I would like to offer all coastal residents an apology on behalf of all the Gauteng residents who will no doubt be flocking to your part of South Africa over December. They’ll swarm the beaches, double park and many will end up with bad sunburn after passing out post-brandy. Here’s an idea. Why don’t some of you head up to Johannesburg for a bit? If you avoid the malls it’s not such a bad place to be. Here are a few reasons why.
Delta Park: bring the kids and the dogs and let them run off lead (the dogs, that is) while you enjoy a picnic under a tree. Delta Park has 104 acres to explore. Take a slow stroll or get out the running shoes and burn off the excesses of the festive season.
Top tip: take a dog, preferably a cute small one. And train it to make puppy dog eyes at the young ladies who are strolling with their pets. It might also be a good idea to train the pooch to be on the lookout for jealous boyfriends, just in case.
Garden of Lights: a casino is an ironic place to look for festive season entertainment, but the Garden of Lights at Emperors Palace is worth visiting. Months of planning and 500km’s worth of lights make it a noteworthy visual sensation. This long-running event features over 200 character light displays and will be enjoyed by young and old.
Top tip: it gets a bit crowded. Arrive early and remind yourself that your kids will be upset if you punch Santa Clause out of frustration.
The Cradle of Humankind: perhaps the best way for Johannesburg to apologise to out-of-towners is to introduce you to the Cradle Of Humankind. This World Heritage Site is home to some of the oldest hominid fossils presently known to mankind. Palaeontology aside, the area features bicycle lanes that wind their way around some truly magnificent countryside, a few mountain biking trails, fine dining, game drives, caves to explore, fly-fishing and a relaxed atmosphere.
Top tip: book a stay-over if the budget allows it. The starry nights and early morning sunrises are breathtaking. As are the steep inclines on the cycle routes.
Entrance to the Cradle of Humankind
Botanical Gardens: I get tired just thinking about the effort that must go into maintaining these gardens. You’ll find at least three to visit – the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden in the west, the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens in Emmarentia and the Pretoria Botanical Garden in Brummeria.
Top tip: take sunblock, or you’ll end up resembling a Joburger who insists that the mid-day sun on the beach won’t burn him.
Go fish: we’re not talking about the card game, but rather the number of places in and around Johannesburg where you may be able to catch dinner. You could camp at popular places such as the Vaal Dam but you’d be better of fighting the crowds at the coast. The last few years have seen a number of small trout farms open for business. Most are in quiet, tranquil settings, have equipment for hire and give you and the kids a chance to enjoy a picnic or braai when you’re tired of hunting big ones. Try your luck at either Brookwood, Rietvlei Zoo Farm or Footloose Trout Farm.
Top tip: ensure that your “one that got away” story is believable. The likelihood of you hooking a Moby Dick sized fish in a pond not much bigger than a swimming pool is highly unlikely.