12 things to do at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Things to do at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Just 30km west of Johannesburg's city centre lies an oasis for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden. One of the most beautiful places to visit in Johannesburg, it is also one of my personal favourites, and I’ve been there a few times.

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

The 300-hectare haven was founded in 1982, offering a much-needed escape from the city's hustle and bustle​. Lush, grassy lawns dotted with majestic trees stretch out as far as the eye can see, creating a serene and picturesque setting, and sculptured benches dot the gardens, providing rest and a chance to take in the picturesque surroundings.

Exploring Johannesburg attractions with Joburg Tourism

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

The garden has an array of things to see and do and it’s easy to miss some of them if you don’t have a map, or don’t know what you’re looking for. I had no idea how much there was to see there until I did a guided tour.

Here are 12 things to see and do at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

1. Witpoortjie Waterfall

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

The highlight of the gardens, the 70-metre high Witpoortjie Waterfall, is a breathtaking cascade that spills into a pool at the bottom. According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the falls probably get their name because visitors in the late 19th century, who would travel from Johannesburg by train, used to disembark at Witpoortjie Station and walk down to the falls.

2. Verreaux's eagles

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Verreaux's Eagle (cc: Derek Keats via Wikimedia Commons)

Nestled amidst the cliffs near the waterfall is a nesting pair of Verreaux's (black) eagles. They're the only known pair in Johannesburg, making them a unique spectacle. Look out for the white guano on the rocks to find the nest, and take your binoculars with you for a better look.

Did you know that Verreaux's eagles mate for life? They build large stick nests in cliffs and rocky outcrops. The female usually lays two eggs, but typically only one chick survives, due to the common practice of "siblicide," where the stronger chick outcompetes or kills its sibling.

3. Sasol Dam & Bird Hide

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Sasol Dam

Located near the Sasol Dam, the bird hide allows one to discreetly view the local avian population in their natural habitat . Over 220 bird species have been recorded in the area, and we saw several sacred ibis from the hide​.

4. Themed gardens

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Succulent rockerry

There are over 600 plant species growing naturally in the garden. Many can be found in themed sections of the garden which have been added over the years, such as the cycad garden, people’s plants garden, a succulent rockery garden,  waterwise garden, fern trail, geological garden, and birds and butterfly garden.

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Cycad garden

While most of these gardens are botanically-themed, there is also a gym garden, with exercise equipment.

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Exercise Garden

5. Kids’ playground

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Kids' playground

Families with young children will enjoy the playground and the small colourful train that offers rides around the gardens. The ice cream van will make them even happier on sunny days.

6. Sisulu Circle

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Sisulu Circle

The Sisulu Circle near the entrance pays tribute to the late Walter Sisulu, after whom the gardens were re-named in 2004 (It was previously called the Transvaal National Botanic Garden). He led the struggle for a democratic South Africa with former president Nelson Mandela. There is a fountain and a bust of the stalwart in the circle with notable dates in his lifetime inscribed at the base of the bust.

7. The Crocodile River

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

Crocodile River

The Crocodile River winds through the gardens and is crossed by the Lion Bridge at one point. It is considered to be the source of the Crocodile River which flows into the Hartbeespoort Dam.

8. Amphitheatre

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden


The Amphitheatre hosts occasional concerts at the gardens. Visitors can relax on the lawns and enjoy the performances.

9. Hiking

There are several walking and hiking trails at the gardens, with the longest being 3.5 km. Starting next to the Witpoortjie Waterfall, this trail leads to the waterfall's summit and around the reserve. Be warned though that it does have some steep ascents.

10. Spot wildlife and birdlife

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

View from bird hide

The gardens are home to a wide array of wildlife, including reptiles, and small mammals such as caracals, black-backed jackals, hedgehogs, porcupines, and small antelopes. However, the wildlife tends to be shy and/or nocturnal so you may not see any. A pair of binoculars might increase your chances of a sighting​. Guided night tours also offer the opportunity to see more of the wildlife.

11. Have a picnic

12 things to do at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden 1

There are many shady spots around the gardens where one can enjoy a picnic. Porters will help you carry your picnic basket and cooler box for a small fee. However, please note that alcohol is not allowed. Also, as the garden is a conservation area, balls, bats, frisbees, skateboards, braais, and pets are not allowed.

There’s a restaurant and a tea garden, called Eagle’s Fare, if you prefer to buy food.

12. Augmented reality exhibition

There is an augmented reality art exhibition at the park until 30 September 2023 where you can see expansive, immersive works, which are part of a worldwide exhibition. You will need to download the app before you go to view the art.

Good to know

If you're planning a visit, remember to wear comfortable shoes, and pack a picnic, sunscreen, water, and a hat. ​. The experience will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed, as though you've travelled far from the city​​.

The garden is open every day from 08h00 to 17h00, except for Christmas Day and New Years Day.

Entrance fees:

Adults: R80

Children: R25

Students: R45 (Valid student card required)

Pensioners are free on Tuesdays.

Have you been there? What is your favourite thing to do at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden?

For more information, visit Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden.

Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden

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