Experience Tip For Windhoek: The Botanical Garden

18 Dec 2023

It is located in the heart of Windhoek. Most holidaymakers see it as they drive past without recognising it. And it's not really a garden at all: the Botanical Gardens. But anyone who is enthusiastic about Namibia's nature should definitely visit it. Preferably on a guided tour, which can be arranged in advance.

"Although it's called that, it's actually not a botanical garden," says the curator of the National Botanical Garden in Windhoek, Leevi Nanyeni, right at the start of the tour. "It's a nature reserve."

Plants were and are planted that do not occur in Windhoek. But these are plants that can thrive in this habitat. They are not watered.

The plants in the greenhouses are an exception. However, even these are only covered and are watered (sparingly), as Windhoek receives much more rain on average than they can tolerate: succulents such as lithops ('living stones').

"We minimise the impact on nature here," explains Nanyeni. A circular route, lined with rocks, with a few branching paths, a bench here and there, a few bird baths - that's it.

Naturally preserved slope

Experience in the heart of Windhoek: Tour through the National Botanical Garden, guided on this day by curator Leevi Nanyeni.  Photo: Sven-Eric Stender


This is probably one of the reasons why even Windhoekers hardly notice their botanical garden: The arched slope on the hillside between the city centre and the valley of the residential area of Klein-Windhoek looks like any other natural slope in the area.

The hidden entrance is probably a further reason. It is situated at the National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) on the top of the hill. Hugel/Orban Street, on which it is located, branches off the main arterial road of Sam Nujoma Drive. But it is easy to overlook because of the large junction with Robert Mugabe Avenue next door. It also looks a bit like the driveway to Windhoek High School.

Talking acacias

Around 80 plant species can be seen on the approximately twelve hectares (football pitches) of land. In addition, there are the species in the greenhouses. Of course, this is only a fraction of the approximately 4,300 plant species found in Namibia. But they give a good first impression of Namibia's flora. And even these 80 species cannot all be memorised.

Anyone exploring the botanical garden on a guided tour will hear exciting stories and can also ask questions. For example, Nanyeni tells us that acacias 'talk' to each other and warn each other of feeding attacks - through a messenger substance that they excrete and that is 'sent' by the wind. The leaves of the warned trees then produce the bitter-tasting substance tannin.

"The Worm-cure Albizia (Albizia anthelmintica) is so named because substances from its bark can be used to cure worm infestations," says the curator, who seems to know every plant personally. No wonder: he has been working at the NBRI since 2010.


The Worm-cure Albizia (Albizia anthelmintica [italics]) is one of Namibia's many striking trees that can be discovered in the Botanical Garden. 
Photo: Sven-Eric Stender


But a walk on your own is also worthwhile. There are information boards everywhere presenting the trees and shrubs along the way. Two viewpoints offer a magnificent view over the city centre and Klein Windhoek.

A young baobab (Andansonia digitata) stands at one of the two points. Two other distinctive Namibian trees can also be discovered in this small but beautiful nature reserve: The camelthorn tree (Acacia erioloba) and the 'heraldic' tree of the south, the quiver tree (Aloidendron dichotomum).

A good overview of and introduction to Namibia's flora is provided by the website of the Botanical Society of Namibia (BOTSOC).

National Botanical Garden

Open: Mondays - Fridays 8:00 - 17:00

National Botanical Research Institute

Hugel/Orban St 8

Tel +264 61 202 2017


Located in the heart of the city of Windhoek: The National Botanical Garden, with entrance in the Hugel/Orban Street. 
Screenshot (December 2023): Google Maps


Sven-Eric Stender

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