Take a look back with us at the wonderfully wild South African places we visited in 2021.
With the spring season now in glorious swing here in South Africa we headed to the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden again for a jolly day out in nature this past Sunday. The recently fledged Verreaux’s Eagle chick and its parents were the stars of the show, as always, and yet again we were amazed at the variety of wildlife finding a home here in suburban Johannesburg. The gardens are hugely popular with the citizens of South Africa’s biggest city, and not without reason, as we hope these photos will convince.
Have a look here for all our posts on the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden if you’d like to learn more about this fantastic place.
It is supposed to be mid-winter in South Africa, but with daytime temperatures in the comfortable low 20’s centigrade recently, we just couldn’t pass on the opportunity to visit the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Johannesburg again this past Sunday. We enjoyed a lovely day walking and picnicking with good friends, soaking up the glorious sunshine under a cloudless sky, and of course our cameras went along!
Even in winter the garden is a feast for the eyes, and especially the winter-blooming aloes and carpets of daisies are a sight to behold. You are seldom far from water anywhere in the garden, with the Crocodile River flowing serenely through it and the Witpoortjie Falls being the focal point for all visitors to the gardens.
Anyone with a love for or interest in birds, especially photographers, will really find a visit to the gardens worth their while. Apart from the highly visible nesting pair of Verreaux’s Eagles, the garden absolutely abounds with birdlife, even now in winter when so many of the summer migrants have departed for warmer climes. The hide at the Sasol Dam in a quieter corner of the garden must surely rank as one of the best facilities of its kind in the country in terms of the variety and quality of sightings on offer.
Jumping up from a picnic, while celebrating a special friends birthday, to take pictures of large eagles flying over a major metropolis is not a familiar scenario for the de Wets. And yet that seems to be par for the course at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens!
Opened to the public in 1987 as the Witwatersrand National Botanical Garden on land donated five years earlier by the town councils in Johannesburg’s western suburbs, the gardens were renamed after the ANC leader Walter Sisulu in 2004. The focal point of the garden is undoubtedly the Witpoortjie Waterfall, the source of the Crocodile River which flows through much of the garden. Apart from beautifully tended and themed plant displays, the grounds include large tracts of natural vegetation and ample lawns under shady trees, very popular for picnics. Several pathways and tracks provide access to various parts of the gardens, and the most challenging of these lead to the top of the cliff above the waterfall, a favourite spot for many photographers hoping for a special shot of the eagles soaring past.
The gardens are open daily from 08:00 to 17:00 and facilities include a restaurant, kiosk, several function venues, a concert stage, an environmental education centre, a curio shop and a nursery selling indigenous garden plants. Guided tours of the gardens can be arranged in advance. We like the garden’s policy of “picnic in, litter out” encouraging visitors to take all their garbage with them when they leave.
The gardens are a haven for a multitude of birds and small animals, many of which are quite tame and obviously used to the human presence.
It’s been more than thirty years since a pair of Verreaux’s Eagles (formerly known as Black Eagles) first took up residence at a nesting site next to the Witpoortjie Waterfall. The current pair had successfully raised a chick to sub-adulthood and at the time of our visit was just starting to let the youngster know that it has to start looking for lodgings of its own. This made for spectacular flying displays over the gardens and against the backdrop of the Roodekrans cliffs.
On the other side of the garden, a dam with a bird-viewing hide at its edge was just one more delightful feature to add to our reasons to return to the gardens (soon!). Here we found an extremely irritable Egyptian Goose laying claim to the body of water and intent on ridding it of anything else that seemed remotely like waterfowl! It probably had a nest or goslings hidden somewhere near.
This was our first visit to these beautiful gardens, and we were wonderfully surprised and delighted by what we found. We spent the entire day at the garden, from when the gates opened until they closed, and yet feel like we haven’t seen most of it. Couple that with a jolly time spent with good friends, we’re sure it won’t be long before we return.
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