Egoli and Surroundings | 225km

Johannesburg Skyline at SunsetJohannesburg Skyline at Sunset

JOHANNESBURG

Johannesburg, the business and financial capital of South Africa, developed after the discovery of the Main Reef by George Harrison and George Walker on the farm Langlaagte in March 1886. The site of this significant discovery can be seen in George Harrison Park, about 11 km west of the city centre. The discovery of gold resulted in a rush of fortune-seekers, and a shanty town of over 2 000 inhabitants sprung up. Laid out on the farm Randjieslaagte, the settlement was named after Johann Rissik, an official in the office of the Surveyor-General of the Transvaal Republic, and Christiaan Johannes Joubert, chief of mining and a member of the Volksraad (Parliament).

Also known as eGoli, a Sotho name meaning 'city of gold', Johannesburg 3 is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, and its attractions as a destination for South African holidays, are many and varied. Among the most important are Gold Reef City and Soweto, South Africa's most famous black city - comprising 27 townships and 30-odd informal settlements. Tours of Soweto have become popular, and a number of outfits offer such excursions. MuseumAfrika, in the city centre, focuses on the peoples of southern Africa, and incorporates the Geological Museum, Museum of South African Rock Art and the Bensusan Museum of Photography. Johannesburg's other museums focus on themes as diverse as the history of the dynamite industry and music to Judaism, period costumes and military history.

Popular outdoor attractions include the 100-ha Herman Eckstein Park, with its zoological gardens, Melville Koppies, an important archaeological site, Delta Park and Melrose Bird Sanctuary. There are several cultural villages in close proximity to the city centre, among them Phumangena Zulu Kraal, Lesedi Cultural Village and Sibaya Zulu Kraal. Also of cultural interest is the Gertrude Poset Gallery with its fine collection of beadwork, masks, headdresses and other forms of African art from southern, central and western Africa. The city also has a wide range of galleries, jazz clubs, restaurants and theatres to choose from, promising truly unique experiences for those considering interesting destinations for South African holidays.

WITWATERSRAND NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDEN

...is one of eight National Botanical Gardens run by the National Botanical Institute. Covering 225 ha of landscaped gardens, lawns and natural vegetation, the garden is set against the backdrop of the impressive 70-m-high Witpoortjie Waterfall. In addition to protecting one of the few remaining patches of undisturbed highveld vegetation, the gardens contain an arboretum of indigenous trees, a marsh garden, collections of indigenous shrubs, cycads and succulents and a garden devoted to ferns and shade-loving plants. The cliffs of the waterfall are home to a famous breeding pair of black eagles. In addition to the walkways there is a geological trail, a bird hide overlooking Sasol Lake, an interpretive centre and a restaurant.

CRADLE OF HUMANKIND

...is the collective name for the fossil hominid sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and environs which were declared a World Heritage Site in 1999. Situated in the dolomite hills north of Krugersdorp, Sterkfontein is one of the richest early hominid (early human) sites in the world. Significant finds made here include Mrs Ples, the first complete hominid skull (discovered in 1947), and the fossil skeleton of Little Foot, a 3,3-million-year-old human-like primate unearthed in 1998. To date, over 600 hominid fossils, thousands of animal fossils, fragments of fossil wood and over 9 000 stone tools have been uncovered in 12 sites within the area since archaeological excavations began here in the 1920s. The Sterkfontein caves refer to a number of underground chambers with magnificent stalagmites, stalactites and other flowstone formations.

There are guided tours of the caves, and the adjoining Robert Broom Museum has displays on human evolution and background on the origins and archaeological work carried out at the cave. As such the location provides a marvelous glimpse into human history for visitors on South African holidays.

The Sterkfontein caves also features the Wonder Cave, a huge subterranean cavern featuring stalactites and stalagmites up to 15 m high, and the Old Kromdraai gold mine. The gold reef was discovered in 1881 and was proclaimed a public digging in December 1885, the first such proclamation on the Witwatersrand.

BARTON'S FOLLY

...was built during the South African War in 1901 to guard the entrance to Hekpoort, a narrow kloof through the southern slopes of the Magaliesberg, and formed part of a line of blockhouses in the Magaliesberg. Built under the supervision of Major-General Geoffrey Barton, Commanding Officer of the 6th (Fusilier) Brigade, its unusual shape - which differed from the typical two-storey blockhouses of the time - earned it the name Barton's Folly.

MAGALIESBERG

Rising 330 m above the surrounding plains, the Magaliesberg is the most conspicuous of the three parallel quartzite ridges dominating the landscape north of Johannesburg. With a length of about 170 km it stretches in an arc from just south of Rustenburg to Pretoria and then eastwards to the Bronkhorspruit Dam, forming a natural divide between the highveld and the bushveld. Originally named the Cashan Mountains, the Voortrekkers named the range after Mogale, a Tswana chief, and corrupted it to Magaliesberg. Dissected by numerous kloofs with crystal-clear streams, waterfalls and pools, the range is home to over 150 bird species, including three breeding colonies of the Cape vulture and a variety of other raptors, kingfishers, crimsonbreasted shrike, the elusive African finfoot and the Marico flycatcher. Animals occurring here include leopard, brown hyaena, mountain reedbuck, bushbuck, klipspringer and baboon. Although the Magaliesberg is almost entirely private property, most of the range was declared a Natural Area in 1977 and a Protected Natural Environment in 1993.

HARTBEESPOORT DAM

...was built in 1923 to provide water for an irrigation scheme downstream. Water from the dam, which has a maximum depth of 45 m and a capacity of 186 million m3 when full, is fed into a network of irrigation canals totalling 547 km in length. With a height of 59 m, the 149,5-m-long dam wall spans the narrow gorge cut between Kommandonek and Silkaatsnek by the Crocodile River, a tributary of the Limpopo River. A single-lane road passes through a short tunnel and then runs along the dam wall, which is decorated with a Roman-style triumphal arch. Covering nearly 19 km2 when full, the dam has long been a popular playground with power-boating, water-skiing, yachting and freshwater angling enthusiasts. In the villages nestling along the shore may be found a profusion of art and craft shops, art galleries and studios, farm stalls and restaurants. Visitors can ascend by cable car to the summit of the Magaliesberg (a popular hang-gliding venue). The Hartbeespoort Aquarium is one of the largest freshwater aquariums in Africa.

DE WILDT CHEETAH AND WILDLIFE CENTRE

Since its establishment in 1971 by Anne van Dyk and her brother Godfrey, the centre has received international acclaim for its work in the breeding of endangered animals. Starting off with nine cheetah, the centre's breakthrough came in March 1975 when the first cubs were born in captivity. Although notoriously difficult to breed, nearly 500 cheetah cubs have been born at De Wildt since then. In 1978, a wild dog breeding project was initiated and also proved to be successful, followed by the birth of the first ever captive-bred king cheetah. This enabled zoologists to prove that the king cheetah was an abnormally marked variant and not a sub-species of the cheetah. Several king cheetah have since been bred at De Wildt.

Another milestone in the centre's history was the release in the Karoo National Park in 1994 of six riverine rabbits bred in captivity, nine years after a breeding programme started in 1985 at De Wildt. One of South Africa's most endangered mammals, a specimen was caught near Victoria West in 1979, 32 years after the last one was captured. Among the other species bred at De Wildt are brown hyaena, black-footed cat, suni and Egyptian vulture - a species which has become extinct in South Africa. Two-hour guided tours enable visitors to see the animals, which are kept in large enclosures, in near-natural surroundings.

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