Explore the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Gauteng
With the spectacular Witpoortjie waterfall as a major attraction, the area in which the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens is situated has been popular with leisure-seeking visitors since the 1800s. It was established as a Botanical Garden in 1982 and in recent years has been voted as Gauteng’s best picnic spot no less than five times. With the primary natural vegetation classified as Rocky Highveld Grassland, the 300 hectare garden includes a variety of habitats supporting more than 600 indigenous plant species.
Birding enthusiasts will appreciate the fact that more than 220 bird species have been recorded within the boundaries of the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens. Moreover, a breeding pair of Verreaux’s Eagles is nesting on the cliffs alongside the waterfall and a pathway leads to a viewing platform where visitors are very likely to catch a glimpse of the pair, and possibly even their offspring.
Trails and pathways, some of which are wheelchair-friendly, wind their way through the vegetation and visitors can spend the entire day exploring this haven of nature. In addition to the abundant birdlife found in the gardens, visitors may spot a number of reptile and amphibian species, as well as small mammals, such as antelope, hedgehogs, porcupines, dassies and jackals along the pathways. Guided tours can be arranged for nature lovers who would like to explore the Roodekrans Ridge and Nature Reserve, which includes a dam and wetland area, complete with bird hide.
Vast areas of open lawn and picnic spots offer a place to settle down for some relaxation, and open-air concerts are a regular feature at the gardens throughout the year. For visitors enjoying a picnic it’s important to note that whatever you bring into the gardens, you are responsible for taking out again, so be sure not to litter and to take your rubbish with you to discard at home. For those who prefer to dine in style, the Eagles Fare Restaurant is conveniently situated in the gardens and offers a wide variety of meals and ‘sweet indulgences’ to tantalise any palate, and they cater for special occasions.
The Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens are cared for by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). For gardeners who have been inspired by the natural beauty around them, there is an indigenous plant nursery at the gardens with experts on hand to assist with advice on how to turn a home garden into an indigenous oasis.