Table Mountain presents its very own Valentine’s gift to those who truly love her: the red disas, which bloom brighter than any bunch of roses. The red disa or Pride of Table Mountain Disa uniflora, only blooms once a year in February, and only in a few special spots.
They’re entrancingly beautiful, aren’t they? But, to see them, you’ll need to get your hiking boots on. Here’s where to go:
The Aqueduct is on what’s called the ‘Back Table’ – the lower plateau of Table Mountain. It’s easily accessible via several hiking routes, including Kasteelspoort and Constantia Nek. However, on a hot day (and there is no other kind of day in February in Cape Town), you’ll want to choose a shadier way.
Nursery Ravine and Skeleton Gorge are two of the most popular hiking routes up to the back table, and for good reason. They’re well-marked and maintained, steep but safe, and almost completely shaded by indigenous forest. They both start in Kirstenbosch Gardens (so you get to enjoy a beer at Moyo afterwards). You can go up one and down the other – it’s your choice which way round.
Once you reach the top of Skeleton Gorge, take a while to enjoy the novelty of a beach on top of the mountain. Then head around the dam, across the dam wall and into the nearby kloof. That’s where you’ll find a fairyland of disas.
Another bonus of this hike is that you’ll also get to see an impressive swathe of king proteas Protea cyanoroides starting to bloom above the tree line on Nursery Ravine. This is the protea with the largest flowers, and is South Africa’s national flower.
Myburgh’s Waterfall Ravine
This route starts from Suikerbossie in Hout Bay and takes you over the mountain and down on the Llandudno side. This is a fairly strenuous but wonderfully dramatic route. It’s probably best done with a guide if you’re not familiar with the area. The ascent is via a deep, shaded ravine, and the red disas grow on the wet rock faces about halfway up the ravine.
You may also be lucky enough to spot the uncommon blue disa Disa graminifolia on the plateau just before the descent to Llandudno Ravine. Keep an eye out for it!