Most of us have a good giggle when we see tourists with safari suits, layers of sunblock and cameras around their necks but if we are honest with ourselves, very few of us take time out to see what our cities have to offer.
I grew up in the suburb of Mondeor in southern Johannesburg but it wasn’t until I was older that I realised the significance of the nearby Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve. Apart from indigenous plants, over 150 species of bird and wildlife such as zebra, the reserve is home to villages which are believed to be over 250 000 years old. Who would have thought that such an important archaeological find was less than 5km away from the home where I grew up?
A little further north history buffs can spend a morning with members of the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust on a walking tour of Johannesburg’s oldest suburbs. These suburbs are rich in history with randlords and figures such as Lord Milner, a key player in the Anglo-Boer War, all having owned or stayed on properties in the area. Check tour dates on the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust website - www.parktownheritage.co.za.
The CBD has seen a resurgence of late and with it some tour operators are giving residents and visitors a chance to see what the heart of Johannesburg has to offer. There are guided tours that incorporate some walking and the new Rea Vaya Bus Rapid Transport system. Some allow for “Amazing Race” type tours, a picnic atop the Carlton Centre or art tours. Visit www.mainstreetwalks.co.za for further information.
Durban has a similar offering - The Collective is an art gallery that promotes young artists in the city. They have recently started guided Art Tours by bus where the intention is showcase street art and give patrons some insight in to the scene. Tours kick off at The Collective gallery in Flordia Road, Morningside. Visit www.thecollective-durban.com for further information.
Cape Town, being a tourist friendly city, has a few operators that offer site-seeing and activities. For a hop-on, hop-off tour visit www.citysightseeing.co.za – they have double-decker busses that pass various attractions. The busses are frequent, which means that you can tour at your own leisure and not have to rush from one point of interest to the next. Whether you plan to visit Ratanga Junction with the family or learn more about South Africa’s history at the District Six Museum, a bus tour is a fairly inexpensive means of enjoying all that Cape Town has to offer.
The above is merely a snapshot of tours, walks and trails that can be enjoyed close to home – chances are that your suburb or a neighbouring one has rich history that you are not aware of. Your best bet is to search for hiking trails and heritage or residents associations online to find a starting point.