The Arboretum was laid out in 1885 by Joseph Storr Lister, Conservator of Forests of the Western Conservancy of the Cape Colony, thus marking the beginnings of a Forestry Industry in South Africa. The Arboretum is well known amongst Botanists, Horticulturalists and Sylviculturalists on account of the large variety of Indigenous Trees grown here. It was declared a National Monument under old NMC legislation on 9 August 1985.
The Tree hugging Hike of the Tokai Arboretum, a nightmare for Conservationists and a dream for tree-huggers: this Arboretum is Home to over 150 types of Alien Trees, and a lot of them Oaks—from as far flung as Turkey, Algeria, and Australia. This Research Project was established to discover, which Exotic Trees could be used in the Cape Colony? Now we have a ‘tree garden’ with some residents well over 100 years old, and Joseph has the 'Lister Coffee Shop', named after him, (drop in for a cuppa after your walk.) The Arboretum has been declared a National Monument and holds over 274 tree species and over 1555 different trees within its precious Hectares. Tree huggers and lovers will find a map at the tea room with tree names and their numbers on it. As the Conservator of Forests of the Western Conservancy of the Cape Colony his duty was to Protect and Preserve our Heritage of Trees and Plants.
When visiting the Tokai Arboretum, take a walk up to Elephant’s Eye Cave, marvel at the views of Cape Town, admire the large array of trees or sit beside a tiny stream rushing down the mountain in this natural haven in the Southern Suburbs.
The Tokai Manor House constructed in 1795 has a nursery and the land beside it was set aside by Joseph and with the assistance of convict workers, he planted pines, oaks, yellowwoods and eucalyptus trees mostly from India, Mexico, Australia and California. You don’t need to be a Tree Scientist to distinguish the types either; they’re helpfully Labelled along the walk.
Bike or hike:
The Cape Town Cycling Collective has commandeered this patch of Nature for itself. We spot many in Helmets and Spandex, idly chatting at the Entrance, leaning on their Bikes. But since we prefer two feet to two wheels – we set off on the Walking Trails instead— in hiking boots we tackle the path, relieved to be in shade.
What to bring:
Your Bicycle, if you’re that way inclined.
A Notebook, you may be keen to study the Trees.
Bring a Picnic, there is a Coffee Shop with a light meals at the Entrance,(but just think you could be eating in France, Mexico, anywhere on the globe really, you just have to pick the right tree.)
A Bucket, come Mushroom Season there are some delectable Fungi, up for picking just. TAKE SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE DOING, AS SOME MUSHROOMS ARE NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION! There is shade, but the Canopy also traps heat and it can make you very thirsty.
Loose change, there isn’t an entrance fee, but Donations are appreciated.
Getting there: take the M3 south, and follow the road, until you get to the Tokai turnoff. At the top of the off-ramp, turn right into Tokai Main Road. Follow this Road until you get to a fork in the road, keep right and follow until a T-junction. Turn left by the Tokai Manor House and follow the Dirt Road until you reach the parking area. From here you can take the Mountain Biking Trails, the circular route in the Arboretum, or hike up to Elephants Eye. And then on your wayhome you can visit the Tokai Manor House Museum.
Begin at the Entrance and consult the Map, picking out the trees you’d like to see. Simply follow the Numbered Posts. You’ll also spy a River running through it, when we went it was unfortunately dry, but in the rainy season we’re told it swells. If you’d like to go find the Redwoods, they’re located just a little Higher than this route will take you. Enquire at the Gate on how to get there?
The Trees, of course. This is also a Mecca for Birders, and ‘Babooners’, many Troupes are seen passing through here. And don’t forget the Edible Mushrooms.
The Manor House, which you Pass on the way In, is reputedly haunted. Legend has it that during a New Years Eve party, Frederick Eksteen, the owner’s son, rode on his horse around the seated diners and down the stairs, on the way down unfortunately the horse tripped and both were killed. Numerous accounts of the Phantom Rider and his Horse have been reported ever since.
By Malu Lambert, photographs by Lindsay Callaghan
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