Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens
HIKE OVERVIEW: Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens
The Botanical Gardens may not be “off the beaten track” but I always find such joy in visiting them. The Gardens in South Africa are impeccable – and with its stunning cascading Waterfall, rolling lawns that were made for cartwheels and endless nooks to explore – the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens are certainly no exception.
Go Outside Rating: ****
Trail Type: Day outing
Total Distance: 2-5 km’s
Location: Roodepoort, Johannesburg
Path Markings: Excellent
Path Conditions: Excellent
Parking: Yes, uncovered
Cell Reception: Yes
Bookings: Not required
Access Road: Paved, great condition and easy to find
WALTER SISULU NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDENS
We are spoilt in South Africa with 10 National Botanical Gardens (and many more notable gardens) which are found across the country. Most people know the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which is an easy favourite and world renowned tourist attraction – but each of our 10 gardens holds something unique in their location, heritage and attractions and they all deserve a visit, if you ever get the opportunity.
The Walter Sisulu Gardens is full of things to see and do, and you can easily spend a full day there – exploring, hiking and relaxing. Certainly the main attraction is the Witpoortjie Waterfall. Who doesnt appreciate a waterfall? I have hiked for days to get to waterfalls and even flown accross South Africa to see the special ones and yet this one, practically on my doorstep, is just as magnificent.
The Waterfall is a short walk from the entrance of the gardens. It is surrounded by grass, trees and benches and without fail, a few gorgeous bridal parties using the spray and light of the waterfall as a natural backdrop for their wedding photos.
To the right of the waterfall there is a small path that leads up the side of the falls. It is a short climb to the top lookout point which offers views of the whole Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden as well as the waterfall and the steep cliffs that surround it.
These cliffs are home to a nesting pair of Verreaux Eagles (Black Eagles), the last known pair in the area, of what used to be a thriving popultion of the rare and magnificent birds. The birds can be viewed throughout the year – if you are lucky (and patient). The top of the waterfall also marks the start of the JCI Geological Hiking Trail which extends beyond the gardens. The route is clearly marked and takes around 2.5 hours, but hiking in small groups is not recommended (for safety reasons) and unless you are Geologically inclined the best trails to explore are within the Gardens themselves.
The Waterfall is certainly a highlight at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens, but a day spent in the gardens will reveal many more wonderful features. The succulent garden is magnificent as is the Cycad garden. There are beautiful benches, statues and streams dotted around and rolling lawns that stretch in every direction. Picnicking is welcome in the gardens and you will always be able to find a quiet shaded spot.
And then there is the Sasol Bird Hide. There are 226 species of birds in the gardens, so it shouldn’t take long to spot a few of them nesting and parading at the Sasol Dam. The view from the tranquil bird hide is spectacular and the dam is surprisingly large.
Last entry into the gardens is at 5pm and the gates close at 6pm. We got rained out earlier by the summer afternoon thunderstorm – but I suppose that is as much of an authentic Joburg experience as a garden sunset, and we left feeling thrilled and exhausted from a magnificent day spent outside.
Walter Sisulu Gardens
Video Date: 25 February 2017
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There are some interesting guidelines to be followed in the gardens. For example, frisbees and ball sports are not permitted, but alcohol is (got to love South Africa). There are also no dustbins so everything that is taken in must be taken out.
Insider Tip: If the Waterfall is crowded you can follow the Fern Route Trail to a private waterfall lookout point that is secluded and beautiful.
To contact the gardens: 086 100 1278