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Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens 

The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens  are most definitely a hidden green gem. Whether one wants to escape from the daily hustle and bustle, catch some rays on a beautiful and sunny day, or spend time having a family picnic, this is the perfect place for kids and adults alike. Romantic picnics are a regular occurrence at these gardens, particularly on balmy summer days. It is a highly recommended location for chilling by the majestic Witpoortjie waterfall, or attempting to catch site of the black eagles that reside at the top of the koppie. If you're lucky to have the opportunity to catch sight of these spectacular birds in flight, make sure you take a closer look through the telescope provided. 

There is a variety of fauna and flora, just waiting to be marveled at. According to The South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), the gardens span over 300 hectares, and there are 600 plant species to be found. For birdwatchers, it is useful to note that there are 220 species of bird, and even small animals such as jackal and antelope can be sighted. If you want a truly memorable experience of the gardens, a hike to the top of the koppie is recommended, particularly for outdoor enthusiasts. These Botanical Gardens are virtually unspoilt, therefore all visitors are urged to dispose of all litter and waste upon leaving, as for all of Johannesburg's parks. Further entertaining venues on the premises include a nursery, gift shop, and restaurant as well as a 'dome' for sundowner concerts, depending on the occasion. Why visit The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens? Maybe because they were voted the best picnic spot in Gauteng for five years in a row, which is an impressive feat, to say the least. 

Select different Virtual Tour views below so as to obtain a great idea of how magnificent the Gardens actually are!

Emmarentia Dam 

Dog lovers - listen up! If you are looking to treat your canine companion to a leisurely stroll within an expanse of natural beauty, set aside a time to head to Emmarentia Dam. To clear your mind and unwind, take a moment to sit on a bench next to the tranquil waters, or visit the adjoining Johannesburg Botanical Gardens for a picnic, or a stroll through the immaculate pathways surrounded by an expanse of grass, and various specimens of trees, to name but a few spectacular sights. Get away from the shopping malls and take refuge in an environment filled with the sounds of children's laughter, and dogs taking a splash in the dam. 

Watch the canoeists and windsurfers gather for their regular meetings on the water, away from the crowd, and see the colourful kites breezing through sapphire blue skies. During autumn, the views are breathtaking,from the majestic trees, to the clear blue sky. Egyptian Geese frolic daily, and grass banks accommodate for those gathering to watch the popular summer sunset concerts. If you are free on a Sunday morning, gather up your crew for a day of fun in the sun, in the heart of suburbia. 

Alberts Farm Conservancy

The Alberts Farm Conservancy in Albertskroon is yet another natural expanse of greenery found in the heart of the suburbs. It is interesting to note that this 'field' contains a single artesian spring, which sprays clean trickles of water throughout the course of the year, and, another magnificent characteristic is of course the picturesque dam, inhabited by Egyptian geese. A wide range of other birdlife and plant species can be found at this conservancy which is situated on Northcliff Ridge.

The Alberts Farm Dam - the central focus of the Farm
Fishing is a popular activity here, particularly on weekends whereby fishing fiends occupy the dam practicing their skills. Oftentimes, residents and visitors can be seen walking their dogs or having a relaxed braai. It is a tranquil hideout to simply relax under the many beautiful trees surrounding the water. Alberts Farm is one of Johannesburg's most 'natural' parks, and the environment and surrounds are clearly conserved in an eco-friendly manner. 

Zoo Lake 

Zoo Lake is a popular spot, situated across the Johannesburg Zoo. Annual events such as Jazz on the Lake and Carols by Candlelight take place at this social yet natural hang out. Monthly events include the Artists under the Sun exhibition, while entertainment consists of Moyo, one of South Africa's most popular restaurants, as well as Zoo Lake Bowling Club, where friends and members catch up with a few pints. The Coronation Fountain, which is a heritage symbol, is definitely a sight to be seen, while floating along the water on a boat is the preferred mode of relaxation.

The Virtual Tour below gives you a great view of the Zoo Lake!

There's something special about Johannesburg during the festive season. For one thing, it's peaceful - most families are packing up and heading down to the coast - which means that popular holiday destinations such as and Durban will be experiencing an influx of 'Vaalies' (people from the Transvaal Province - now called Gauteng). Gauteng number-plates are seen far and wide. Sure, it's great to get away - but there are downsides to leaving the city. Just think toll gates, queues, fighting for umbrella space on the beach. . .

A typical afternoon thundershower in the Joburg summertime

This is where Joburg comes into its own as a holiday destination. There is still so much to do and see, without having to compete with mad crowds. Once the Christmas gift rush is over, and the corporates have taken their leave, one can take a quiet drive at any time, day or night. Sights include amazing Christmas tree displays at Cosmopolitan shopping malls such as Sandton City; smells include delicious breads at one of the many continental bakeries, and let's not forget summer braais and the aroma of braaivleis. Sounds include children jumping into swimming pools, followed by late afternoon Highveld thunderstorms. The atmosphere is simply magical with the display of bright lights flashing in silence. It's untouched.

 It is possible to find parking, and sip on a cooldrink at a pavement café in solitude. Experience the sounds of nature at one
of Joburg's many beautiful parks, dams and botanical gardens. There is no beach - but why not head to Sun City and The Valley of Waves for the day? Or just lounge around the swimming pool? What about the night-life? One word - world-class. Go mingle with the fellow Joburgers at one of Jozi's many popular nightspots. The party doesn't stop - fellow city
slickers make the most out of their time off work as well as the freedom to come and go as they choose. There are ample opportunities to meet tourists at places such as the Rosebank Craft Market and Nelson Mandela Square. So, if you are going to be spending your Christmas in Joburg, prepare for a quiet, yet fun-filled time. No rush; no pressure - just good times.

Have a joyous festive season and remember to keep safe - this is a Jozi Christmas!

The Valley of the Waves at Sun City - about 1 1/2 hour from Joburg


Johannesburg is often referred to as the New York of Africa (see here). This conjures up images of traffic, road rage, stress, work and a mad rush in general. Not so - at least not in October! Spring time brings with it a completely different air to our beloved city of gold. Spring time in Joburg is simply magical - with sunshine in the day, and thunderstorms at night - these make for a truly wonderful climate. 

This is when Jacaranda trees come into their own! Take a walk through the streets of Pretoria (The Jacaranda City) and Johannesburg during spring time - stop and take a proper look at these beautiful, rich purple floral marvels. See how they create a canopy throughout the towns and take in the fragrance and splendour of this species. From a distance and at an aerial view, one may see these as an expanse of blue and purple. 

According to Wikipedia, Jacarandas start to bloom during 'exam time' at Pretoria University, and, legend has it, that should a Jacaranda flower drop on your head, you will pass all of your exams.  

So, next time you are in Joburg or Pretoria in October, appreciate the Jacaranda trees, and welcome them as a sign of a new Summer on its way!

I am woken by the sound of a flock of hadedas, those large brown birds that are notorious for their apt cry of 'haah-de-dah'. Far from a mere chirp - this echoing call is what I would call 'nature's alarm clock'.

When one departs the quiet suburbs, Joburg possesses a 'white noise' of sorts - penetrating from the highways in the distance. Meanwhile, just a short distance away, is the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, tucked in the heart of Joburg .Guinea fowls are one of the many birds that inhabit this space. In the earliest hours of the morning, before the day begins, these white-spotted creatures commence with their calls of 'ah, ah, ah, ah' under the rising sun.

As I get into my car, and join the other commuters, I hear the sounds of radios blasting in the midst of morning traffic. During lunch time, I take a walk through the economic hub of the Sandton CBD, where the fast-paced footsteps of business men and women are heard; amidst the mad rush, the 'clip clop' becomes increasingly louder, with a flurry of fancy shoes and high heels hitting the pavement.

While I drive back home through the suburbs, I hear the sound of jacarandas popping under my tyres, running shoes thumping against the tar, dogs barking in the quiet streets, and the wind howling through the trees. Once I arrive home, a storm begins to brew. Ah, a typical summer thunderstorm, which Joburg happens to be renowned for. The heat of the day dissipates; the white clouds turn to grey. I hear the gentle pitter-patter of drizzle on tin roofs, which eventually builds up to a heavy outpour filled with the sounds of grumbling thunder. Lightning flashes, the rain becomes hail, falling on cars, thudding like mini boulders on every surface it hits.

On Saturday, I chill by the Westcliff, where I can hear the sound of the lions roaring at Johannesburg Zoo, and, suddenly, it is as if I really am in a jungle, a concrete jungle. As I ponder about the diversity of this city, I look out at the horizon, accompanied by the sound of the city's skyline.