While Johannesburg has much to offer, sometimes it's nice to get away for the day and enjoy a change of scenery. Whether you're looking to experience wildlife, history, culture, or adventure, there's something to offer near the city. To help you plan your itinerary, here are my top picks for day trips from Johannesburg.
Have you ever wondered where humans come from? You can now visit that exact place. Known as the Cradle of Humankind, it's located about an hour from Johannesburg and is where a common ancestor between humans, chimps, and gorillas called Australopithecus africanus was discovered. Encompassing 180 square miles, the attraction is home to 13 paleontological sites. Peruse the Maropeng Visitor Centre for interactive exhibits depicting the evolution of man in detail, before going with a guide down into the Sterkfontein Caves, where noteworthy discoveries have been made. It was here that the 2.3-million-year-old skull of Australopithecus africanus Mrs.Ples, and the 3-million-year-old virtually-complete Australopithecus skeleton of Little Foot were found.
Technically located within the Cradle of Humankind, the Rhino and Lion Reserve offers a different kind of experience: an enclosed wildlife safari. Featuring 3,000 acres, the attraction is home to predators like wild dogs, white and black rhinos, and white and brown lions. Other exotic animals you'll encounter include sable, ostrich, giraffe, eland, Pygmy hippo, a variety of bird species, and more.
About 50 minutes from Johannesburg, Pretoria is known for its complex history, natural offerings, rich Afrikaans culture and a relaxed feel. There is much to see and do in this interesting city, starting with the The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre. The project has bred over 800 cheetah cubs - many of which have been able to return to the wild - since its inception in 1971. Visitors can learn about these beautiful animals while viewing them up close on a three-hour game drive. The Rietvlei Nature Reserve is another great attraction for those wanting to enjoy the outdoors, home to 9,390 acres of exotic wildlife as well as opportunities for fishing, hiking and wildlife. No trip to Pretoria would be complete without visiting Voortrekker Monument & Heritage Site, a National Heritage Site paying homage to South Africa's pioneer history.
Located about 2.5 hours from Johannesburg, Sun City Resort is full of entertainment options. Play golf at one of their two 18-hole, par 72 golf courses, both designed by South African golf legend, Gary Player. Additionally, the resort is home to two casinos: the Jungle Casino with more than 250 slot machines and the Sun City Hotel Casino with over 330 slot machines. Throughout both, you can also play table games like punto banco, black jack, poker, and American roulette. To experience South Africa's legendary wildlife, there are two game reserves nearby, including the Madikwe Game Reserve and Pilansberg Game Reserve. Visiting one of these two attractions allows you to see the Big 5 as well as animals like cheetah, hippo, giraffe, hyena, and more. Traveling with kids? At Sun City Casino, an arcade, under 18 club, farm animal and birds of prey viewing and feeding area, and children's game-filled Kamp Kwena Fort keep all ages happy.
Known for its beautiful location near the Witwatersrand and Magaliesburg mountain ranges, Magaliesburg is the perfect place to escape the urban sprawl of Johannesburg. If you can wake up early enough, Magaliesburg is best explored through a sunrise balloon safari with Bill Harrop where you'll see colorful countryside, inspiring mountains, sparkling rivers and, if youre lucky, exotic game from above. The experience ends with a Champagne toast, expansive buffet breakfast, and certificate stating you completed the adventure. It's located within an hour of Joburg, and is home to mountain bike trails, art galleries, country inns, rustic spas, and working farms. Some top recommendations of places to visit in Magaliesburg include the The Rose Well Spa, the Van Gaalen Kaasmaker Cheese Farm, Saddle Creek Ranch, and Magaliesburg Canopy Tour.
Where would you spend your dream day outside of Johannesburg?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Jessica Festa is a full-time travel writer who is always up for an adventure. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia and doing orphanage work in Ghana. You can follow her adventures on her travel websites, Epicure & Culture and Jessie On A Journey. You can also connect with Jessica directly on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, or follow her epicurean adventures on Facebook and Twitter.
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