Johannesburg. What to do?

Apr 20th, 2004, 11:24 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5
Johannesburg. What to do?

Hi Fodorites!

Having moved to Johannesburg recently and having lots of visitors staying from other countries, I'm always looking for new things to do with them. We've discovered the Botanical Gardens, Sterkfontein Caves and Gold Reef City which are all great places to take visitors, but thought I'd ask all you helpful folk out there whether you have any other suggestions. There must be lots of interesting stuff to do, good picnic sites, etc and I'd love to hear from you!

Many thanks in advance.
TracyL is offline  
Apr 21st, 2004, 06:38 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 3,501
Hello Tracy,

If you haven't already asked your Johannesburg neighbours, work colleagues, etc., that's the first thing I'd advise you to do. While there are a few South African residents who post here, most of the Fodorites who hang out at the Africa forum are Americans, Brits, etc.

When I lived in Johannesburg, which was a zillion years ago, the Vaal River (south of Johannesburg, in the general vicinity of Vanderbijlpark) used to be a popular destination for a day trip.

To the northwest, the Magaliesberg area, some kilometres further out than the Sterkfontein Caves, used to be popular for camping, rock climbing, etc.

To the north north east there was Pretoria, which you must have discovered already if you've been to the Botanical Gardens. If you want to find out about South African history, it's quite interesting to visit the Voortrekker Monument outside of Pretoria and Paul Kruger's house in Pretoria itself.

Be sure to visit Pretoria in October to see the jacaranda trees in bloom.

More or less due north of Johannesburg there's Hartebeespoort Dam, which is quite an attractive spot for boating and picnics.

In Johannesburg itself you can do a tour of Soweto township.

If your guests won't get a chance to visit the game reserves in Mpumalanga (the Kruger National Park or one of the private game reserves near it), I imagine Pilanesberg is within day-tripping distance of Johannesburg.

This may not suit everyone's taste, but to my mind the military museum in Saxonwold is interesting.

I understand that in more recent years the homes of the so called Rand Lords (the early gold mining magnates) in Parktown have become a point of interest.

The northern part of the Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal also is accessible as a weekend trip from Johannesburg.

For that matter, Swaziland is doable as a weekend trip from Johannesburg too.

Hope this helps. (But still ask your neighbours!)
Judy_in_Calgary is offline  
Apr 21st, 2004, 07:34 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 686
One of the posters on the LP Thorntree compiled a list, with URLs. It's rather long, but I'm going to paste it anyway. Hopefully there will be no sensitivity about info that has appeared on a competitor's site. And I won't even begin to try and research the legal aspect, if there is one! Here goes:

1: Alexandra Township - only a few kilometres from some of South Africa?s most valuable real estate and manicured gardens, is one of the oldest, poorest and most densely populated areas of Johannesburg, where you?ll find overcrowded shacks, run down hostels ? and newly built houses with beautiful gardens.
[email protected] Patrick Gumede, my recommended Alexandra Township Tour Guide
2: Apartheid Museum (across the road from Gold Reef City) Explore the past history of South Africa and its apartheid years, reliving the cruelty of the system, and the struggle for human dignity. This is an emotional encounter, with vivid depiction of an unforgettable era. Lots of time needed.
3: De Wildt A centre for the breeding of endangered species. Cheetah (including King cheetah) and wild dog at close range. Very informative.
4: Elephant sanctuary Home to five African elephants, you will discover that, not only are they highly intelligent, but each one has it?s own personality. You will be given the opportunity to walk with, touch and feed these magnificent animals.
5: Eco tours consisting of horse trails, ballooning, fishing, caving, game viewing and mountain biking.
6: Gold Mine Dumps The Golden Yellow mine dumps of the West Rand have long been a feature of the Gauteng landscape. Do a geological heritage tour of the early goldfields.
7: Gold Reef City re-creates much of the heritage of Johannesburg?s pioneering mining history. Travel down a gold mine, to Level 5 (220m / 785 ft below the surface), see a 12.5 kg gold pour, be entertained by African Dancers, take a number of exciting adventure-park rides, and visit various craft shops.
8: Heia Safari Ranch Have a Sunday lunch at 12h30-14h00 (R60pp), followed by a display of colourful ?Mzumba? Zulu dancing, from 14h00 to 16h00. (R65).
9: Homes of the Powerful Pioneers The houses represent very different interests in the development of South Africa.
10: Hot Air Ballooning skim silently over the Magaliesberg Mountains in a hot-air balloon
Hot air ballooning is also available over the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
11: Johannesburg Fort and Prison - the old fort built to protect Johannesburg during the Anglo Boer War, and later used as Johannesburg?s prison (until 1983), where most of the high profile political prisoners were held ? Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi included. Open every day except Tuesdays. Part of Constitution Hill, where the new Constitutional Court is being built.
E-mail Lucy Kaplan for queries regarding visits : [email protected]
12: Johannesburg Inner City Walk : Mandela and Ghandi Famous men like Mandela and Gandhi (and Kruger) have walked the streets of Johannesburg
13: Johannesburg Planetarium
14: Lesedi Cultural Village an authentic African cultural experience and an introduction to Zulu, Ndebele, Sotho, Pedi and Xhosa family life and traditions. Entertainment includes traditional dances, a traditional meal, story telling and songs.
15: Lion Park The Lion Park offers terrific close-up views and other experiences with many lions, as well as rare white lions. Other large predators at The Lion Park include cheetahs, brown and spotted hyenas, wild dogs, caracals and jackals.
16: Mapoch Ndebele Village offers an irresistible photo opportunity in an authentic inhabited Ndebele village, 8kms west of the M35 Tswaing Road (past Tswaing crater museum) Enjoy a walk through the village while the womenfolk proudly display their handcrafts for sale. Daily 10h00-16h00 : Tel012) ??; Fax012) ?? (I have a couple of numbers for Mapoch, but they?re all wrong!)
17: Melville Koppies Nature Reserve and the Independent African Church
Melville Koppies is a nature reserve, surrounded by suburbia. Excavations have found remnants from the Early, Middle and Late Stone Age, and the Iron Age. It has been declared a World Heritage Site due to the iron age smelting furnaces that have been excavated. Open 1st, 2nd and 3rd Sunday of every month.
The Independent African Churches hold their Sunday services out doors, in the beautiful setting of Melville Koppies. A church leader and certified tour guide will escort you, as you enjoy their passionate singing, dancing, drumming and joyful worship in colourful robes - either as a participant or as an observer on the monthly open day. Great views of Johannesburg. This is a special opportunity to see a vibrant sub-culture of the city, and is recommended for anyone who is interested in spirituality. 15h00 0n the 4th Sunday of every month. Bishop David Matholi 082 817 3179. No charge, but donations welcome.
18: Mystery Ghost Bus Tour A different way to learn about Johannesburg, about South African mysteries, and be thoroughly entertained & scared - with pub stops along the way to get you into the spirit and calm your n-e-r-ves
19: Pilanesberg National Park is set in one of the largest volcanic complexes of its kind in the world, where the arid western Kalahari and the Bushveld meet, The volcanic crater-rings form a natural boundary around the Park. This is South Africa?s fourth-largest National Park with about 7000 animals, and carries 24 of the larger species including the BIG 5.
20: Premier Diamond Mine - in Cullinan, east of Pretoria, where on 25 January 1902 Thomas Cullinan discovered the immense diamond pipe in the area now known as Cullinan. 105 stones, cut from the largest diamond ever found, form part of the British Crown Jewels. There are surface and underground tours of the mine.
21: Rhino and lion Park cheetah, hippo and wild dogs can also be seen. Having problems with this site!
22: Restaurants:
Carnivore Restaurant, situated on the edge of the famous Kromdraai Conservancy. This unique restaurant offers ?Africa?s Greatest Eating Experience?. 5 different types of game meat every day.
Kapitan's Johannesburg?s oldest restaurant, where Mandela, Tambo and Sisulu, battling local repression, enjoyed a secret racial freedom and the well-known curries. Perhaps Kapitan's owners might use a lick of paint and more attractive decor to highlight their restaurant, now famous throughout the world. Maybe they're intent on preserving history unsullied.. Great atmosphere and wonderful hosts. 11a Korte Street, Johannesburg CBD. 011 834-8048
Liliesleaf guest house and restaurant. The ?secret? headquarters of the ANC, prior to their arrest and the Rivonia Trial in 1963.
23: Soweto Doesn't need much explaining! Nel Redelinghuys, my recommended Soweto Tour Guide
24: Sterkfontein Caves at the Cradle of Humankind - South Africa is not only a land of incredible mineral wealth, it has also been the cradle of many new life forms. These caves are one of the richest and most productive paleo - anthropological sites in the world. See where everyone?s great-great-great-great grandfather was born. A World Heritage Site.
25: South African National Bird of Prey Centre is situated in The Cradle of Mankind. It offers you the opportunity to get up close to these magnificent raptors There?s something wrong with this link!!
26: Sun City Nestled in the rolling hills of the Pilanesberg, one of South Africa's most scenic locations. Sun City is a world unto itself and has earned its reputation as Africa's Kingdom Of Pleasure.
27: Top Star Drive-In Brilliant location to see a movie in your car. Right on top of a mine-dump overlooking Johannesburg. You can see for miles around you. You can?t miss the signs from the M2. A very cool place to take a date if you have very little money and very big ideas. They host gigantic raves there too. Not in a great part of town!
Simmonds South Way, Park Central. (011) 493-5877
28: Tswaing Meteorite Crater is situated 40 km north-northwest of Pretoria and is one of the best-preserved craters of the 150 known impact structures on earth.
29: Witwatersrand Botanical Garden consists of a mosaic of grassland and savanna with dense bush in kloofs and along streams.
A breeding pair of Black Eagles, the only breeding pair near encroaching suburbia, have their nest on the cliffs.
ArthurSA is offline  
Apr 21st, 2004, 07:38 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 686
Only after posting that did I realise that the clever thing to do would have been to not mention the source. But I'd then have stood the risk of being accused of plagiarism by those who frequent both boards.
ArthurSA is offline  
Apr 21st, 2004, 02:05 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 987
Arthur, thank you, thank you, thank you! We'll be in Jo'burg next month, and although we have plenty of things planned already, this list adds greatly to our possibilities. I'm particularly enthralled to learn about visiting the Independent African Church. We've been interested in it since we lived there a long time ago, and always wanted to know more about it, and now we can, because we'll be there on the fourth Sunday of the month!

Many of the other things mentioned are things I didn't know about too, so thanks again for all this info!
Celia is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2004, 03:12 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5
Thanks so much Judy and Arthur - I knew I'd get some good ideas from this site!

TracyL is offline  
Jul 11th, 2004, 10:23 AM
Posts: n/a
Thanks for posting my "What to do in Jo'burg" here. There's so much to do, but sadly so few people know of just how rich an African culture Jo'burg has. I'm still working on my next list, but in the meantime, keep spreading the word.
Nov 4th, 2004, 01:39 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 13
Hi! Well, I'm impressed indeed. Judy & Arthur thanks so much! Going home for Xmas and your tips are certainly going to come in handy I'd also recommend:
Elginah is offline  
Nov 4th, 2004, 03:09 AM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 686
Elginah, that's wigman's list not mine, I was just "spreading the word". Enjoy!
ArthurSA is offline  
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