Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden
One of the eight botanical gardens in South Africa, the Walter Sisulu Gardens in Roodepoort is a haven for birds, reptiles and small mammals, and those wanting to escape the bustle of city life. Part manicured laws, part nature reserve, the focal point is the waterfall, the cliffs of which are home to a breeding pair of Verreaux’s Eagles so be sure to take your binoculars along to see if you can spot them. In addition, look out for the 220 varieties of birds, and the number of reptiles and small mammals, including antelope and jackal, which can be found in the gardens.
Picnic on the lawns, go bird spotting at the hide, take a stroll through the water-wise garden, cycad garden, succulent rockery, fern garden, or browse through the indigenous nursery and gift shop. A number of leisure events take place throughout the year including afternoon concerts, astrological evenings and carols by candlelight.
The Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden, located in Roodepoort about 30km west of the city centre, is one of eight botanical gardens in South Africa. The land was originally donated to the people of Roodepoort in 1982 and five years later the Roodepoort and Krugersdorp city councils opened it to the public on a daily basis. In March 2004, the garden was renamed the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in honour of Walter Sisulu (1912-2003), a champion of South African freedom, an anti-apartheid activist, and a leading member of the African National Congress (ANC).
The garden has a range of 600 naturally occurring plant species, 220 varieties of birds, and a number of reptiles and small mammals, including antelope and jackal.
Manicured lawns with plenty of shade provide the perfect place to picnic and relax against the backdrop of natural, rugged veld typical of rocky, Highveld grassland and savanna. There are areas of dense bush in kloofs (ravines) and along streams that are maintained as a nature reserve. A water-wise garden, cycad garden, succulent rockery, fern garden, dam, bird hide and an arboretum have been established, as has an environmental education centre.
The garden is a popular leisure spot, with its central waterfall the focal point. In the late 1800s, the Witpoortjie (“white gate”) Waterfall was named after the nearby Witpoortjie Station. In those days, Johannesburgers would disembark and walk down to the falls for a day of leisure. At the falls today you will find visitors eagerly hoping to spot the resident pair of rare Verreaux’s eagles that nest on the steep, inaccessible cliff.
Verreaux’s eagles are spectacular birds of prey, with a wingspan that extends from 2m to 2.8m. The pairs are monogamous, bonding for many years. Some years ago the male eagle disappeared, soon followed by the female, and it was feared that the carefully monitored 40-year breeding programme would end. However, the female miraculously reappeared with a young male as a companion.
There are several short walks or runs through the garden and surrounding natural areas, and those feeling energetic can head for the top of the waterfall. The JCI Geological Trail offers the opportunity to learn about the interesting geology of the area and guided tours can be arranged for groups.
The busy programme of events in the garden includes, among others, a spring plant fair, picnic concerts on alternate Sunday afternoons, astrological evenings, solar eclipse celebrations and carols by candlelight in December. Café Clivia, the garden’s restaurant, offers light meals and refreshments. Picnicking is encouraged but no braais or gas fires are permitted and the “carry-in carry-out” litter policy requires that all waste is taken out of the garden for home disposal. An indigenous nursery and gift shop make for interesting shopping.
The best time to visit the garden is late spring or summer, when the shrubs are in flower.
Students (need card) and pensioners (60 plus): R22
Children (6 years to Grade 12): R12
Children under 6 years: Free
Daily from 08h00 to 18h00
If you’re driving along Beyers Naudé or Hendrik Potgieter in the direction of the R28/N14 Pretoria/Krugersdorp highway in Roodepoort, turn left into Peter Road and right into Malcolm Road. The garden is at the end of Malcolm Road. From Ontdekkers Road, turn right into CR Swart, which becomes Peter Road, and left into Malcolm