21 September 2015 by Katy Johnson

In the heart of the Nelspruit’s urban sprawl there is a haven of biodiversity. The Botanical Gardens will magically transport you into an African rainforest, surrounded by rare cycads and your senses engulfed by the vibrancy of South African flora and fauna. 

Home to one third of the Lowveld’s indigenous woody plant species, a unique collection of rainforest species that represent the rapidly disappearing tropical forests of Central and Western Africa and 243 species of birds, 75 species of reptiles, as well as hippos, monkeys, bushbabies, mongoose and baboons. It is hardly surprising that the Lowveld Botanical Gardens are considered the most rewarding of South Africa’s national botanical gardens when it comes to visible biodiversity.

But it’s more than just a showcase for South African plant species. The Garden has also been pivotal in conserving one of the countries rarest and most poached plant families, the prehistoric cycad and now has the biggest collection in South Africa!

If the fabulous wildlife was not reason enough to visit the Gardens, the children’s play area will keep little ones enthralled for hours on end allowing them to combine healthy exercise with learning about nature in the naturally themed jungle gym. Need some refreshment after all that? Then there is the wonderful Red Leaf Tea Garden and Kuzuri Restaurant that cater for any occasion. Here are out top five things to see and do in Nelspruit’s botanical gardens:

#1) An Aerial Adventure – Explore the Garden’s rainforest on the Sappi Aerial Boardwalk tour and experience life in the tree canopy. This trail takes you 4m above the ground, allowing visitors to view the gardens from a totally different perspective.

#2) Plants that outlived the dinosaurs – Cycads have survived ice ages and mass extinctions, remaining unchanged for millennia. But now are facing eradication in the wild, another innocent victim of poachers. The Gardens have been instrumental in starting the cycad gene bank that will ensure their survival and perhaps one day the repopulation of certain cycad species in the wild. For the time being visitors can enjoy the biggest collection of cycads in South Africa and possibly the world.

#3) Natural potholes and cascading waterfalls – The Crocodile and Nels River are the natural lifeblood of the Botanical Gardens and the circular route gives visitors the most spectacular views of these. Enjoy the natural potholes and narrow gorges cut into the granite bedrock by the Crocodile River. Let the calming sound of running water and the cool breeze from the rivers rejuvenate you.

#4) The Baobabs – Six of the nine species of African Baobab can be found in the Gardens. The unmistakeable and undisputed king of trees can reach an impressive 38m tall and while the specimens in the Garden have a little catching up to do they are still mightily impressive.

#5) The Clivia Display – Each Spring the main entrance to the gardens is transformed with bursts of orang1e, red and yellow as the clivia’s begin to bloom. The beautiful flowers provide a vibrant carpet of colour providing the perfect contrast against the dark green leaves. A star attraction in the garden, it is a real “must see"..

MORE INFO: Find the Botanical Gardens off-Madiba Drive, Riverside or follow the GPS: -25.44669, 30.96800 

Contact Number: 013 752 5531 | Opening Hours: 08:00 – 18:00 (17:00 April – Aug)

Entrance: Adults R25, Student & Senior R14, Children R12