Welcome to Johannesburg – Or Jozi as we locals like to call it!
We imagine that most families attending the conference will be local Jozi residents. We do know that there will be quite a few families coming from further afield. Welcome!
Firstly a brief history. The city itself has grown at an exceptional rate on the back of the gold rush which began in the 1880’s. Prior to this Johannesburg used to be grassland, known as the Highveld, with the nomadic san tribes living in harmony alongside wildlife: buck in many forms, lions, elephants, zebras, giraffe, leopards, caracal, jackals, and a variety of snakes. It was certainly a difficult and painful transition for many to become the city it now is.
Johannesburg arguably has one of the best climates in the country. Our rainy season is during the summer months and at one point in time you could set your clock by the afternoon thunderstorm. Nowadays the thunderstorms are less predictable but a regular occurrence none the less. Summer nights are warm and beautiful. So Saturday night’s conference festivities are sure to be amazing.
Probably the biggest surprise to visitors when they first come to Johannesburg is that we share the city with 6 million trees. Johannesburg has been described as the largest man made urban forest in the world. On satellite images Johannesburg looks like a jungle. Many of our trees are imports. Suburban roads are tree lined with Jacarandas, Oaks and Plain trees. In more recent times there has been a strong drive to reduce foreign flora and fauna, promoting indigenous plants and trees. The Walter Sisulu Botanical gardens, where the 2017 Learning Reimagined conference was held, is a forerunner in this endeavour.
A visit to Johannesburg is likely to raise questions about the Apartheid regime. While we don’t have Robben Island that is in the Cape or Nelson Mandela’s capture site that is in Kwazulu Natal, we do have Lilliesleaf Farm where Nelson Mandela lived, disguised as a gardener, prior to his capture which led to the infamous Rivonia treason trial, and his subsequent life sentence. Other places are the Apartheid Museum across from Gold Reef City Theme Park; Museum Africa which captures the experience of the Rivonia Trial, Soweto’s Vilakazi street where two Nobel Peace Prize winners resided, and Constitution Hill. Most of these are accessible via the Hop On Hop Off City Sightseeing Bus Tour. One can also organise a tour into a very vibrant Soweto. A visit to the Soweto Arts and Crafts Fair is highly recommended.
Gold Reef city today is a major theme park set around a disused gold mine and replica Victorian village. It is possible to descend into a disused gold mine, getting a small sense of what work in a gold mine is all about. In contrast, why not spend the day at the Lesedi Cultural Village where the visitor gets to experience many of the different cultures that make up this rainbow nation of ours.
In less than an hour’s drive out of Jozi is the stunning Magaliesburg mountain range which offers numerous private game experiences. On route to Magaliesburg, and close to the Learning Reimagined Conference venue, is the area referred to as the Cradle of Human Kind where the 2.3 million year old fossil nicknamed Mrs Ples was discovered in the Sterkfontein caves in 1947 and the more recent ground breaking discovery of the burial site remains of a new species named Homo Naledi. A visit to Maropeng an interactive visitor centre for the Cradle of Human Kind World Heritage site, is highly recommended. For the more adventurous, there is also the Wild Caves (the one featured in the South African leg of Amazing Race) which you could abseil down into.
Shopping malls abound in Jozi and it is possible to get any necessity there. Centres worth a mention are Sandton City, Rosebank Mall, CradleStone Mall, Cresta and Mall of Africa. In stark contrast to our high end malls, there are homeless people at many of the traffic lights, begging for food or loose change highlighting the huge inequalities in our city. There are many informal settlements around the city.
For the arty visitors, in the Rosebank area you will find the Goodman gallery. You may like to pay them a visit and as well as the numerous other art galleries that cluster in this part of town. It is here where the controversial painting of ex President Jacob Zuma called The Spear was on exhibition a few years back. There are numerous areas throughout the city offering indigenous art, metal and beadwork.
The revamped CBD area of Maboneng is well worth exploring. The area is set around the African Design Centre and has taken off as a trendy area for restaurants and niche shopping. Still in the CBD, but in the Newtown district, the Sci Bono Discovery Science Centre is definitely worth a visit as well as the Museum Africa across from it. The suburb of Melville offers a similar experience and we would recommend a visit to 27Boxes a new trendy shopping centre built out of containers. Another hidden gem is 44 Stanley : a unique quaint place with an amazing vibe, to get great food, buy things from local designers and to find unusual gifts to take back home.
For those that can afford it, eating out is the biggest past time for those residing in Jozi and it is a delicious experience. There is every type of food catered for from vegan, halaal and vegetarian to carnivores delight, Cape Malay curry to traditional pap and gravy or braai’s (barbecues) offering boerewors.
As far as safety goes, here are some basic rules to stay safe in this beautiful city.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Don’t carry or flaunt expensive, phones, laptops or jewellery.
Stay in groups when walking in parks or outside.
Drive with windows up and try not to engage with beggars as occasionally this can result in smash and grab incidents. Keep valuables and handbags out of sight or locked in the boot (trunk).
When exiting or entering your accommodation be aware of who is around and ensure the gate is closed firmly behind you.
Places to visit within an hour’s drive outside Johannesburg
Magaliesburg with its ancient mountain range and lovely walks. Olive Tree Farm conservancy where you can walk and see zebra, buck, wildebeest and a family of giraffe. Eat out at the Black Horse which offers a first class setting under pecan nut trees. Ascari to see close up and personal a pair of African lions.
Maropeng Visitors Centre
Haartebeespoort with its recently revamped cable car ride providing spectacular views. It has a lovely dam, art venues and African sculptures.
A little further afield up to 5 hour’s drive
Kruger National Park – no introduction needed here, but free roaming Big 5 and plenty of other wildlife are worth mentioning
The Panorama Meander: Hazyview, God’s Window, Waterfalls and so much more
The quaint village of Clarens, Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the Maluti Mountain range which forms part of the Drakensburg Mountain Range
Drakensberg, Champagne valley where you can attend an international renowned boys choir the Drakensburg Choir, hike in the stunning range or visit the natural amphitheatre
Getting to Learning Reimagined Conference
VENUE: AFRICAN LEADERSHIP ACADEMY
1050 Printech Ave, Honeydew, Roodepoort, 2040
Don’t rely on free wifi. It is rarely available when you need it. It is easiest to get you Sim card at the airport as soon as you fly into SA. They will need to see your passport and some confirmation of accommodation. MTN / Vodacom have good coverage everywhere.
NB!! Travelling into South Africa with Children
South Africa has quite specific rules about entering the country. Please check this link to ensure you have all the necessary documentation.
Places to Stay
- Savannah Self Catering Apartments,
DISTANCE FROM VENUE: 4.9 km
- Amadwala Lodge
DISTANCE FROM VENUE: 4.0 km
- Ramkiki Hotel
DISTANCE FROM VENUE: 4.4 km
- Nice By Nature Guest House
DISTANCE FROM VENUE: 1.9 km
- Golden Candle Bed and Breakfast
DISTANCE FROM VENUE: 3.0 km
Air BNB : Search for Honeydew, Roodepoort, South Africa. There are loads of options.
Still Unsure of Have Questions?