There are numerous hiking nature reserves accessible to people in Johannesburg, Melville Koppies, Klipriviersberg and the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens come to mind. Recently we jumped in the Hilux and went west to the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. R 55,00 got us in and we set off in the direction of the Witpoortjie Waterfall stopping to take a few pictures on the way. The gardens are neatly manicured and photographic opportunities abound. We stopped off at the Eagles Fare Restaurant for a quick bite then made our way to the waterfall to take a few pictures – there is evidence of the pair of breeding black eagles on the cliff face. When we looked at the hiking we had to put it off as it was a 2 1/2 hour route and we had other obligations that afternoon. Our trip back to the main gate was nonetheless pleasant when we veered off the path to walk through a forested section. On arrival at the main gate, we spent some time at The Sisulu Circle, a courtyard with a child-friendly water feature around the bust of Walter Sisulu. This is a recent addition to the gardens.
The gardens have three main vegetation types – forest, grassland and savanna and is home to an abundance of wildlife, plants (600 species) and 230 bird species many of which are visible at the cormorant dam hide. Bring binoculars and a bird book to enjoy this experience.
There are numerous conference facilities that can be hired and the gardens also have regular events such as concerts and outdoor movies. The succulent rockery is also worth visiting filled with amazing indigenous succulents. The wintertime display of various aloe species attracts numerous birds who feed on the pollen.
The area has been popular since the 1880s but was established as a botanical garden in 1982 and has consistently been voted as the “best place to get back to nature” in Gauteng. We realised afterwards that to do full justice to the gardens one should allocate at least a day.
One can picnic but no fires or gas braais are permitted. As we walked around even though it was a weekday we noticed numerous groups spread out on the grass enjoying picnics whilst the children played. It was interesting to note that there are no dirt bins and the gardens ask you to take your refuse out and recycle at home. We thoroughly enjoyed the time there and will allocate more time for the next visit.