South Africa travel information accommodation guide
  www.South-Africa.org.za
 Gauteng Province
 
Gauteng Introduction
 
Gauteng Province, South Africa

Welcome to Gauteng, ‘The Place of Gold' - the economic heart of South Africa, a place where cultures collide and humankind began. Experience the vibe of Soweto township, the modern city of Johannesburg, or take a trip back in time to the heart of Gauteng at the Cradle of Humankind, home to Mrs Ples, a skull thought to be over 2.5 million years old. Shoppers will take delight in the many attractions that Johannesburg's Sandton has to offer, while adventurers will seek their thrills while hang-gliding, skydiving or ballooning over the great plains.

A visit to the Magaliesburg mountains is a must – just a ninety minute drive north-west of Johannesburg. Be mesmerised by spectacular scenery with breathtaking rock formations, rushing waterfalls and ambling streams. There is also plenty on offer at the nearby Sun City and The Lost City, with a casino, shops, golf course and even a man-made beach, with plenty of entertainment on offer for the children. If resorts are not your thing, nature lovers will love Gauteng's beautiful botanical gardens, bird sanctuaries and nature reserves, where you can see Africa's big five or visit a number of interesting archaeological and geological sites. There truly is something for everyone in Gauteng, making a visit to the heart of South Africa well worth the trip!

 
Top Ten Attractions
 
The Cradle of Humankind
This beautiful region covers an area of 47 000 hectares and comprises of a strip of twelve dolomitic limestone caves, home to the fossilised remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and hominids, the dolomite having started out as coral reefs in warm shallow waters over two billion years ago. This area is of great scientific significance, offering a glimpse into the past, a time when our earliest ancestors were starting to evolve. The Cradle of Humankind is a unique and awe-inspiring place to experience nature, culture and history. Explore the caves with a tour guide, take a game drive, or enjoy the magnificent scenery on a hiking or mountain bike trail – something for everyone and plenty to see.
 

Sterkfontein Caves

Visit one of the most productive and important palaepanthropological sites in the world where the first adult ape-man was found in 1936. Over the years the caves have revealed fossils over three millions years old, including skull, jaw and teeth fragments of early hominids. Sterkfontein is most famous for being home to 'Mrs Ples', a skull thought to be over 2.5 million years old . The site is also renowned for studies carried out on fossilised fauna, wood and stone tools which were made, used and left behind by hominids. The Sterkfontein Caves can be found about 10km from Krugersdorp in the Edwin Stegmann Reserve, and a section of the cave is open to the public, with a viewing platform available to see the excavation site. There is also a tea-room and museum offering information on important findings within the caves.
 
The Lion Park

Visit this 208 hectare park near Lanseria Airport north of Johannesburg, and see a range of carnivores in their natural habitat. Take in the beautiful scenery as you enjoy the abundance of Africa's wildlife, including white lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, leopards and hyenas, as well as other game species in the antelope area. Enjoy the animals at your leisure on your own game drive, or experience a guided night drive if you want to try something different. A walk through Cub World is a must to see lion or hyena cubs, and even have the opportunity of playing with them while you learn from the guides. The Lion Park also offers a restaurant, picnic area and gift shop.

 
Soweto Township
A guided tour through this vibrant township is a must for any visitor to Johannesburg. Take in the sights, sounds and smells of the township, from open-air butcheries and herbalists to the traditional Shebeens (drinking houses) where residents enjoy local beer. Stop off for a delicious lunch at one of Soweto's township restaurants, and taste tradition fare such as samp and beans or for the stronger stomach, tripe and steamed bread. Experience how many South Africans survive in a squatter camp as the friendly locals show you around their homes, and if you are lucky you might get to see the local children putting on a spontaneous dance! It is advised that visitors book with a recognised tour operator to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
 
The Hector Pieterson Museum

The Hector Pieterson Museum in Soweto was built to pay tribute to the 566 people who died in the student uprising following events of the 16 th of June 1976 when students marched through Soweto to protest the use of Afrikaans as the primary language of educational instruction. The museum was named after the first casualty of the uprising – captured in a haunting picture of the fatally wounded child being carried by a terrified student and accompanied by Pieterson's screaming sister. The museum is next to Pieterson's memorial where visitors can see exhibits and television footage, with the help of knowledgeable tour guides including Pieterson's sister, Antoinette Sithole.

 
The Johannesburg Zoo
Only ten minutes from the city centre, the Johannesburg Zoo offers over 2000 individual animals, including 375 species of animals, birds and reptiles. The Johannesburg Zoo offers a number of interesting tours, including day and night safaris within the zoo, behind the scenes tours and bird exhibits. The Johannesburg Zoo prides itself on the accommodation, enrichment, medical care and breeding of wild animals, and is geared towards conservation, education and research, offering a great opportunity to see and learn about wild animals that would otherwise be difficult to view – a great place for families with children.
 
The Apartheid Museum

A visit to the Apartheid Museum just outside of Johannesburg should be on the agenda for anyone wanting to understand and experience South Africa's turbulent past. The museum stands as a symbol of hope to show the world how South Africa is accepting the past and working towards a better future. The exhibits have been designed by a team of curators, film-makers, historians and designers, and are a mix of film footage, photographs, text and artefacts illustrating the lack of humanity that was apartheid. A series of 22 individual displays takes the visitor through an emotional exploration of racial discrimination - a must to anyone wanting to truly understand South Africa's past and its journey to the future.

 
Gold Reef City

A trip to this recreated gold mining village is a must for any visitor wanting to experience olden day life and understand the history of gold mining in Gauteng, the place of gold. Take an underground tour of a gold mine, see liquid gold transformed into solid gold bars or take in the olden day charm of the recreated town with its authentic hotel and period costumes. Gold Reef City also boasts a thrilling entertainment park, with adventure rides, restaurants, site seeing tours, a working mint and grand slam casino. With so much to see and do for the whole family a whole day is needed to truly experience Gold Reef City in its entirety.

 
MuseuMAfrica
Learn the story of South Africa at this history and cultural history museum in Johannesburg. Originally a fruit and vegetable market, the converted museum now houses an impressive collection of paintings, objects and photographs collected since 1935, telling the story of South Africa. The themed permanent exhibits show urban life in Johannesburg, including that of a gold miner, shack and township dweller, and township jazz. There is also a thought provoking display of the 1956 Treason Trial during which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Other displays show early man as well as bushman rock art – MuseuMAfrica is an opportunity to see all aspects of South African life, past and present.
 
The Walter Sisulu Gardens
Visit this beautiful garden covering nearly 300 hectares of landscaped garden and natural grassland in Roodeport. Be awestruck by the breathtaking waterfall or get energetic on one of the many walking and hiking trails. The Garden is home to an abundance of wildlife, including 220 species of bird, as well as reptiles and small mammals, including small antelope and jackal. Bird lovers will be amazed to see the only pair of nesting Verreaux's Black Eagles in urban Johannesburg, who make their home on the rock face alongside the waterfall. The Walter Sisulu Gardens also hosts regular art exhibitions as well as symphony concerts.
 
Major Events & Festivals
 
The FNB Dance Umbrella
This exciting festival takes place in February and March in Johannesburg, and presents work from top contemporary choreographers in South Africa, as well as international dance companies from places such as Holland and Germany. The festival was started in 1988, and has since launched the careers of many talented South African choreographers. It is a must see for anyone keen on dance and theatre.
 
Cellar Rats Wine Festival

A trip to Magaliesberg in August for the Cellar Rats Wine Festival is a must for those wanting to enjoy a day of wine tasting, picnicking and natural surroundings. Enjoy the lush shady trees, soft grass and abundance of birdlife along the banks of the Magalies River, as you taste over 350 wines produced by some 60 cellars. Children are welcome to run around the lawns and designated drivers get in for free! This festival is a great opportunity to enjoy the beautiful Magaliesberg region – worth staying a weekend before heading back to the city.

 

Joy of Jazz
With a lineup of over 35 local and international jazz artists, the Joy of Jazz which takes place in August, is the biggest annual jazz festival in Johannesburg. It showcases a range of music styles, and has something for everyone, with events happening throughout the city, playing international jazz as well as South African influenced jazz. It also offers the opportunity of new artists entering the scene.
 
Arts Alive

This annual arts event has been held in Johannesburg at the beginning of September since 1992, and features a mix of dance, visual, art, poetry and music at venues throughout the city. Enjoy four days of local and international talent, with a main concert being held at Johannesburg Stadium, with past line-ups including international superstars 50 Cent and Busta Rhymes. The festival ends on the last day with the popular Jazz on the Lake at Zoo Lake, a popular and exciting event.

 
Adventure
 
Balloon Safari
For a truly unique and special experience try a hot balloon safari over the Magaliesberg mountains. Experience panoramic views as you sip champagne, while hovering gently above rivers and valleys, hearing nothing but a distant bird calling and the occasional blast of hot air. After touching back down to earth enjoy a delectable breakfast before taking home your memories of a day in the sky – an unforgettable experience not to be missed.
 
Paintball

For a sport with a difference, take an afternoon off to enjoy a game of paintball on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Armed with paint filled gelatine capsule guns, team members play on pre-set terrains and strategise to obtain the enemy flag, ‘shooting' opposing members who come in their paths. So if you love adventure and have a competitive spirit, an afternoon of paintball is a great option.

 
Arts, Culture & History
 
The Voortrekker Monument

Visit this impressive monument near Pretoria built to honour the Voortrekkers (pioneers). As you enter the monument through giant teak doors you will be met with the awesome sight of a massive high domed hall with marble floors and a stunning marble frieze consisting of 27 marble panels sculpted from Quercetta Italian marble, depicting the trials, sorrows and heroism of the Great Trek which took place between 1835 and 1852. The Cenotaph is the main focus of the monument, and at 12 o'clock on the 16 th of December every year a ray of sunlight shines from the roof arches onto the centre of the Cenotaph illuminating the words: “We for thee, South Africa”, symbolic of God's blessing on the Voortrekkers. The architect, Gerard Moerdijk succeeded in designing a monument that ‘would stand a thousand years to describe the history and the meaning of the Great Trek to its descendants'.

 
Constitution Hill

This national heritage site has seen a century of South African history, from Boers fighting the British in the early 1900's, to the young people struggling for freedom in the Soweto Uprising, and finally the new beginnings of democracy and the building of South Africa's new Constitutional Court. Take a guided tour to learn more about South Africa's past and see the process of how democracy was instituted and freedom protected. Visit the original prison where struggle heros were once held, including Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela - hte old prison is now a living museum dedicated to human rights. From British war prisoners to treason trialists, Constitution Hill has seen it all, and is worth a visit for a better understanding of today's South Africa.

 
Lesedi African Lodge
A trip to the Lesedi African Lodge is a must for anyone wanting to experience the excitement and warmth of true rural African culture. The lodge is set amongst the pristine bushveld less than an hour's drive from Johannesburg, and a two-day visit offers visitors the opportunity to tour Zulu, Xhosa, Basotho, Ndebele and Pedi homesteads. Visitors will also enjoy traditional song and dance at the Boma as well as traditional North, East and Southern African delicacies. There are also craft markets to take home traditional African crafts.
 
South African Museum of Military History

This informative museum is the only one of its kind in South Africa, showcasing a captivating array of war vehicles and weapons, capturing the military history of southern Africa. The museum houses over 44 000 pieces, divided into 37 categories, including war art, photographs, medals, uniforms, weapons, medicine and other memorabilia. Aviation enthusiasts will be mesmerised by the impressive collection of rare aircraft, including the Me 262 B-1a/U1, the only night fighter version of this aircraft still in existence. See the history of war and conflict in South Africa, from the Anglo-Zulu war right through to the Umkhonoto-we-Sizwe resistance movement - an interesting and informative museum that history buffs will be sorry to miss!

 
Standard Bank Gallery
Situated in the heart of downtown Johannesburg, the Standard Bank Gallery boasts a dynamic exhibition of award winning works. It has a reputation for being one of South Africa's foremost fine art galleries, showcasing the works of both South African and international artists, keeping up to date with international trends. The gallery also has excellent acoustics and regularly plays host to concerts and recitals.
 
Shopping
 

Gauteng is truly a shopper's paradise, with something to suit everyone's tastes and pocket. The many craft markets and roadside vendors sell everything from African masks and wooden carvings to beaded creations, toys and local crafts. Craft markets will also have plenty of clothes and other textiles on offer, as well as second-hand goods, jewellery and collectables, all at bargain prices.

The many shopping malls offer the usual chain stores and cinemas, as well as designer labels, curios, local produce and restaurants, or buy top quality local art at one of Johannesburg's many galleries. Gauteng's malls and markets also offer an excellent opportunity to sample everything from unusual local cuisine such as mopane worms to quality food prepared by top chefs. Major malls in Gauteng include Menlyn Park in Tshwana (Pretoria), Sandton City in Johannesburg's finance district, Eastgate near Johannesburg International Airport, and Southgate close to Soweto Township.

 
Climate
 

Gauteng offers warm, still summer days with crisp, clear winters. Johannesburg has a mild climate, with warm African sunshine from October to March in summer. Summer temperatures range between 15° and 26° C, with plenty rain usually falling now rather than in winter, offering frequent but short thunder and lightning storms (and occasional hail) in the late afternoon, cooling the humidity down to a comfortable level to enjoy cool, balmy evenings. There is a short chilly but dry winter spell from July to August, with temperatures cooling to between 4° and 17° C, often leading to early morning frosts.

Pretoria has a similar climate to Johannesburg, although being on a slightly lower altitude it tends to be slightly warmer. Pretoria is also a summer rainfall region, offering hot but rarely uncomfortable weather, with heavy rains and short summer thunderstorms occurring between November and February.