From breathtaking adventures to jaw-dropping expeditions, South Africa is a country of many pleasant surprises. This fact is pretty much well known. And the Gauteng Province, located in the north east part of the country, has a fair share of these surprises. It offers something to everyone.
Gauteng is an urban playground. It is the smallest of the nine provinces in South Africa, but what it lacks in geographical size, it makes up with a million thrills. There are many exciting things you can do in the Gauteng Province. Below are our top 5.
1. Explore Sterkfontein Caves
Sterkfontein Caves form part of the 200 caves found within the Cradle of Humankind located in Magaliesburg in the Gauteng Province. The Cradle of Humankind is a paleoanthropological site declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. The world-famous site is situated about an hour drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The tour of the Sterkfontein Caves takes about one hour. After carefully listening to safety tips and instructions and putting on your protective helmets, your tour will begin with a fascinating and thought-provoking walk through the Scientific Exhibition Centre with pictorial and video displays of cave formations, geology, early life forms, mammals and hominid fossils.
Before heading underground to explore the caves, your Tour Guide will introduce you to the popular but controversial Charles Darwin's theory of human evolution. You'll likely hear of phrases and words like Homo Naledi, Mrs Ples, Little Foot, hominid and fossils. Owned by the University of the Witwatersrand, the Sterkfontein Caves are said to have produced more than a third of early hominid fossils ever found before 2010.
Your tour of the Sterkfontein Caves will take you deep into the caves, negotiating through dark and tight pathways and corners. There are many steps to climb including 230 from the entrance to the deepest part of the cave and another 130 up to the exit. At certain spots, you will have to squat as low as possible and literally crawl to negotiate the dark paths. The sheer size and depth of the Sterkfontein Caves is intimidating, to say the least.
Deeper and deeper, you'll painstakingly manoeuvre through the rocky narrow paths until you get to the Milner Hall which is one of the chambers in the caves. The Millner Hall is the deepest accessible part of the cave and has a lake. The lake is as clear as it gets, but according to history, no one knows how deep it is. Getting to the Millner Hall is probably the climax of the cave expedition. And having touched the deepest part of the cave, you will begin your ascent to the top via a different, but equally tight and rocky route.
Exploring the Sterkfontein Caves is definitely an exciting milestone. At this point, it's appropriate to say that the Sterkfontein Caves adventure is not advisable if you are claustrophobic or suffer from acute asthma or chest problems. To successfully and safely explore the Sterkfontein Caves, you need more than a pair of comfortable shoes, you need guts and you need courage.
Sterkfontein Caves are open daily from 9am to 5pm. The last tour of the day departs by 4pm. Booking in advance is advisable.
2. Visit the Maropeng Museum
Situated within the Cradle of Humankind, the Maropeng Museum is a world-class exhibition site, focusing on the development of humans over the past few million years. Although the exhibitions here are based on the hominid fossil discoveries at the Sterkfontein Caves, the Maropeng Museum offers a lot more to educate not only those interested in archaeology, but also those interested in arts, nature and human demography. Beyond archaeology and evolution, the architecture here is simply incredible, it's civil engineering at its best. In fact, the museum building is a tourist attraction on its own.
At the Maropeng Museum, you'll make a journey through time, starting with the formation of the planet and moving all the way through the evolutionary processes that culminated in the world as we know it today. You will play a mind game that will test the power of your intellect by making you go through an irregularly convoluted metal stand with a metal loop without allowing the loop to touch the convoluted metal. What follows this game will blow your mind.
Perhaps, the most daring you'll do at the Maropeng Museum is taking a boat ride through the life-giving Elements of Fire, Water, Earth and Air. This adventure will take you us on boat ride via a rough, narrow, convoluted and dark underground water way. As your boat makes series of irregular movements down the tunnel in stark darkness, you'll see and physically experience the elements of fire, water, earth and air. At this point, you may unconsciously begin to recite the popular Psalm 23 (The Lord is my Shepherd). Yes, this is a journey through the valley of darkness. You will literally and metaphorically see fire. Oh no, this is not that kind of adventure you do and take selfies, you wouldn't even be able to see your face. Trust me, you've never done anything like this before.
Forget Charles Darwin's theory of evolution, Sterkfontein Caves and the Maropeng Museum are two of the places you must visit on your trip to the Gauteng Province. Beyond satisfying your curiosity, a visit to these sites will deepen your understanding of nature and primitive humanity as well as help you appreciate modern technology.
The Maropeng Museum is not just for the curious and archaeology buffs. As a tourist destination it will educate at the very least, and possibly change the way you think of yourself and the world around you. Put it in your bucket-list of travel. You can make the most of your visit to the Cradle of Humankind by getting a combined ticket that includes a visit to the Sterkfontein Caves and the Maropeng Museum.
3. Ama Zwing Zwing Ziplines
Have you got some adrenaline? If yes, then an incredible adventure awaits you at the Ama Zwing Zwing Ziplines. Situated in the picturesque Magaliesburg Mountains in the town of Hartbeespoort in the Gauteng Province, the Ama Zipline adventure will make your heart skip.
The adventure here begins with a briefing which comes in form of instructions, followed by what sounds like a warning, and then comes anxiety, increased heart beats and adrenaline rush. If there are many of you, you'll be divided in groups of eight. Each group will be led by two professional guides who will ensure your safety.
By the time the guides begin to dress you in what looks like fire-fighting gears, it'll dawn on you that this will be more fun than you had imagined. At this time, you'll have no choice than to set yourself on the loose and let your imaginations run wide and wild. If you want to do this adventure, it's important you go with all the adrenaline you can get, you'll be needing it.
The Ama Zwing Zwing Zipline is an exciting eco-adventure involving sliding from platform to platform through the air via suspended steel cables, while you get to view the games below. Does that sound too simple? Wait until you actually do it. The Ama ziplining offers a million thrills, but it's only for the adrenaline-junkee and the strong-hearted.
You will slide on 7 steel cables of different lengths over 9 towers ranging in height from 2 metres to 14 meters. You are required to mechanically apply break towards the end of each line and breaking too early will keep you hanging in the middle of the line. However, the good thing is that no matter how scared you are, you will never fall off as you are safely and securely strapped to the steel cables. There are only two things you could do while sliding on the cables: you could either scream in excitement and fear or keep calm and view the beautiful games below. But trust me, the former is the easier option.
No matter how prepared and brave you are for this adventure, anxiety is inevitable. The longest slide is 240 meters. On the highest platform which is 14 metres high, you will enjoy the breathtaking view of the surrounding Magaliesburg Mountains and the Crocodile River before going on the last laps.
The Ama Zwing Zwing Zipline is as adventurous as it is exhilarating, and you probably haven't done anything like this before. This adventure is better experienced than told. It's an amazing experience ideal for team-building, corporate activities and school groups. If you have phobia for height, this might be a good way to conquer it, and you'll have massive fun while at it. That's what we call using one stone to kill two birds.
If you have adrenaline, the Ama Zwing Zwing Zipline should be on your must-do bucket list of adventure in the Gauteng Province of South Africa.
4. Boat Cruise on Hartbeespoort Dam
If you are a 'water person', you should consider heading to the Harties Water Sports Centre in Hartebeespoort, Gauteng for a fun-filled cruise on the Hartbeespoort Dam. Fondly known as Harties, this dam has long been the hideaway and playground of the Gauteng elite. After some paper works and putting on your life jackets, you'll listen to a few instructions before heading to the water side.
If you want to be on the 'fast a lane', taking a ride on the sporty Panache Speed Boat is your best bet. The speed boat can take up to 6 people comfortably, now that's a fun way to have a group or family boat cruise. An experienced and professional boat driver will command the cruise while giving you the ride of a lifetime.
The Panache Speed Boat will take off from the Harties Harbour and do an adventurous cruise on the waters of Hartebeespoort Dam overshadowed by the Magaliesburg Mountain range. The boat moves with a great velocity, arousing a beautiful splash of 'holy' water behind you. If you've done boat cruises before, this will probably be the most adrenaline-pumping and the most adventurous. The speed of the cruise is incredible while the atmosphere is soothing and refreshing. You'll definitely enjoy the thrill while the ride lasts.
If you want to go low on speed and take things easy, you can join the bigger double-decker Danny Bouy for a daily gentle cruise or on Sunday for the Sunday Lunch Boat Cruise. Relax and enjoy the sounds of water passing underneath the boat, birds swooping over the dam and fish jumping from below while sipping your drinks and enjoying gourmet snacks.
5. Visit the Lesedi Cultural Village
Located within the Cradle of Humankind, Lesedi Cultural Village is a tourist destination which celebrates the cultures of different peoples of Southern Africa. Initiated in 1995 as a tourist attraction, Lesedi Cultural Village reproduces the original South African traditional homes and customs in 5 traditional sub villages: Xhosa, Zulu, Pedi, Basotho and Ndebele. The families that reside here on a permanent basis are primarily farmers, looking after cows, chickens and of course, tourists.
At the Lesedi Cultural Village, you'll experience rich and unadulterated African culture first hand in an African ambiance that you probably won’t find elsewhere. The spokeswoman for the village, a young lady dressed in traditional South African attire will spice up your visit with her flow, energy, and humour.
After obtaining permission from the king of the village, she will usher you in and then titillate you with her captivating narratives and enchanting demonstrations. As you tour the village, she will charmingly take you on a historical journey of the Zulu people of South Africa, explaining their culture, kingship, traditional marriage etc. If you're hoping to marry a Zulu lady here, be sure to part with 11 cows, yes 11 cows.
After a guided tour of the villages, you'll head to the Ingoma where you will watch and listen to fascinating stories of Southern Africa, beautifully told by the people of Lesedi using traditional music and dances. Here, you'll experience beautiful renditions of native folksongs, traditional dancing and wrestling. You can even show them one or two dance steps from your country.
After having an africanized time at the Ingoma, you may want to head to the Nyama Choma restaurant in the village. At the Nyama Choma restaurant, you will witness the coming together of gastronomy and tradition in an authentically African setting. The buffet service here offers an extensive and exotic choice of true pan African dishes including crocodile and ostrich meat.
Set amongst rocky hills and bushveld, the Lesedi Cultural Village is unique in more ways than one. It offers an incredible space for an excellent and authentic African experience, providing warmth, depth and insight into South Africa’s diverse and colourful cultures. If you're looking for a place to experience authentic and undiluted African culture, the Lesedi Cultural Village is it.
Depending on what your purchasing power is, you may want to make a quick stop at the Lesedi Craft Market for some last-minute shopping. The Lesedi craft market has lots of beautifully crafted souvenirs including clothes, bags, beads, corporate ties, footwears etc.
The Gauteng Province of South Africa is definitely a tourist hub and has something touristy for everyone. Make out time and visit it. You'll definitely have massive fun while giving yourself a treat in more ways than one.
Chidozie Uzoezie is a travel & tourism blogger, content creator, frequent flyer and aviation geek. He is also the Admin of the African Aviation Group on Facebook. You can reach him on firstname.lastname@example.org