Formed from part of the old Transvaal, Gauteng may be South Africa’s smallest province, but it is the country's commercial and industrial hub. It’s a highly urbanised state, containing the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Whilst both cities themselves are interesting to visit, the province also contains some beautiful countryside, wildlife and nature reserves and cultural areas that are popular sites with tourists to the area.
Pretoria, the political capital, is much more laid back than Jo’burg and is characterised by old historical buildings and tree lined streets. Whilst it has a much more mellow feel than Jo’burg, Pretoria has a plethora of cultural and historical attractions for the visitor.
The National Botanical Garden is situation just outside town, it is a must for keen botanists and incorporates more than 20,000 plant species.
Established in 1971, The Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre whose mission is to ensure the long term survival of the cheetah and wild dog is also situated just outside Pretoria. As well as being a successful breeding centre, it also provides education and gives visitors the opportunity to view cheetahs at close range and to watch them run. The centre is also home to a number of other animals including caracal, serval, rhino, kudu, giraffe and crocodile amongst others.
Many visitors to South Africa will arrive into the country by way of O.Tambo International Airport located on the outskirts of the city. Whilst many may move on quickly to other destinations, there is plenty to keep the visitor busy within the confines of the city itself.
Johannesburg or Jo’burg as it is more commonly known is the capital of the province and is an industrious city. It is full of skyscrapers, busy motorways, shopping centres and wealthy suburbs although much of this is neighbour to some very poor areas.
From city centre tours, art galleries and museums to casinos, bird sanctuarys and shopping malls the list of possible activities is endless! Sport plays a big role in the capital and large scale rugby, football and cricket stadiums are easily accessible.
Probably the most well known attraction in the Jo’burg environs is a tour of the township Soweto and an organised tour with one of our partners is highly recommended in order to develop an understanding of the history.
Sterkfontein Caves & Around
The Sterkfontein Caves are recognised as one of the most significant archeological sites in the world. You can visit the excavation site as well as the hominid exhibition which provides more information about the site. It was here that the first skull of an ‘ape-man’ was uncovered which is believed to be nearly 3 million years old. The discovery goes some way to show that erect walking creatures (hominids) were around all that time ago and shared the planet with species that have long since become extinct such as sabre toothed cats and hunting hyenas.
The appropriately named WonderCave gives visitors a chance to wander among the stalactites, stalagmites and pools that are within the cave.
The Lion Park, created back in the late 1960’s by the Chipperfields (of circus fame), is not strictly a game reserve or a zoo. It’s split into 2 distinct areas, with one providing shelter for herbivores and the other housing a number of sub areas for the carnivores. Visitors here can interact closely with the herbivores, young lion cubs, other young animals including caracal, cheetah and black leopard. Whilst the park offers a very hands on experience which may be seen as not true conservation to many, the main emphasis of this park is on education and staff use the hands on experience to help raise the profile of the animals in the wild.
The Cradle, recognised as part of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, is a 3000 hectare nature reserve equidistant from Jo’burg and Pretoria . The reserve is home to over 30 mammal species and a rich diversity of flora, fauna and over 250 bird species.
© ecoTravel Africa 2011