Zoo Lake is one of Joburg’s most popular city parks. It has what you’d expect from a city park with a lake in it: ducks, row boats, picnickers, barking dogs, trees, park benches. But like many places around here, it has just enough South African quirkiness to be worthy of a blog post.

Zoo Lake (so named because it’s across the road from the Joburg Zoo) is less than 10 minutes’ drive from home but for some reason I hadn’t been there until a few days ago. Highlights of the park include Moyo, an African-themed restaurant next to the lake, and an island in the middle of the lake that serves as a roost for thousands of indigenous birds.

The entrance to Moyo at Zoo Lake. We didn’t eat there, although I’ve eaten at another Moyo in Joburg (there are several throughout South Africa) and found it good but a little touristy.

The Zoo Lake bird island and its resident colony of egrets.

I showed up in my running shoes; Joe walked while I ran. The lake is only a half-mile around so I got bored after about 15 minutes, but it was relaxing and mercifully flat (unlike hilly Melville). I ran a couple of laps, then strolled one time around with Joe to take pictures.

Colorful rowboats. You can see downtown Joburg in the distance, off to the left.

There are lots of geese at Zoo Lake. They’re cute, but I had a hard time dodging the goose poop while jogging.

Moyo has a beautiful rooftop deck, which I’m sure would have been a lovely place for a (pricey) post-run/walk sundowner. But instead Joe took me to a true hidden gem — the Zoo Lake Bowling Club.

No, Americans, it’s not a bowling alley. It’s a club for lawn bowling, which is like bocci on grass. Lawn bowling is a serious sport here, and Zoo Lake actually hosted the Lawn Bowls World Cup in 1976.

There were no matches going on (to my very great dismay) because we went during the holidays. But it was still a great place to sit and have a beer. For some reason I expected the atmosphere to be kind of stodgy and colonial, but it’s just the opposite. The crowd was young and diverse and the beer was cheaper than water.

Beers al fresco at the Bowling Club.

According to Joe, the Bowling Club is also a perfect place to sit at sunset and watch wild ibis soar in to roost at the Zoo Lake bird island. He says they fly in by the dozen in beautiful V formations. Unfortunately I missed out on that too — I guess the ibis also take the holidays off. But I did glimpse a solitary pair of them overhead as we walked to the car.

Nice end to a locals-only afternoon in Joburg.

%d bloggers like this: