ventured aboard the Boomslang yet?