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One of South Africa’s top botanical gardens, the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Roodepoort is also one of the prettiest and a regular winner of the Gauteng Province’s ‘Best place to get back to nature’ award. The diversity of colourful plant life and scenic setting make it a popular weekend sanctuary for city dwellers.
The garden is named after Walter Sisulu, a political activist who, like his good friend Nelson Mandela, was sentenced to life imprisonment at the Rivonia Trial of 1964 and spent over a quarter of a century imprisoned. He died in 2003 and was given an official burial.
Central to the garden is the Witpoortjie Falls, surrounded by naturally occurring flora. Look out for a pair of Black Eagles that nest beside the falls, the splashes of white guano on the rocky cliff face giving away their location. From here, the Geological Interpretive Trail gives walkers a chance to climb to an elevated height and enjoy sweeping views of the gardens. Other must-visit sections of the garden are the dam and bird hide, the forest walk, the dell and the cycad garden.
Other facilities include an environmental education centre, and conference and training centres.
Occasionally, night walks are scheduled to see the various nocturnal creatures that frequent the gardens.
Keep an eye out for the gifbol (poison bulb), a beautiful round plant bursting with pink flowers. The San people use the plant’s poisonous sap to coat their hunting arrows and when the plant dies, it forms a light ball of tumbleweed for the wind to distribute its seeds.
The onsite Eagle's Fare Restaurant offers light meals from a wooden deck looking out towards the gardens. The restaurant fills up on Sundays for their buffet lunchtime specials. An alternate option is to bring along a packed picnic basket to relax on the lawns and under shady trees.
The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden lies 30km north-west of Johannesburg and is open all year round. And no matter when you visit, the gardens are alive with flowering plants, birdlife and lush manicured lawns.