Joburg – Jozi – Johannesburg
This “city of gold” often finds its way onto many travel itineraries as the gateway to safari destinations like the Okavango Delta, Namibia and the Kruger Park. It is therefore out of necessity that travelers find themselves having to over-night in Joburg, often choosing hotels near the international airport, being weary of venturing too close.
Yes Johannesburg has a bad reputation - and yes, it gets its fair share of bad press. It’s certainly not a warm and fuzzy kind of place, and you probably would not want to spend your entire holiday exploring it. It is, however, largely misunderstood, and if you are waiting for your connecting flight you might as well scratch the surface and in the process you could well be surprised by its friendly people, great restaurants, rich political history, and the uniqueness of this crazy town.
With the successful development of the Gautrain system, it is now possible to hop on a world class fast-train that links the airport to the suburbs of Sandton, Rosebank, and recently the nearby city of Pretoria. This means that with enough time visitors can choose from a variety of hotels and guesthouses in these areas and don’t have to stay close to the bland and let’s be honest “ugly” airport area.
In 24 hours it is possible to see Soweto Township, shop at the local curio markets of Rosebank, and dine at your choice of top restaurants in Sandton. From the early days when it was a gold mining town to the modern economic powerhouse we see today, the city has always been focused on money money money.
Guided tours can stop in at many fascinating museums that exhibit the stark realities of the past politics of our country. The Aparteid Museum, Constitutional Hill and Hector Pieterson Museum are all worthwhile stops. There are also historical sites that focus on the gold and diamond mining with tours that showcase the city and all the rapid development we see today.
So next time you see “night in Johannesburg” on your African travel itinerary, it could be an opportunity to see more than just the nearest airport hotel.
A bit like Jo'burg, hyenas are often thought of as ugly, aggressive, and rather smelly, but just like Johannesburg they are often misunderstood and on closer inspection are actually rather amazing. I was recently lucky enough to spend time at a den in the wild and so dug up a few interesting hyena facts and got a couple of cute pics to go with it.
- Female dominated society, males are submissive
- Capable of digesting bones and teeth within hours of ingestion
- Hyenas are suckled for 8 months to a year or more relying on their mother’s milk
- Due to well established hierarchical social structure, fighting with the clan is rare
- Spotted hyenas scavenge but also hunt independently and cooperatively as a clan
So next time you see a hyena, take a second to consider its complex behavioral patterns and its unique survival ability. They really are incredible.
Rocktail Bay –where you can see whales, turtles, and hippos in a single day
Situated along a special part of South Africa’s coastline is iSimangaliso Wetland National Park a World Heritage Site. The park protects the delicate coastal dune forests, unique fresh water lakes, and a vital marine ecosystem. We recently explored this area from Rocktail Bay, one of Wilderness Safaris adventure-style camps.
The camp is set back from the beach and is well hidden in the indigenous coastal forest. Wilderness Safaris pride themselves on their environmentally friendly camps and Rocktail lives up to this reputation and commitment to the environment.
For us the big draw at Rocktail has to be the yearly nesting and hatching of turtles that come back to the same beach every year to lay their eggs in the sand. We were unfortunately a little early for the nesting which usually starts in October and goes through until February/March. The knowledgeable guides wake guests up in the night to go down to the beach and watch these giants of the sea pull themselves up and lay their nests. Rocktail Bay has played a huge role in research and protection of Loggerheads, Leatherbacks and Greenback Turtles, working with universities to gather important information on the species. We will have to return one day to witness the turtles laying, although we still got to snorkel along the shore, take long walks on the empty beach and a guided drive to see Hippos at Lake Sibaya (the largest fresh water lake of its kind in Africa). At the end of a few wonderful days, we left wanting to stay longer and enjoy the relaxation that comes with an isolated beach holiday.
The area is also a birders' paradise, scuba divers' treasure chest, and marine biologists' heaven. They cater for families with children, which is great to know especially since Susie is pregnant and we are expecting our first child in April next year (breaking African Avenue news!)