This is probably the closest place for Gautengers to try white-water rafting and it's just 20 minutes away from Sandton. Here are ten of the best ways to get outdoors in the City of Gold.
1. Raft the crocodile river
Upstream from Hartbeespoort Dam, the waters of the Crocodile River are pretty sedate in winter and wilder in the summer months after good rains. Pelinduna Adventures will give you a boat and guide a paddle that isn't overly challenging with grade one and two rapids. Don’t go in with too big an ego though, one of the boats on our tour tipped over when heading down the river and we were all glad to be kitted in life jackets. Costs R330pp for two and half hours.
2. Picnic at Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens
The Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens are one of South Africa’s eight national gardens. Here you can snack on sarmies beneath the waterfall, watching the Verreaux’s Eagles perched at the top with binocs and walk through the succulent rock and fern garden.. The 3,5-kilometre self-guided JCI Geological Trail is also meant to be a great hike and takes you to the top of the waterfall.
Read more about Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens.
3. See stalactites in the Sterkfontein Caves
When was the last time you went underground? Check out these troopers excitedly marching into the darkness. The Sterkfontein Caves are a World Heritage Site, home to fossils over 4 million years old and the oldest continuing palaeontological dig in the world. These guys tell us about the precursors to modern humans and where you're likely to find rich fossil deposits. For best value, buy the combo ticket for R190 and see the Maropeng Centre too.
Read more about Magical Maropeng here.
4. Learn astronomy at the Planetarium
This is probably the 'outest' of doors you can get, and bang into the galaxy. I visited the Johannesburg Planetarium when I was researching the best places in South Africa to stargaze. The show was incredible and informative and made me appreciate the huge world above so much more. The speaker was funny and interesting, showing us the current night sky with the impressive projector that’s been in use since 1930. R40 gets you in.
5. Hike around Melville Koppies
Get up early with the 180 bird species found in the Melville Koppies reserve and take in the sights. You can either go on a lone walk or join a guided tour of the park for 50 bucks each. However, there's been advice to go in groups for safety reasons.
Read about my early morning walk up Melville Koppies here.
6. Sip sundowners on Northcliff Hill
Go to beautiful Northcliff Hill for sundowners and an epic view that stretches out all the way to the Magaliesberg mountains. You can park your car close by and pack a small cooler with snacks and drinks to watch the afternoon roll by. It's safest to do in a group.
7. Walk through the Montecasino Bird Gardens
There are beautiful walkways past countless exotic birds, a frog room and the longest snake in the world, plus other sights like the sloth and lemurs (possibly my favourite animal in the world). My favourite though is the walk-through aviary filled with dozens of bright pink scarlet ibises and over 60 other bird species.
The bird show is interesting too (although mostly aimed at kids) and you can feed the lorikeets on your way out which is always a scream, because they like to land on your head and walk up the back of your neck. Sometimes, this makes it hard to leave.
8. Spend the day at Mountain Sanctuary Park
Mountain Sanctuary Park is a 1000-hectare property, which has been open to the public for 37 years and renowned for its hiking trails. A popular day visit destination for nature-hungry Gautengers needing fresh air you've got to book a spot in advance to ensure entry because they limit numbers. The closest set of natural pools is just a 20-minute walk from the main rest camp and there are plenty spots to explore and swim in along the gorge.
It’ll set you back about R100 bucks a person a night to camp there and you can check out more pics on the destination in this Getaway Magazine blog on the best weekend breaks around Joburg.
9. The Shadow Boxer outdoor museum
This incredible, well-thought out outdoor museum is housed in the windows of the original attorneys offices of Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo (which they opened in 1952). A time-line has been laid out explaining the story of Apartheid accompanied with photographs and interesting facts. Opposite, is an impressive six-metre tall statue of Mandela in his iconic boxing attire by Marco Cianfanelli.
Here’s a description of the site from the book A Long Walk to Freedom:
Mandela and Tambo” read the brass plate on our office door in Chancellor House, a small building just across the street from the marble statues of justice standing in front of the Magistrate’s Court in central Johannesburg. Our building, owned by Indians, was one of the few places where Africans could rent offices in the city. From the beginning, Mandela and Tambo was besieged with clients. We were not the only African lawyers in South Africa, but we were the only firm of African lawyers.
And it's for free.
10. Get up early for Secret Sunrise
It’s the best way to start the day. It’s not a dance, it’s not a party, it’s not a silent disco, it’s not a yoga session, it’s not a meditation. It’s all of these things rolled up into one early morning session that celebrates the rising sun at different locations across the city. Follow them on Facebook for the latest events.
Bonus: Cycle in Soweto
Get to know the history more about the history on your doorstep with a cycle through Soweto Township. You can read about my experience here.