Sep 19, 2010

Colorful Cape Kingdom Kaleidoscope

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Micah in front of Table Mountain in Cape Town
    In the last post I wrote about a nation that was given independence by South Africa, until Mandela welcomed it back into the country in 1994.  For the sake of symmetry, after our visit to the Transkei Erin I went to a kingdom that South Africa, also through Mandela, gave to the whole world ten years later.  It's a fascinating place, and one that goes far deeper than stories about kings, politics, or even human beings.
Floristic Kingdoms
The Floristic Kingdoms

Cape Town South Africa-205   When studying where flowers exist botanists divide the world into six broad floristic kingdoms.  One can find many kinds of flowers, ecosystems and climates within a each kingdom but they share enough characteristics to be clustered together.  Most kingdoms span many countries and even continents.  I personally visited over thirty countries across the Northern Hemisphere before I stepped foot outside of a single kingdom.  When I finally did, on a long trip through Latin America, I was continually amazed by the strange new flowers I came across.     

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Cape Town South Africa-221The smallest kingdom is the only one that fits inside a single country, South Africa.  Although tiny, it has one of the highest densities of different plant species on the planet.  Mandela declared the Cape Floral Region a UNESCO World heritage site in 2004 because of this unbelievable diversity.  To give a sense of scale, there are more plant species endemic to the top of Cape Towns iconic Table Mountain than there are in the United Kingdom. 

The biological diversity of this small part of the world is matched by it's ethnic and cultural diversity.  The southern tip of Africa has been a busy since long before history has been recorded.  Ever since Cape Town was established by Europeans it has been a vital port city and embraced immigrants from all over the world.  Nearly every european power is represented, the huge Bo-Kaap neighborhood is historically muslim Malay, and it proves almost irresistible to every expat who visits.  It took all our willpower to escape from  Cape Town to the final leg of our journey to our new home in Tanzania.
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The colorful Bo-Kaap neighbood of Cape Town

The National Gallery in Capetown is remarkable and worth a visit, play the above slideshow to see some of our favorite pieces!

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