Gauteng is a place of fascinating contradictions. While the older parts of the province proudly celebrate a history influenced by the discovery of gold, urban renewal in precincts like Maboneng and Newtown are giving rise to a funky, 21st century urban culture.
Traditional choices for visitors include cultural, historical, natural and architectural destinations, but there are also many different experiences to be had.
Here’s a list of 10 unusual things to do while visiting Gauteng:
1. Take a leap of faith
At the western cooling tower in Orlando East, Soweto, you’ll find the world’s highest suspended catch air device (SCAD) free-fall. Take the drop into the abyss, safely harnessed of course, and land in a suspended net deep inside the former Orlando water-cooling tower.
2. Get in touch with your human heritage
Visit the Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. The caves are home to fossils of modern hominins that date back more than four-million years. You need to be fairly fit to do the cave tour – expect climbing, clambering and crawling – but it’s a fascinating journey of discovery. Cap your caving experience with a visit to the Maropeng Visitor Centre, a short drive from the cave, where hundreds of fossils are displayed.
3. Shake what your mama gave ya
Taking a trip to Bounce at the Waterfall Lifestyle Centre, Midrand, is like entering a gravity-defying dimension. Old and young enjoy this unique world of bounciness, where 100 interconnected trampolines housed within huge, colourful spaces with air bags and sponge pits allow you to jump, flip and flop to your heart’s content. It’s best described as a “spring-loaded urban playground” where your inner child is given free rein.
4. It’s how we roll!
The disco roller-skating rinks of the 1970s are being reincarnated at roller rinks like RollEgoli in Bryanston, a 1 000m2 rink with semi-open sides that help keep skaters cool. It is set in a shady garden and there’s also a jungle gym, scooter track, trampoline and swings, making it most kids’ dream venue.
5. Find peace at Nan Hua
The largest Buddhist temple and seminary in Africa, Nan Hua is situated in a 2 400m2 property in the Cultura Park suburb of Bronkhorstspruit. The idea is to escape the pressures and information overload of everyday life by retreating to the temple to rejuvenate body, mind and spirit.
6. Eat fresh seafood on the beach
We kid you not! Fresh seafood is flown up to De Vette Mossel at Hartbeespoort Dam to be savoured by diners in true West Coast-style – cooked on an open fire and enjoyed at tables laid out on a carpet of beach sand. From snoek to mussels and seafood potjie, diners are welcome to eat as much as they are able of this wholesome marine fare. Bring your own drinks and a healthy appetite!
7 Book a sleepover at Gandhi’s house
More than a century ago Mohandas Gandhi lived in a humble home in Orchards, Johannesburg. Today the building is called Satyagraha House, in honour of the man and the passive resistance movement he founded. Seven rooms are set out adjacent to the original house, which doubles as a museum. Stay a night and immerse yourself in a fascinating period of South African history, depicted around you.
8. Think outside the box
A novel concept called Escape Room has become Melbourne’s highest-ranked TripAdvisor activity, and now there’s one in Gauteng. The activity requires a group of two to six people to think creatively and logically to solve a series of inventive puzzles in order to plan an escape from the puzzle room. The mind-bending, mystery activity can be enjoyed with family or friends, or as a team-building exercise with colleagues. Find it at the Rosebank Mews, Oxford Road, Rosebank.
9. Take a flight of fantasy
Well, strictly speaking the birds are the ones doing the flying; you’ll only be watching them. All the feathered action happens at the Montecasino Bird Gardens in a Tuscan-style amphitheatre, where a variety of talented birds show off with breathtaking displays of unrestrained flight. This is a great family outing that includes wandering a series of walkways, exploring the magnificent grounds, and appreciating the more than 60 bird species, mammals, reptiles and exotic animals to be found here, including a leaping lemur and slow-moving sloth.
10. Bistrot Boer’geoisie restaurant
If this traditionally South African eaterie sounds a little pretentious, that’s because it’s meant to be. A play on the Afrikaans word for “farmer”, the menu features classics such as skilpadjies (lamb’s liver wrapped in caul fat), lamb stew with dumplings, and tripe and trotters with onions. The Bistrot Boer’geoisie’s ambience is as retro as the menu, with platteland farm-style decor featuring corrugated iron, Oregon pine floors, iron pillars and a slew of South African memorabilia adding to the atmosphere.