Member Name: Essexgirl2006
Karoo Desert National Botanical Gardens (Worcester, South Africa)
Advantages: Beautiful, unusual landscapes and plants
Disadvantages: Weather dependant.
On South Africa's Western Cape's 'Mountain Route' (the inland equivalent of the Garden Route') also known as Route 62 is the Karoo Botanical Gardens. The area is known as the Klein Karoo (which means 'dry') and is based near the town of Worcester, which is approximately 100km from Cape Town.
We visited early on a crisp, dry August morning, about 9am and we had the park to ourselves. Although the time of year was winter in this part of the world, the late-winter to spring period is apparently a good time to visit. The plants here are mainly succulents (water-retaining) which suit the arid soil conditions, and is apparently the only garden of its type in the Southern Hemisphere. The Gardens are made up of an attractive landscaped area as well as natural plains which can be accessed through walks. We didn't really have the time to do any of the walks, but we enjoyed the landscaped area.
I am no plant expert and really don't know the names or varieties of very many plants, but a lot seemed to be similar to the aloe type plants as well as lost of large, pretty orange flowers (which I subsequently discovered to be namaqualand daisies). There were some interesting small trees too - spikey and sometimes a bit cactus like. Going to an arid, desert-like botanical garden I would normally expect to see cactus plants, but actually there were very few, compared to the other varieties and I was impressed by the wide range of plants and bushes to view. There were often boards telling you what the plants were, but I am sure I missed as many as I read. Not having heard of the plants before meant that some boards didn't really mean that much to me, but I understand that whilst most plants are naturally occurring in the region, some are endangered. It is also a good place for bird watchers.
Even though I am no plant aficionado, I did enjoy my visit here. The plants, trees and flowers are stunning and very different from what we are used to in the UK, so I found it very interesting to wander around, and took some lovely photos. Obviously it may not be as appealing in the rain, but if the weather is on your side, this is a worthwhile stop on the Mountain Route.
There is a Braille trail here with a rope that can be held and Braille descriptions. Although the landscaped area is paths, they are not smooth paths but shingle, so wheelchairs would find it hard going I think. There are smaller narrow paths and some steps if you wander of the main path into some of the other sections of the landscaped areas. There are two small toilets in the gardens, which are very basic. There was also a restaurant here but it was closed, and didn't look like it was re-opening any time soon, so don't bank on being able to get a drink or snack here.
Open daily from 7am to 7pm.
Admission is free except during Spring Blooming period (1st August - 31st October) when is it R17 (£1.50/$2.25) for adults (concessions available).
Summary: A worthwhile stop off on the mountain route