THE SAAO is situated on a 9 ha property occupying a small hill about 5 km East of central Cape Town, within the Two Rivers Urban Park (TRUP). The park is located at the confluence of the Black and Liesbeek Rivers.
The observatory’s location was originally chosen to be within view of the Table Bay, the anchorage in front of the City, to permit the visual signalling of time to visiting ships.
The property is one of the last remaining places close to the city centre where the original ecology of the area is preserved. Its low-lying portions are subject to occasional flooding. The property is central to the Two Rivers Urban Park, a conservation area established by the City of Cape Town. It is bordered to the East and North by wetlands. As such, it is protected from encroachment.
The Two Rivers Urban Park is a wetland area that supports a wide range of bird and animal life as well as a variety of flowering bulbous plants.
The land in this area is underlaid by greywacke, quartzitic limestone and shale. Before it was acquired for the observatory, the landscape was rocky, treeless and windswept, but it nonetheless supported a remarkable variety of seasonal grasses and bulbs. No longer barren, over the nearly two centuries of its existence the site has been planted extensively with shrubs and trees to act as windbreaks.
The observatory marks the northern limit of the Western Leopard Toad (Bufo Pantherinus), an endangered species, and is the only remaining habitat of the rare iris Moraea Aristata. An ‘Observatory Baseline Information Study’ has been commissioned to further analyse the natural and urban environment of the site and better characterise its unique properties, with a view to preserving them.
Download an extensive list of avifauna and plant species recorded in the Two Rivers Urban Park.