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Karoo Desert Garden, Worcester, South Africa

 

We had not heard of the Karoo Desert Garden until the evening before we went there. Our guidebooks did not mention it at all, but there was a reference to its existence on a printed map which we were using to plan our day. It sounded like the sort of thing we might be interested in. As it turned out, the location shown on the map was not quite correct, but the OSM app on the phone knew where the garden was.

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We had originally intended merely to have a brief look around, but in the end we stayed for a whole afternoon. There is plenty to see and do.

The photo at the beginning of this piece shows a huge bed of candelabra lilies. We were told that they had shot up from the ground only days before our visit, after some unusually early rainfalls in the previous week. These lilies are lovely as just a single specimen; en masse they were a truly wonderful sight to behold. Below are two further shots of them.

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As the name suggests, the garden focusses on plants from arid and semi-arid regions. The Karoo, incidentally, is the semi-desert expanse straddling the midriff of South Africa. The garden lies at the western edge of it.

There are attractive vistas and interesting plants everywhere you look.

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A network of well laid-out paths takes you around the central sections. There are also numerous signs and information boards which help you understand what you are looking at.

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We were particularly fascinated by the collection of quiver trees.

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Spring, in particular the period from the beginning of October to the middle of November, is supposedly the best time to see the blooms. There are some photos online and the colours really look impressive. However, even in March – when we visited – the candelabra lilies are far from being the only things flowering here.

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The garden covers quite a large area – 154 hectares in all – and there are walking trails which allow you to explore the hillsides behind the cultivated central part. They have been left largely untouched and thus show the visitor the natural landscape and vegetation of the area. We enjoyed our hike along one of the trails (although we had not brought the right footwear).

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You can drive beyond the main car park to a picnic spot further up. Along this stretch of road are signs asking you to watch out for tortoises.

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They were clearly there for a reason. We only saw this single tortoise, but, according to a leaflet we picked up, there are three different kinds roaming the garden.

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Not far from the entrance is a nice restaurant, the 'Kokerboom' (which is Afrikaans for quiver tree).

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From here you get good views of the surrounding hills.

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After our hike we felt more than ready for a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. The latte macchiato was perfect, as was the cheese & chocolate cake with strawberry coulis. We had not expected this degree of sophistication in a restaurant within a botanical garden and were therefore very pleasantly surprised. The rest of the menu also looked promising, but – other than a second cup of coffee – we did not want anything else at that time.

Apparently, the Kokerboom had been closed for quite a while before the present owners took it over and it had only been operating again for a couple of weeks prior to our visit. They deserve to do well.

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There is only a nominal charge for entering the garden. More information about it, including its history, can be found on the garden's website:

https://www.sanbi.org/gardens/karoo-desert/

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