Tortoises, Birds, Locusts, and One Fantastic Sunset

by | Oct 18, 2010 | Johannesburg, Parks/Nature Reserves | 1 comment

Joe and I spent Sunday afternoon at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden, a national botanical garden northwest of downtown Joburg. Technically it’s within the city limits but you would never guess you’re in a city while you’re there.

“Garden” doesn’t properly describe this place; it’s a large nature reserve with a complicated maze of hiking paths, a bird-watching hide, and spectacular waterfalls. The main garden area – which includes swaths of green grass and an extensive collection of indigenous and endangered southern African plants – was filled with families lugging blankets, coolers, and picnic baskets. But once we walked up into the hills we didn’t see many other people.

Our time at the garden is best described through pictures.

A general view of one of the plant gardens.

Tortoise! We saw several.

I was amazed by this bush willow tree. It must have fallen over at some point and just continued to grow horizontally.

It reaches right across the path.

Several of the branches have taken root. The tree itself grows right into this creek.

An adorable red bishop, as viewed from the bird hide. A bird hide is a wooden enclosure that allows you to look out over a pond without the birds noticing you.


Another tortoise, larger than the first. He’s probably lived on this hill for decades, if not centuries.

Joe called this a locust but it looked like a grasshopper to me. Apparently this species emits a sticky, painful venom if disturbed. It was two or three times as large as my thumb.

This creature deserved to be photographed from multiple angles.

A pair of black eagles nest near the waterfalls. They’ve lived there for 25 years. Please don’t throw stones at them. (Duh.)

The Witpoortjie waterfalls. The eagles’ nests are to the left of the falls.

Interesting view of the ridge above the falls.

Wait, you’re allowed to pet the tortoises?

Awesome. Thanks for the tip, kid.

We stayed at the garden until it closed and it was starting to get dark as we drove home. When we got to Northcliff, a suburb close to Melville, Joe turned off the main road and drove straight up. We climbed through residential neighborhoods and admired the jacarandas, which have burst into full bloom since last week’s rain. I didn’t know where we were going.

Eventually we reached the water tower at the top of Northcliff Ridge. There is a small nature reserve there with amazing views of downtown Joburg, Sandton, and the Magaliesburg mountains.

Northcliff Ridge with the Joburg suburbs below. Joe managed to time our visit perfectly with peak jacaranda-blooming.

We arrived five minutes before sunset.

I’m a little upset with Joe for waiting so long to take me to Northcliff Ridge. He says he wanted to find just the right moment to reveal it — I suppose his patience paid off.

1 Comment

  1. Preciousalchemy

    Oh wow! I must have missed this post!
    Too gorgeous….brings back lots of memories!



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