As recently as eight years ago, an unmapped area of Mozambique known to local villagers but unexplored by researchers was “discovered.” It came to light in a Google Earth search that sent scientists from London’s Kew Gardens scurrying to Africa. There they reconfirmed that the continent is, in fact, the home of the lost Eden, TheGuardian reported in 2008.
After British scientists ventured into the forest canopy in Mozambique, they found Mount Mabu — a region of astonishingly rich biodiversity populated by previously unknown species of butterflies, chameleons, new populations of rare birds, and giant snakes.
“Outside the forest, the land has been devastated by civil war, but inside the landscape was almost untouched,” TheGuardian reported in 2009. “Ignorance of its existence, poor access, and the forest’s value as a refuge for villagers during the fighting had combined to protect it.”
Perhaps it was the giant snakes that kept people away…
Africa is full of natural landscapes that feel ethereal and otherworldly. Humans have tried with some success to honor the continent’s natural wonders in the form of botanical gardens, which give a degree of permanence — an antidote to the ravages of lost habitat.
Check out 8 botanical gardens in Africa that evoke Eden.
The Pretoria National Botanical Garden is a rare combination of diverse plant life, including savannah, forest and fynbos biomes. A walk through the gardens can feel like a flash-walk through the country. The gardens are also home to an environmental education center, a restaurant overlooking the wetland, and an eco-craft gift shop, says Guateng.net.
The Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam Botanical Garden—named for a former prime minister–is the oldest botanical garden in the Southern Hemisphere. Built in 1770, its gardens look like the magical setting for a children’s book with giant water lilies, spice gardens, and sugar cane. Royalty from around the world have come over the years to personally plant by hand some of the species that grow here, says Mysterra.org.
This prestigious getaway sits on the banks of the Bobokazi River, with almost no other manmade edifices for miles—just views of the countryside and a breathtaking mountain range. The resort gardens are part of a national conservancy that works to educate the public on preserving local flora and fauna. The gardens are home to pre-historic and rare plants, says Summerfieldresort.com.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is one of the top botanical gardens in the world, more of a kingdom than a garden. With almost intimate views of Cape Town’s Table Mountain, the gardens sit on a 528-hectare estate that protects some of the endangered fynbos population. It boasts over 7,000 indigenous species and has a custom-built glass house for plants that cannot live outdoors. The gardens are so large they’ve inspired an entire culture within them, with restaurants, shops, and concerts, according to Sanbi.org.
Entebbe sits on Lake Victoria, so it offers incredible views within and without its walking grounds. The gardens are known for knobby tree branches that stretch dramatically for yards, soft grassy areas to stop for a picnic, and an overall feeling of tranquility. It’s also ideal for bird watching, says Kabiza.com, and is the site of a wildlife educational center.
The Nairobi Botanical Gardens feature 16 different landscapes, all built to show visitors the conservation of various ecosystems. The gardens have been manicured to create spaces for relaxation, or inspiring artists who come there to work on their craft, with sculptures and walking paths set between sprawling Marula trees. The gardens recently caught the attention of the Hawa Artists–a group that works to nurture creativity in women, according to Enchantedlandscapes.com. The group regularly holds recreational art classes at the gardens.
The Orman Botanical Garden was founded in 1875, so it’s as much a historical site as it is a natural one. The garden features some of the country’s most iconic plants, like Egyptian papyrus trees and the breathtaking lotus flower. Visitors can also roam rose gardens and walk between stands of bamboo, palms and ficus. There are also exhibits, like an aquatic plants collection and a cacti collection, according to Bgci.org.
Founded in memory of former head of state, General Murtala Muhammed, the gardens focus on indigenous plant species and sit on 74 acres. The general’s wife, Ajoke Muhammed, set up the property because she’s always taken a special interest in saving local palms, says BBC.com.