Africa is the world's second largest continent, with diverse regions from the arid deserts to tropical equatorial rainforests, to the high peaks of the Atlas Mountains, the huge freshwater Lake Victoria and the dry savannah grasslands. Equatorial Africa is mostly low-altitude with high-rainfall so it stays hot and humid all year. Africa is also 25% desert with the Saharan and Nubian, Libyan and Algerian deserts in the north, and Namib, Karoo and Kalahari in the south.
South Africa is a hot spot for seeing wonderful gardens but there are many other good gardens to see and visit throughout Africa, including Morocco, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Reunion Island plus the extraordinary natural flora of Madagascar.
Country guides in this region:
Regional Garden Travel Guide to Africa
The best-known garden destinations on the African continent are Morocco and South Africa but many African countries have a botanical garden in their capital city that is worth a visit, including Tanzania and Kenya, and the natural lowland rainforest vegetation of Uganda is a unique biodiversity hotspot.
There are many companies that take garden tours to both South Africa and Morocco.
Gardens tours to, and around, Africa
Garden tours to Africa concentrate on the two main gardening ‘hotspots’ of Morocco and South Africa and also to see the giant baobabs and unusual flora of Madagascar.
In South Africa, many tours are called ‘Garden Route’ tours, but these do not, in general, visit any actual gardens as Garden Route describes the natural scenic beauty of the coastal area between Mossel Bay through George to Storms River.
In Morocco, tours concentrate on gardens in the Marrakesh area, such as Majorelle.
South Africa – see Garden Travel Guide to South Africa
Morocco – see Garden Travel Guide to Morocco
Other African countries of particular interest to garden lovers, including islands off the African coast:
Réunion Island (La Réunion)
Réunion, exotic and primal, offers breathtaking contrasts, from the dramatic natural amphitheatres of the three cirques (Mafate, Salazie and Cilaos) to the stark, smoldering lunar landscape of the Plaine des Sables. Add an active volcano, lush tropical forests and 17km of white or black sandy beaches, and Réunion gives the visitor an extraordinary and unique experience.
Best open gardens to see and visit in Réunion:
• Jardin de l’État (formerly known as the Jardin du Roy) Rue de Paris, Saint-Denis
• La Maison Folio – Hell-Bourg. Historic Creole house with surrounding garden of exotic fragrance, medicinal plants and lush plantings.
• Jardin des Parfums et des Epices (Spice and Fragrance Garden) – Saint-Philippe
• Le Domaine du Café Grille – Saint-Pierre. 4 hectare garden of produce, fragrant and exotic plants, especially climbers, palm grove, Zen garden
• Conservatoire Botanique de Mascarin – St Gilles. Many rare plants endemic to Réunion
• Jardin d’Eden (Garden of Eden) – Saint-Gilles-les-Bains. 2.5 hectare ‘English-style’ landscaped tropical and ethnobotanical garden
• La Maison du Gèranium – Maïdo. Rose geranium distillery.
• La Vanilleraie – Sainte Suzanne. Vanilla plantation and workshop. Guided tours Mon-Sat
• Le Labyrinthe en Champ Thé – Grand Coude. Tea plantation with labyrinth, also rose geranium.
• La Maison du Laurina – Grand Coude. Experience one of the world’s rarest and most expensive coffees, the famous Bourbon pointu coffee of Réunion. Guided tours by appointment only.
• Le Jardin de Vandas – Saint Joseph. Thousands of tropical orchids. Open Wed and Sat
Best open gardens to see and visit in Kenya
• Nairobi Arboretum
• Karen Blixen Coffee Gardens, Nairobi – large restaurant set in spacious and well-kept gardens
• Kiambethu Tea Farm – Limuru. Tea plantation, indigenous forest, abundant bird life. Booked lunch tours only
Best open gardens to see and visit in Madagascar
Madagascar has many native plants that are endemic to this large island off the east coast of Africa. It is home to 6 species of one of the world’s most unique trees – the giant baobab (Adansonia). The rough roads in Madagascar are not for the faint-hearted but you can drive south from Ifaty to Toliara on the dry western side of the island to see the last of the giant baobab trees in the wild and also explore the wet and humid east coast to see the last of Madagascar’s unique 192 species of palms in remnant rainforest pockets.
Alternatively there are a limited number of escorted tours each year to this magical island.
Best open gardens to see in Tanzania
• Botanical Gardens, Shaaban Robert Street and Samora Avenue, Dar es Salaam – late 19th century colonial-style gardens, with many species of East African plants. Mature trees, palms, exhibitions by Dar es Salaam’s Horticultural Society. Open daily (free admission)
• Garden stays in Tanzania – Gibbs Farm and Plantation Lodge in Karatu
• Zanzibar – Forodhani Gardens, plus many of the resort hotels on Zanzibar are surrounded by colourful subtropical gardens
Best open gardens to see in Uganda
Although Uganda is not really a garden destination, it has an interesting botanical garden and two notable national parks that are home to an astonishing diversity of plants.
• Entebbe Botanical Garden – on the shores of Lake Victoria and about 35km from Kampala (near Entebbe International Airport), the Gardens were established in the early 20th century and have tropical rainforest that provides superb birdwatching opportunities
• Semulki National Park, Ntandi, Bundibugyo- the only true lowland tropical forest in east Africa. Semi-deciduous Ituri forest merges into grassy savannah. A bird-watchers haven, with 435 different bird species recorded in the Park.
• Mount Elgon National Park, Mbale – the world’s largest caldera. Lower mountain slopes have dense rainforest, with tall trees, lianas, epiphytes and an understorey of orchids and ferns. Trees include Weliwtchia, Podocarpus, Allophyllus, Neoboutania, Cordia, Prunus, Tombea and Aningeria. At the higher altitude of 2,500 metres, the vegetation changes to mixed bamboo, which then merges into open woodland with Hagenia and African rosewood trees and giant Hypericum.
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