Overall, I spent about one week in South Africa before and after the
safari trip to Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. Four days in Johannesburg
and three days in Pretoria. The first nights I spent at the Emerald Guest House, situated just a few km from the airport in Johannesburg. From this nice guest house, I made several short daytrips to various location in Joburg and nearby. I hired a guide (Ken), who one day took me to Soweto, and another day showed me the Sterkfontein Caves. Returning from the safari, I spent three days at the Zambezi Lodge in Pretoria. The managers at Zambezi Lodge charged me 2 ZAR per km to drive me around. They drove me to Pilanesberg National Park, showed me downtown Pretoria, and a Lion Park just north of Johannesburg. The old couple were very nice and helpful. They kept a fully loaded revolver beneath the seat in case of robbery!
South Africa, with its special history, is
of course a very interesting country. My general impression, however, was mixed, due to racial problems and a rather tense atmosphere. Ten years after
the end of the Apartheid era, white people fence themselves in behind barbed
and electrified wire. Crime is everywhere, corruption thrive, HIV/aids
is on the rise and the unemployment level is said to be somewhere around
30%. The government claim that the economy is growing, but, in my opinion, this country
is going to face serious obstacles in the years to come. Nature-wise, this is probably one of the best destiantions in the world. As long as you take your
precautions, South Africa is a great place to visit.
Fenced and with 24 h armed response. The Emerald Guest House is situated close to the O.R. Tambo International Airport. Recommended and a good place to spend a few days in Johannesburg
View toward the airport. The manager at Emerald Guest House helped me repair my ripped safari vest after I got robbed in Joburg. A big thank to them!
Emerald Guest House room with leopard print bed blanket!
I think this is the Hillbrow Tower (formerly JG Strijdom tower). It is 269 m high
The Nelson Mandela Bridge is the fourth of five bridges which cross the railway lines and sidings located just west of Johannesburg Park Station. It was completed in 2003
Johannesburg Park Station seen from the Nelson Mandela Bridge
Rissik Street Post Office, built in 1897
In a "voodoo" shop in Joburg. Strong smoke - strong medicine
Animal remains sold in a so-called muti-shop. Witch-doctors or healers use all kinds of remedies in traditional medicine
Living in the past. This is where local witch-doctors gather their remedies in Joburg
Spooky! Most photos from the shop were blacked out!
Street corner, Johannesburg
Brick buildings in the outskirts of Soweto
Shacks in Soweto
A charcoal haze is covering the Soweto shacks
Life is probably not easy living in Soweto
The Hector Pieterson Memorial in Vikalazi Street in Soweto is named after the 14-year-old boy who was the first killed by police in the June 16 1976 Soweto student’s uprising. The memorial was created to “honour the youth who gave their lives in the struggle for freedom and democracy”
Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum
Me and Ken (the guide from Take a break Tours) in a Soweto restaurant next to the Walter Sisulu
Drinking local beer in a smoky shack in Soweto. It tasted like "sats"
(for the Norwegians!)
Johannesburg and Soweto
Yes, I managed to get robbed in Johannesburg, like so many others. Lost a camera and a cell
phone, after being robbed by 5-6 blacks with knives. It was a life-threatening experience, as I got a knife tucked toward my belly. Even though I was
told the area next to the Carlton Center was relatively safe to visit
at daytime. It turned out not so, because I was mugged at 11 AM,
in the middle of a crowded street. And nobody lifted a finger to help.
And why should they? I was jus another stupid white tourist venturing into this metropol. In retrospect, I was probably partly to blame. As I took a local taxi to town, and was dropped off a few blocks from the Carlton Center. I should have asked to be dropped off on target. Joburg, as they call it, is of course a very dangerous city, and one of the murder capitals of the world. Stay away, don't visit
downtown of this city, it is as simple as that. It is very little to see there,
I stayed in a guesthouse next to the airport during these days, but wanted
to see the city and also the famous township of Soweto. The best and safest
way to do this is to hire a local guide. I bought a Johannesburg/Soweto
half day trip from a company called Take a break Tours,
and was very happy with the guiding. The guide Ken (a 76 years old chap!) showed
me one of Witwatersrand's first gold mines, the Ferreira mine, today situated
below the Standard Bank on Simmonds Street. He then took me to Soweto,
the black township just outside of Joburg with approximately 3.5 million
citizens. The shacks make up only about 15% of Soweto, to my surprise.
The rest of the city consists of small brick buildings, not looking too
bad. We visited a local market, and went inside a shack full of smoke housing
a local "bar", or something. I had to taste a local brew, served
in a carton (see the picture above). To put it simple, it didn't taste
good. Of course, we also passed the house where Winnie Mandela lives today
(with a lot of security measures), and the street where both Nelson Mandela
and Desmond Tutu used to live (two Nobel laureates in one street), and
the Walter Sisulu Museum.
Sterkfontein Caves north of Johannesburg
At Robert Broom Museum, Sterkfontein Caves, where the Australopithecus
africanus fossils were discovered
Cave entrance at Sterkfontein
Landscape south of Sterkfontain
Display of hominin fossils at Sterkfontein Caves
"Finding the missing link", Sterkfontein Caves
Sterkfontein and the Old Kromdraai Gold Mine
On Saturday, I ordered a new trip from the same guide who took me to Soweto.
This time to see the Sterkfontein Caves, a familiar name for most biologists.
This is the place where the first specimen of Australopithecus
africanus was found:
"Sterkfontein is one of the world's most productive and important
palaeoanthropological sites. It is the place where the very first adult
ape-man was found by Dr. Robert Broom in 1936. This ancient cave system
has over the years revealed a sequence of deposits with fossils dating
from about 3.5 to 1.5 million years ago, a period of time which spans
the early development of the family of man - the hominids. In addition
to almost 500 skull, jaw, teeth and skeletal fossils of these early hominids,
there are many thousands of other animal fossils, over 300 fragments of
fossils wood, and over 9,000 stone tools which include some of the earliest
manifestations of human culture on earth. Some of the youngest deposits
in the cave also contain fossils and tools from the period just prior to
the emergence of modern humans, the period ca. 100.000 to 250,000 years
ago, most widespread of which are the dolomites of the Transvaal Supergroup.
Dolomite, as well as limestone, is slightly soluble in acidic groundwater
(groundwater that contains carbon dioxide in solution) and readily forms
caves and sinkholes".
The caves were not that impressive, as we were not allowed to venture into the
area where they were still digging. And the museum at Sterkfontein could
have been more extensive. The next stop was at the Old Kromdraai Gold Mine,
where the Black Reef was mined, before the Witwatersrand was discovered.
The owner took me into the mine, and showed me how hard it must have been
to work in a gold mine late in the 19th century. The mine
was occupied by bats, and an underground lake runs all the way to the Sterkfontein
Caves, some 6 km away.
Transvaal Candelabra Tree (Euphorbia cooperi), Limpopo, South Africa
Candelabra Tree and Mountain Aloe, hill in Limpopo
Spiky brush (Umbrella Thorn Acacia - Vachellia tortilis ssp. heteracantha) in the African outback
Recent wildfires (2004) in Pilanesberg National Park
Pilanesberg National Park
Pilanesberg National Park
Bridled Gnu / Blue Wildebeest, Pilanesberg NP
Horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus sp.) in the Old Kromdraai Gold Mine. The Covid-19 coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has been linked to Rhinolophus bats
Pilanesberg National Park
Candelabra Tree, Pilanesberg National Park
Returning from the safari, I spent three days in a guesthouse just north
of Pretoria. Instead of lingering even more in Johannesburg, I preferred
to see a new city. Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa,
and the crime level here is supposed to be lower than in Joburg.
The South African government rest in the Union Buildings, overlooking the city, and with
a view towards the tower of the Voortrekker Monument.
I caught a pneumonia the last days in Botswana, and was not feeling well during my stay in Pretoria. This affected my behavior, and I lost focus on photography (and other things!) these days. On my way back to Norway I got really sick, and ended up in hospital in isolation for three day when I came home after a nightmarish travel home (fever 41.5°C, I nearly died!) . This might have made me overly negative toward the safari operator when I wrote my review!
My hosts at Zambezi Lodge, Pretoria. This nice couple took me to Pilanesberg National Park, and showed my around in Pretoria
After having been robbed, I borrowed a revolver, and was ready for a fight.
Well, not entirely true... But yes, this is the real thing, full of leaded bullets
The Union Buildings form the official seat of the South African Government and also house the offices of the President of South Africa
The eastern wing of The Union Buildings represents the English population of South Africa (according to Wikipedia..)
View from the Union Buildings
World War I memorial, Pretoria
A statue of Paul Kruger, who was president of the Republic of South Africa from 1883 to 1900. Waiting to be teared down in 2020?
Pilanesberg National Park and private game reserve
During my stay in
Pretoria, I visited the Pilanesberg National Park. Here
I saw white rhinos and some other species. But due to a recent wildfire,
this park was a disappointment in terms of wildlife.
On my last day in South Africa, I went to
a private game reserve outside Pretoria. The purpose of this trip was
to try to get some photos of lions. I only saw one female lion during the safari. The pictures below were taken in
the private game reserve in South Africa, as some species were difficult
to spot and to get good photos of in the large national parks. These are not wild animals.
Springbok, private game reserve north of Johannesburg, South Africa