The Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden is not something one would expect to see in the greater Johannesburg area. Situated below the dramatic, 200-metre-high cliffs of the Roodekrans Ridge in the West Rand, the beautiful expansive garden is like a lush oasis amid the concrete structures. Established in 1982, it is one of South Africa’s nine National Botanical Gardens. The Garden have been voted the best place to get back to nature in Gauteng for 9 years in a row.
I had last been there when my kids were toddlers, which was a very long time ago. For the past few months, we had been wanting to go there for a picnic and we finally got an opportunity during the school holidays. It was a hot day but the weather inside the garden was cooler, and perfect for a picnic.
As we parked our car, we were greeted by porters who offered to take our “luggage” for us on their trolleys, to a picnic spot for R20. We took up the offer, paid the entrance fees and found ourselves a nice shady spot with benches. After a good meal, we set off to explore the gardens.
Spanning almost 300 hectares, the gardens have over 600 plant species, 220 bird species and some small mammals. The most famous residents however are a breeding pair of Verreaux’s Eagles that nest in the cliffs alongside the waterfall. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see them. Perhaps it would have been a good idea to take our binoculars with.
The Gardens were busy but not crowded. The picturesque waterfall is the main attraction here. It falls into a pool at the bottom. The landscaped lawns are divided into different sections and creatively sculptured benches dot the grounds. Long and short hiking trails surround the garden. There is a dam with a bird hide where one can relax and observe the resident birds.
Near the restaurant, there is a kids’ playground area and a small colourful train which takes little kids for a ride around the gardens. An ice cream van sells soft-serve ice creams. The amphitheatre plays host to occasional concerts.
As the garden is a conservation area, balls, bats, frisbees, skateboards, braais, pets etc are not allowed.
We had a lovely family outing at the gardens and left feeling relaxed. It felt as though we had been somewhere far away from Johannesburg.
For more information and current prices, visit the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden website. Pensioners can visit free on Tuesdays.
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