I have been to both Pilanesberg and Cape Town and can highly recommend both. Both are about 2h-2.5h away from JNB, Pilanesberg can best be reached by car and CPT obviously by plane.
Is money an issue -- like do you have to pay for your air tickets within South Africa? It would seem that Cape Town would be a good choice. Another "crazy" alternative would be to fly to one of the airports next to Kruger to see the animals for the weekend. Fares can be ridiculously expensive (most people drive -- but you don't have the time for that), but they're "free" if you have a modest number of Avios points (9000 roundtrip). You'd then need a car, or go to one of the expensive private lodges.
If you don't want the hassle of flying, there are sights near J'burg. I've never been to the Cradle of Humankind, but it is considered a "must-see" attraction. And, of course, as you say, you could go to the Apartheid Museum if you didn't want to leave town.
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Originally Posted by iahphx
Is money an issue -- like do you have to pay for your air tickets within South Africa? It would seem that Cape Town would be a good choice. Another "crazy" alternative would be to fly to one of the airports next to Kruger to see the animals for the weekend.
Cost is about the same IME. Private car transfers from JNB to one of the lodges in Pilanesberg start at about 2400ZAR r/t and there are some reasonably priced safaris. A return flight to CPT will also be at least 2000-2500ZAR.
If you want to fly to a safari lodge while not spending a fortune IŽd recommend any of the lodges which are served by Federal Air (e.g. the cost for flying from Johannesburg to Madikwe was quite reasonable)
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Johannesburg - City Centre - what to do
Now, whilst I wouldn't fly to JNB just to see the city - there are some interesting things around - especially if you like to see urban renewal and new things happening - bit like finding new things opening in gritty areas of Dalston/Shoreditch in London etc. I spent most of last year in JNB and found some good things to do on the weekends:
The best tour to do of Soweto is a bicycle tour. The Soweto Backpackers B&B on Pooe Street, Orlando West, Soweto does them - search on the web for Soweto Bicycle tours. You can drive there (note - get the right Pooe Street in your sat nav) or get them to collect you from your hotel. Orlando West is safe enough to drive to during the day - take a morning tour.
On Saturday mornings the Neighbourgoods Market is on. This is the same Market that run at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, Cape Town. The market is a foodie one - and it is in a student area called Braamfontein, just before the Nelson Mandela Bridge. The address is 73 Juta Street. There are several new art galleries and cafes that have opened in this area - and there is parking on the street, and a multi-story - follow the chap with the market parking sign.
This area feels a bit like Shoreditch in London - it used to be dangerous, but is now an key area of renewal. The Kitchener Bar here is old and fun in the evenings. There are several new hotels opening here, and the Lamunu Hotel is cheap, stylish and good on Melle Street. An American woman opened a restaurant called Narida Trogans on De Korte Street a few yards away - nice but only open weekdays and nights.
If you have driven down - then you can visit the Johannesburg Art Gallery 5 minutes away at Joubert Park. There is secure parking - and it has some interesting smaller pieces of famous artists. However the most interesting thing is walking around the secure car park and see the decline of Hillbrow from a safe place. Do not walk here from the market - only drive.
On the weekends, there is another market called Arts on Main in the Maboneng District - it is actually on 264 Fox Street. Search online for this. It is quite good - Sunday is best as there is a food market (marketonmain.co.za)
also. There is a rather oddly office shaped hotel beside it called the 12 decades hotel. There is a rooftop bar that holds a party most Sunday days called Party on the Roof. It is very good, dance music playing as you look out onto the urban expanse of JNB - a place where blacks and whites mix with quite a big black gay crowd dressed to the nines. Much more interesting than the sterile bars of Sandton!
Melville and Parkhurst (around 4th Avenue) are also worth a look - check the guidebooks. Also the 44 Stanley Market - a collection of shops in old courtyard near Melville is worth a look.
A website that I found useful is www.todoinjoburg.co.za - it is a blog of various photographers suggesting to do things in the city centre. Some great suggestions - there is one about an Ethiopean community tour round JNB City Centre if you can find the details.
Anyhow, I hope this is useful - when I first visited, I was told not to go outside of Sandton. Once I drove to Soweto and round the centre after trawling the web, I realised there were interesting things to see. Sandton is a ghastly anonymous area - all that is there is a huge shopping mall and some overpriced restaurants and bars - you might as well be in the USA or Europe.
PM me if you want more City Centre info!
Last edited by bariummeal; Jan 8, 13 at 8:47 am.
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Something I found fascinating on my last visit is the constitutional court complex, built into part of what was a ghastly apartheid and pre-apartheid prison complex. Gandhi was one of the inmates at a time.
I though it much more moving than the apartheid museum, which was sort of glitzy and newly-built in the middle of nowhere.
Ir's sort of on the edge of Hillbrow, by the Wits university campus
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I would also add lilliesleaf farm in rivonia. It was used by the ANC in the 60s and the raid here led to the treason trials. The museum and high tech exhibits have been built around the original buildings so you have a feel for what went on. It takes a few hours to take it all in.
We also were able to visit brenthurst gardens which is the Oppenheimer property but allows visitors into the beautiful gardens which are narrated by one of the staff and includes tea and biscuits.
I felt the same about sandton. Locals wanted to show us the casino and the malls. I don't want to visit either at home and certainly not on vacation.
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So glad I could reciprocate for all your fantastic suggestions before our visit. As to be expected we are planning for the return to Africa. You get hooked.
A couple of other suggestions. Peter Godwin a trilogy of mukiwa , when a crocodile eats the sun, and fear which follows his experiences growing up in Zimbabwe and army service, his parents travails to stay in Zimbabwe, and his return after the 2008 elections. I read them in the reverse order so it was kind of a back to the future thing but the stories are surely best enjoyed in sequence and the entertaining and poignant Douglas Rogers the last resort. Story of a backpackers hotel turned. Well you will have to read it to find out.
Agreed about the difference between south Africa and Zimbabwe. Mandela seems to be the difference in the tone of civility and humanity he set for the country and that he seemed to be universally admired. He also stepped out of politics quickly unlike Mugabe and while there are certainly issues now with government it's clearly not Zimbabwe. There also is a more diverse business base in south Africa than the agriculture that the white minority worked in zim