I recently spent two days with Joburg Tourism exploring different places around town with a small group of lady bloggers/influencers. It was a strange time to embark on this journey, right as the city plunged into a third covid wave, but the event was planned weeks earlier and I really wanted to go through with it. I’ve been socially distanced from my own city for the past 18 months and felt eager to reacquaint myself.

Aloes blooming at Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens
Aloes blooming at Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. Virtually all the places we visited were outdoors and the group was masked up and socially distanced at all times.

I’m really glad I participated in this trip. Most of the places we went were places I’ve visited before, but I felt like I was seeing everything with new eyes after holing up at home for so long. I also experienced a couple of interesting new places.

Here are some pictures of the highlights.

The Wilds

Visiting the Wilds With Joburg Tourism
The elegant bridge connecting the east and west sections of the Wilds.

I’ve raved about the Wilds again and again on this blog already. But I beseech you: If you haven’t been to this amazing park in the past couple of years, please go. It’s spectacular and getting better all the time.

Yarn bombs in the Wilds
Yarn bombs on one of the Wilds’ colorful park benches.

Alexandra Township

Again, I have been to and blogged about Alexandra many times. But I had never done a tour with Maboneng Township Arts Experience and I was finally able to do that this time.

Home of Maboneng Township Arts Experience
A street in Alex that is home to the Maboneng Township Arts Experience. During “normal” times, these tours take visitors into the homes of artists and craftspeople based in Alex. We stayed outside.
Siphiwe Ngwenya of the Maboneng Township Arts Experience
Artist and entrepreneur Siphiwe Ngwenya, founder of the Maboneng Township Arts Experience.
Artist Mxolisi “Olly” Mbonjwa, who runs the Art Affair gallery in Alex. I blogged about the Art Affair a couple of years ago; it was great to go back and see Olly again. The paintings in the background are all his — I love the Basotho blanket theme.
Harry Nakeng at Alex Mall
Maboneng guide Harry Nakeng took us to see this amazing view of the Alex and Sandton skylines hidden behind the Alex Mall, which also happens to be a particularly nice shopping mall.
Nelson Mandela mural in Alexandra Township
A fun Nelson Mandela mural at Alex’s Heritage Corner, outside Mandela’s first Joburg home.

Olives and Plates

Olives and Plates is a local restaurant and catering company. I have been to their coffee shop at the Wits Art Museum but didn’t know about their beautiful, super upscale café at the Embassy building in Sandhurst. I almost never go to fancy restaurants these days so this was a treat.

Olives and Plates at the Embassy
The beautiful bar area at Olives and Plates.
Photographing fancy appetizers. Olives and Plates has a peaceful outdoor seating area by the pool.
My lunch at Olives and Plates
My salmon salad, which was both pretty and delicious.

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

I don’t think many Joburgers know there is a small museum, the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, at the Nelson Mandela Foundation offices in Houghton. The museum doesn’t seem to do much advertising and visitors must book in advance. But it’s really worthwhile. The museum is only three rooms, one of which is Mandela’s former office, and includes lots of great photographs and artefacts from Mandela’s life and career.

Nelly at the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory
Nelly Zwane takes pictures at one of the exhibits in the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory.
Nelson Mandela's office
Mandela’s former office, which is kept exactly as it was when he was alive.

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden

I’ve been to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Roodepoort many times, but it had been a couple of years and I had forgotten just how pretty it is. One of ten national botanical gardens in South Africa, Walter Sisulu is massive park best known for its huge waterfall and resident pair of Verreaux eagles. Early winter, when the aloes are in full bloom, is a great time to visit Walter Sisulu.

Walter Sisulu Garden waterfall
The waterfall comes from a natural spring and flows year-round, even during Joburg’s long dry season.

Honeydew Mazes

I’ve been wanting to check out the Honeydew Mazes, also northwest of Joburg in the West Rand, for years. I was a little disappointed when we first got there and learned that the “Maize Maze” — a maze cut into a corn field — is only open in summer (that’s when corn grows, duh), and we would be exploring the “Elemental Maze” instead.

The Elemental Maze is huge and built out of indigenous reeds (check out an aerial photo on the website). We broke into teams and spent more than an hour wandering through the maze and looking for clues to help us answer the series of riddles we were given at the start. It was actually so much fun and I highly recommend it.

Nelly in the maze
Nelly considers our list of riddles on a bench inside the maze.
Heather in the maze
Pondering which way to go. This maze is no joke. (Photo: Nelly Zwane)

Acrobranch

Acrobranch is an “Adventure Park” in Melrose (there are also eight more locations around the country) with a series of treetop ziplining and ropes courses. I blogged about Acrobranch once before a few years ago, but again, I’d forgotten how much fun (and also how terrifying) it is.

I managed to shoot a few photos while I was up in the trees and I’m pleased with the way they came out.

Anna at Acrobranch
Anna of Cabin Seekers dominates the first part of the course.
Gophari at Acrobranch
Fari, aka Gophari, also dominated. I was so proud of all of us.
Sunset at Acrobranch
Sunset at Acrobranch.

SAN Deck at the Sandton Sun

We finished our second day with a lovely dinner on SAN Deck, the roof of the Sandton Sun Hotel, which is one of the best outdoor spots in Sandton.

Bubbly on the roof of the Sandton Sun
The Sandton Sun does not allow DSLR photography in the hotel or on the roof (don’t get me started on this silly rule), so I had to sneak this shot with help from Nelly and Fari. I think it was worth the risk of getting kicked out.

Thanks so much to Joburg Tourism for organizing a really fun two days. Be safe out there, everyone.

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