Johannesburg from the air
Historical Flights (Tel: (0800) 98 03 21; Internet: www.historicflight.co.za ) organizes slow champagne flights in historic aircraft like the JU52.
Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris offers early morning balloon rides over the majestic Magaliesberg Mountains. The flight in the huge red balloon lasts about an hour and is crowned by an excellent champagne breakfast on firm ground. It starts at the Balloon Safaris Country Base in the Magalies River Valley, near the Hartebeespoort Dam, 65 km from Johannesburg.
Phone: (0800) 98 03 21 (Historical Flights); (011) 705 32 01 (Bill Harrop’s Original Balloon Safaris)
Numerous organizers in Johannesburg offer half-day and full-day excursions by bus. Most minibuses have officially recognized city guides and pick up their guests from all hotels. Destinations include Soweto, Gold Reef City, Lion Park, Newtown, the observation deck on the roof of the Carlton Center, Lesedi Cultural Village and Pretoria.
Phone: (011) 869 6629; (011) 325 7125.
Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust offers guided tours of three hours that are relatively easy to master on Saturday afternoons. Alternatively, Northwards , 21 Rockridge Road, Parktown (9 am-1pm daily) also offers brochures for visitors who want to explore Johannesburg without a guide. The Mansions & Minor Masterpieces tour, for example, leads through Parktowns villas of the mining industrialists with decorative works of art. From Cliff to Forest begins in Westcliff (another historic suburban area) and ends in Forest Town, where the zoo and military history museum are located. The Northcliff and Melville History Tour : Pre-History to Presentleads through the Stone Age archaeological sites of Melville Koppies, the Northcliff Heights, the Louw-Geldenhuys farmhouse, the Emmarentia dam and the botanical garden. Departure points vary depending on the tour selected.
Walktours organizes longer guided tours that you can complete in four to eight hours. Guided tours include Sandton, along the Braamfontein Spruit (river), the Central Business District , Melville Koppies , Constitution Hill , Alexander Township or from Zoo Lake to EmmarentiaDam and back. For groups of ten or more people there is a nightly zoo tour after a joint dinner. Departure points vary depending on the tour selected.
Phone: (011) 482 33 49 (Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust); (011) 444 16 39 (Walktours)
Johannesburg Lion Park
This 200 hectare lion habitat with breeding station, which does research, shows more than 80 animals (including a pair of the famous white lions that are on loan from the Johannesburg Zoo). Other animal species include wildebeest, gemsbok, impala, capricorn antelope, zebra and ostrich. Between 12.00 p.m. and 3.00 p.m., giraffe feeding is possible from a tower specially built for this purpose. There is a shop and restaurant at the park entrance as well as Cub World, where you can hug a lion cub for an additional entrance fee. The Lion Park is on the R55, between R512 and Cedar Avenue, Nietgedacht, not far from Lanseria Airport. Most of Johannesburg’s tour operators offer guided tours. The park is open daily between 8:30 AM and 6 PM in summer and between 8:30 AM and 5 PM.
Phone: (011) 691 99 05
The National Botanical Gardens Walter Sisulu
A ‘real insider tip’ may sound like a worn cliché, but this name really applies to this piece of earth that is only an hour’s drive from Johannesburg. Against the backdrop of the wonderful Witpoortije waterfall, this garden extends over almost 300 hectares of land and consists of both a designed part and natural steppe (open savannah). The natural vegetation is a mosaic of grassland and savannah with over 600 naturally occurring plant species. There is also an opportunity for visitors to see a breeding majestic Malaysian eagle pair in the rocky slopes. In the center of the gardens and in the shade of two wonderful stinkwood trees (Ocotea bullata) is a restaurant (Café Clivia). The gardens are at the end of Malcolm Road, Poortview, Roodepoort, about 25 km west of Sandton. Take the Beyers Naude exit on the N1 and continue on the R564. The gardens are open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (no admission after 5 p.m.).
Phone: (011) 958 17 50
The cradle of humanity
The 47,000 hectare site includes Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and the surrounding area. It begins 35 km northwest of the center of Johannesburg and extends over 20 km. Since December 1999, there is a World Heritage Site by UNESCO . Dozens of limestone caverns, especially the Sterkfontein Caves, from which impressive finds such as Mrs. Ples (the first complete, ever discovered skull of an Australopithecus (southern monkey man) and the recent discovery Little Foot , a 3.3 million year old human skeleton, The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve is also part of the World Heritage Site(Nature reserve for rhinos and lions) as well as hiking and riding trails, art centers, rural markets and restaurants.
The Sterkfontein Caves are 50 km west of the city on the R563, they are open daily between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. and tours take place every half an hour. There is an interactive exhibition center and a restaurant. Visitors are guided through the caves on footpaths.
The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve is open daily between 8 AM and 3:45 PM. To get there, turn left on the N14 behind the Kromdraai sign and then follow the signs for 7 km. The area is far enough outside of Johannesburg that you feel like in the bush. It houses 600 pieces of game of 25 different species, including, of course, rhino and lion.
Maropengis an excellent new exhibition center that focuses on the theory of evolution and the impact of humanity on Earth. It is 7 km from the Sterkfontein Caves and is on the R24. It is open daily between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. The experience begins with a boat ride through several tunnels depicting volcanoes, icebergs, gases from the interior of the earth and other basic elements that make up our planet. After that, visitors are dropped off at the beginning of all time, where they begin with the history of the earth, and then go through a series of exhibitions until they arrive today. These include the formation of the continents, the emergence of mankind, the development of man, the population of the earth, the hunger for land, how people have changed the world and finally environmental and climate problems that will come up in the future. It is one of the museums in Johannesburg that uses the latest technology.
Phone: (011) 956 63 42 (Sterkfontein Caves) and (011) 957 01 06 (Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve) and (011) 668 32 00 (Maropeng)