People from outside the province have some dubious misconceptions which deserve to be challenged, so we let Dawn Robertson, the CEO of Gauteng Tourism, talk back to the misguided:
You don’t go to Gauteng for nature and wildlife! WHAT DO YOU KNOW?
Less that 120km from the centre of Johannesburg is the Dinokeng Game Reserve, the only free roaming Big 5 Game Reserve in the province. This fabulous reserve near Hamanskraal is a collection of privately own lodges and features a recently opened self-drive route. Askari Lodge also has the Big 5, but the elephants are habituated and the lions are in an enclosure where they are fed. But of course there are numerous other small reserves which are excellent such as Roodeplaat, Rietvlei, Groenkloof, Abe Bailey. Then there are small reserves like Kloofendal and Melville Koppies and botanical gardens in Johannesburg, Roodepoort and Pretoria. Birding specialists will tell you that a few hours of birding in Pretoria will yield more species than the same period of time in Cape Town. So we have a fantastic and diverse environment.
Gauteng is unwelcoming to foreign nationals! WRONG!!
If you walk through Johannesburg with a smile on your face, you may easily meet a car guard from the Democratic Republic of Congo or Nigeria, a restaurateur from Portugal or India and a professional from Zimbabwe or the UK. There are Chinese communities in Cyrildene, Jewish communities in Yeoville and Ethiopian Communities in central Johannesburg. These people may be the first, second or third generation from other parts of the world, and they contribute to making Gauteng more cosmopolitan and international and are welcomed by the vast majority of locals. Whether visitors or residents, they love Gauteng because of the province’s vast positive energy.
Gauteng is unfriendly- it’s all work and no play in Gauteng! ARE YOU KIDDING?
Gautengers work hard and play hard, so if you meet them in the work place you may think they are tough, uncompromising and very serious. But when you meet them outside of working hours they are hospitable, friendly and genuinely interested in people from other parts of the country and the world. There is a growing body of residents in Gauteng who take great pride in the fabulous shops, restaurants, clubs, sports venues, shows, exhibitions and events that the city hosts and they are always willing to show friends and relatives a good time in Africa’s greatest urban centre.
Gauteng is expensive! ARE YOU CRAZY?
Although there are certainly elite shops in parts of Johannesburg which lead the wealthy to buy another bag to cart their swag, there is also an excellent diversity of reasonably priced and high quality goods for discerning shoppers with limited funds. Shopping tourism is on the rise as a niche market and Gauteng is the African destination of choice for people who want to have a huge range of goods for commercial resale or personal consumption.
Gauteng is grimy! RUBBISH!!
You can find grime in every city in the world if that’s what you are after, but Jo’burg in particular has created some inner city spaces that are remarkable models for inner city regenerations and rejuvenation. The Maboneng Precinct in downtown Jo’burg is a superb example, with art galleries, shops, restaurants and even a unique cinema which is a model example of an area which has never been cleaner, more attractive or better designed. The Braamfontein Precinct where the Neighbourgoods Market is held every Saturday is another example. Areas like Parkview, Parkhurst and Rosebank continue to be clean, attractive and vibey. Rosebank is also accessible via the Gautrain, which also goes to Sandton another highly sought after shopping and entertainment area.
Gauteng townships are unsafe! COMPLETELY UNTRUE!!
The area around Vilakazi Street in Soweto is entertaining attractive and really vibey…there are historical sites such as Mandela House and Hector Pieterson Memorial and an increasing number of very professional and attractive restaurants, and despite the flow of entertaining musicians, dancers, singers and performers the area has a very safe and friendly feel. From there, you can explore Soweto on a bicycle tour, or bungee jump from the colourful Orlando towers with absolute peace of mind. Other similar hives of entertainment and hospitality are springing up in Alexandra, Tembisa and Mamelodi. Security is low key, but these precincts are kept absolutely safe because the community of local tourism operators, guides and entrepreneurs believe in looking after their visitors in the best way they can.
Gauteng is not a vacation location! GIVE US A BREAK!!
When once you explore Gauteng properly you will be stunned and shocked at the vast variety of leisure options which exist in the province. A good sampler is the City Sightseeing Bus which makes a circuit which takes in about a dozen of Jo’burg’s hot-spots and places of interest like Constitution Hill, Apartheid Museum and Gold Reef City and it also links up with the Gautrain at Park Station. A short train trip could get you to Pretoria which has the Freedom Park, the Ditsong Museum, the Union Buildings and host of attractive historical sites. Nearby to this city is the charming village of Cullinan where the world’s largest diamond was once found, as well as Roodeplaat Dam and the Dinokeng area which includes a Big 5 game reserve and vast tracts of pristine bushveld. One should not forget about the host of attractive venues on the Vaal River, the majestic Magaliesberg Mountains or the massively significant Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. The best way to start to understand this remarkable 53 000Ha gem is to visit the Interpretation Centre Complex which consists of the iconic Maropeng and the world famous Sterkfontein Caves.