I am very fortunate to have traveled to many countries – Chile, Guatemala, Morocco, Australia, many countries in Europe and several others around the world. I am sometimes asked which was my favorite country or trip and it is hard to answer. But I always include South Africa in my top three. Partly that is because of timing – my husband and I had both lost a parent to cancer in the months previous and the worry and grief had taken a toll on us that South Africa helped to release. But it was also because of the amazing plants and animals we saw. The Cape region has very high levels of endemism (plants only found there and nowhere else). We saw species in the lily and iris families that were totally new to us, so many species of heaths we could not believe it (the highest diversity in the genus Erica is there), carnivorous plants, and so many more. Many of these are now being used in the Seattle area and are totally or mostly hardy! There are others that people like Dan Hinkley are working to introduce.
We also visited Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. While nothing approaches the University of Washington Botanic Gardens – of course! – this is one of the finest gardens in the world. The physical setting, next to spectacular Table Mountain, is one of the best in the world. Their interpretation, educational programs, gardens – they are all outstanding! And, as I recall, their gift shop was pretty great too…
Surprisingly, the food in South Africa was some of the best I have ever had. Cream of Lotus soup anyone? It was delicious! We had a smoky mushroom soup that was fantastic too. And the wines! South African wines are some of the best in the world, and so reasonably priced.
With all of these fond memories, it was an easy YES! when our travel partners, Holbrook Travel, proposed a garden/nature themed trip for August/September 2016 (their spring). They have put together an unbelievable itinerary. Our guided tour will take us to see the wonderful Kirstenbosch Garden, but also one of the oldest gardens in South Africa at the University of Stellenbosch and a 300 year old estate winery in Franschhoek. From there we travel to Nieuwoudtville (I am sure our guide will help us with pronunciation!) to hopefully enjoy the native spring bulb display (somewhat dependent on rainfall) and an opportunity to explore a natural area. We will also be visiting Springbok, with the richest bulb flora in Namaqualand – nearly a third of their 3,500 plant species are endemic! We will end our trip at Kagga Kamma, a very unique place, seeing Bushman cave paintings and animals such as ostrich, lynx, and maybe the Cape Mountain leopard. And if you would like, Holbrook can offer extensions to other game reserves, where you might check off your African Big Five.
This will be a trip that will stand out in your top three, I am sure. Come have an African Adventure with me!
Dates: August 23 – September 6, 2016
Cost: $3,795, plus $300 tax-deductible donation to UW Botanic Gardens