Tuesday, March 20, 2012

South Africa Series: What to do in and around Jo’burg

The possibilities are endless. Besides finding great places to eat, which I will write about in the next article of this series, there are many ways to keep one’s self thoroughly entertained in Jo’burg. Here are a few of my favs:

You are going to want to take advantage of having the “National Geographic Channel” in your backyard. You have only to drive but a few hours from the center of Jo’burg to witness nature at its best; wild and untamed. Here are my top three picks:

Lion Park: This is an absolute must-do if you are in the area. First, you are greeted by the friendliest Giraffe  and wild ostriches. You can then opt to drive around the enclosures containing the lions, other carnivores, and the herbivores in your own vehicle or you can join the safari group; either way it is tres exciting! Save the best part for last: playing and taking pictures with the cubs and other tamed* animals; this is a memory you will treasure forever. 
ps. The Crocodile Farm is nearby and is worth a quick peek!

Elephant Sanctuary: Perhaps one of my most humbling, but thoroughly exhilarating experiences. Naturally I was a bit afraid of the elephants. At one point I looked up past my shoulders and was awestruck by the size of these majestic creators. They were even bigger than what I had imagined and I felt like a pea standing next to them. The sanctuary is a safe-haven for these gentle-giants so the small fee you pay to be honored by their presence goes a long way in preserving the elephants and their habitats.
The tour starts with a short presentation about the elephants including their physical structure, their care, and the need to preserve their current population. Then you move on to the good stuff; walking with the elephants, watching them do the cutest tricks, receiving Ellie’ kisses, and taking turns for short rides. I was too chicken to ride the elephants (fear of heights), but it looked like a lot of fun.

The sanctuary is located at Hartbeespoort Dam, roughly 1-2 hours outside of Johannesburg. The dam offers many attractions and activities including watersports and other game-parks. Be sure to stop at the Chameleon Village; the one-stop shop for souvenirs and made-in-Africa keepsakes.
ps. There’s no kiss like an Ellie’Kiss J

Jo’burg Zoo: Not ready to experience the wild firsthand but still want to see the animals? The zoo is the place for you. There is no shortage of exotic animals at the Jo’burg Zoo. Granted, the animals are not in their natural habitat, but the zoo’s curators has done a commendable job at making it as realistic as possible.

I do not think a single week went by without me having to go to the mall for something or the other. Strangely though, my trips to the mall had very little to do with shopping for articles such as clothes, shoes, etc… but more so for all sort of other activities. In Jo’burg most of the restaurants, and businesses are located in malls, I assume this is a safety measure. Here are the malls I frequented and a brief description of what I remember most about them.

Sandton Mall:
v  Great piazza.
v  Huge statue of Nelson Mandela.
v  Haagen-Dazs ice-cream stand (teeheehee … yes, I drove all the way to Sandton for fresh ice-cream).

FourWays Mall:
v  State of the art Planet Fitness gym.
v  Unique boutiques.
Melrose Arch Mall:
v  Weekend brunch spot and piazza!
v  Great place to wander around aimlessly popping in an out of boutiques.
EastGate Mall:
v  Sterkinekor Movie Theatre for all the latest blockbusters.
v  Dream Nails Shop.
v  Nine West :)
Bedfordview Center:
v  Another pleasant piazza!
v  Planet Fitness gym equipped with indoor running track, pool, saunas, tanning booths, Pilates, Yoga, personal trainers, playroom for kids, etc…
v  SenSpa; great facility to relax and get pampered.
v  Nu Metro movie theatre.
v  Pick’n Pay grocery store.
Village View Center:
v  Woolworths grocery store (best place for high-quality fresh produce).
v  Blockbuster DVD rental.
v  Dog groomers and VET close to the exit.
Mangwanani Indaba Day Spa; An all-day African spa experience. This is not your run of the mill spa. The ladies greet you with song and dance and carry this rhythm through-out the entire experience. They work in sync, treating you to a variety of treatments as you move from hut-to-hut. Treatments include manicures, pedicures, full body scrub, and full body massages. This remains one of my most treasure memories.
African Craft Market at the Rose Bank Mall; This is the place to find crafts from all over Africa.
*For more cute pics of the cubs and elephants click here.

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