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.
It's the ideal spot if you're looking for outdoorsy things to do in Gauteng that won't break the piggy bank. 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. The gardens also host regular events throughout the year such as art markets, afternoon concerts, astrological evenings and carols by candlelight.
Manicured lawns with plenty of shade provide the perfect place to picnic and relax against the backdrop of natural, rugged veld typical of this rocky area of the Highveld and kids will be excited to spot small antelope and dassies running around.
There are several short walks or longer hikes to undertake through the gardens and surrounding natural areas. The JCI Geological Trail should be a definite point of interest on the Gauteng map, for local and international visitors as it offers the opportunity to learn about the interesting geology of the area as you hike to the top of the waterfall. The trail follows a roughly circular route that takes in the upturned 2 950-million-year-old Orange Grove Quartzite over which the waterfall cascades. The fault line which forms the cliff face is pointed out by well placed signs, as well are the many interesting rock types and the vista to the north and east which overlooks the Johannesburg Dome, a major geological formation. The trail is approximately 3.5 km long and takes about two and a half hours to walk, with time for rests. There are no refuse bins and hikers are asked to take their refuse home for recycling. It is suggested hikers walk in groups, wear proper walking shoes and a hat, and to take drinking water along.
The gardens are home to breeding pairs of Verreaux’s eagles, spectacular birds of prey with a wingspan that extends from 2m to 2.8m, and visitors will find telescopes placed on the lawns so you can search the cliffs for the bird's nests. 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.
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. If you haven’t brought along a picnic Café Clivia serves light meals and refreshments. There is also an indigenous nursery and gift shop.
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).
Students (valid card needed): R22
Children (6 years to Grade 12): R12
Children under 6 years: Free
*All prices subject to change
Daily from 8am to 6pm.