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The Lowveld Botanical Garden in Nelspruit - Perfect Day Trip from White River

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

The Lowveld Botanical Garden is one of our top day visits from ilanda Guest House. In this post we share why we love the gardens and what you can expect there.

Officially named the Lowveld National Botanical Garden, this is one of the best day trips from White River, just a 20 minute drive from White River and ilanda Guest House. If you have a couple hours to half a day we definitely recommend a visit. Don’t miss out on the suspension bridge over the Crocodile River and the Crocodile River Cascades.

Even if plants and botanical gardens are not usually in your wheelhouse, the Crocodile River cascades and the setting is worth a detour. Despite the manicured lawns this botanical garden has maintained a wilder feeling and is a nature lover’s paradise. With 260 species of birds, a third of the Lowveld’s woody species and butterflies in abundance, every season has something to offer.

Walking path and bench in succulent section of botanical garden
Lovely walkways & benches in the Lowveld Botanical Garden

Essential Facts About the Lowveld Botanical Garden in Nelspruit

How much is entrance fee to Lowveld Botanical Garden?

Adults: R50

Children: R20

Students: R35 (valid student card needed)

Pensioners: Free entry on Tuesdays

The Nelspruit Gardens have gone cashless; only credit or debit cards are accepted. If an event is being hosted at the gardens, the event fee may be higher than the standard entrance fee.

Basic functions do not require bookings or no extra fees. Basic function include:

  • Photo shoots (weddings, etc): 1 cameraman free entrance for 20 guests

  • Picnics (less than 10 people)

  • Children’s Parties (less than 10 people):

Extra charges for bringing a Trampoline (R150) and Jumping Castle (R150).

What are the opening hours of the Lowveld Botanical Garden?

The Lowveld Botanical Garden is open everyday from 0800 to 1800 (Sep-Mar) and 0800 to 1700 (Apr-Aug). Private and / or paying events are occasionally hosted at the garden during weekends, so better call ahead to make sure it is open for the public 0137528880. Alternatively call Tindlovu at the Gardens.

This is for information only, please confirm details directly with the botanical gardens on 013 752 8880. Click here, for more information on functions and rates at the Mbombela Botanical Gardens.

Is the pedestrian suspension bridge at the Lowveld Botanical Garden now opened?

No, the suspension pedestrian bridge between the two banks of the Crocodile River and both entrances was washed away during the February 2023 floods and is still closed. To see the entirety of the gardens you have to drive between both entrances. One of the view points over the cascades on the right bank also remains closed. All other facilities have not reopened.

Woman and children walking on suspension bridge over the Crocodile River
Pedestrian suspension bridge over the Crocodile River before it was washed away in February 2023

A Popular Events Hosting in Nelspruit hosted at the Lowveld Botanical Garden

The Lowveld Botanical Garden occasionally hosts events normally during weekends. These events with music, festivities and crowds can be entertaining or a bane, depending on how you intend to enjoy your visit to the gardens. Whether you want to attend or avoid these events, please consult the Lowveld Botanical Gardens facebook page (unfortunately no telephone service is available during weekends). The Mbombela’s Farmers Market is a monthly event with music extremely popular with Nelspruit residents.

Overview of the Nelspruit gardens

The left (western) bank has the most spectacular viewpoints over the Crocodile River cascades and The Restaurant at the Gardens (formerly Tindlovu at The Gardens). This is a perfect spot for a drink or lunch, and one of our favourite places in the town of Nelspruit and even the whole Mbombela Municipality. This entrance and visitor centre was in part funded by Tsogo Southern Sun Hotel & Casino which can be accessed directly through a pedestrian path.

The right bank offers lovely lawns for picnics, pathways, walking trails, picnic benches, rainforest walkway, a kids’ playground, a couple more viewpoints over the Crocodile River Cascades and a viewpoint the confluence of the Crocodile River and Nels River (from which Nelspruit’s name is derived). The River Trail feels wild and follows the Crocodile River Gorge. The old The Fig Tree Restaurant is now unfortunately closed.

Waterfall viewpoint along the Crocodile River Trail
Viewpoint along the River Trail at the Botanical Garden

Though still young, the baobab section showcases many baobab species from South Africa and Madagascar. If you are seeking more stately baobabs, the ones just before Grace Hall Bridge or at Nelspruit Crossing Mall are more impressive.

Also in this section of the gardens but not accessible to the public are the fenced in Cycad conservatory, an old local cemetery and some wild parts of the garden. Of the garden’s 165 hectares, only 30 are landscaped.

On the way to this entrance a stop at Grace Hall Bridge offers an opportunity to admire the Crocodile River, its vegetation and wildlife.

A Unique Cycad Collection

The Lowveld Botanical Garden has an extensive cycad collection, and plays a critical role in the propagation and conservation of rare and endangered cycad species, including the establishment of the cycad gene bank. This collection is so precious, and cycads sought after and even poached, that a dedicated security guards this section.

Cycad cones closeup
Cycad cones at the Botanical Garden

Hippos on the walk

Hippopotamus live in the Crocodile River passing through & browsing the gardens at night. They are seldom seen during the day but you can see and smell their territorial markings in some flowerbeds. Look out for the territorial markings of bull hippos during their nightly forays in the garden.

If you look far upstream from the Grace Hall Bridge, you may occasionally see hippos in the water just before the reed island.

Hippo warning sign
Hippo Warning Sign at the Botanical Garden conference centre

Indigenous Plants Nursery

South African gardeners should visit the small nursery where the Botanical Garden sells their excess stock of indigenous trees at excellent prices. Aloes, cycads, trees and bushes are all available. If you are looking for indigenous trees, shrubs, aloes or cycads to plant in your garden this nursery offers the best value for money in White River and Nelspruit.

Indigenous trees for sale at the Botanical Garden Nursery
Indigenous trees for sale at the Botanical Garden Nursery



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