Maybe it was seeing the bridal party as we arrived and stepping on their scattered rose confetti, or spying the couple sneaking a kiss under the trees away from their picnic party, but today’s visit to the botanical gardens near Roodepoort stirred a sense of romance in my soul.
It seems fitting that the gardens are named after the late anti-apartheid activist Walter Sisulu, as the romance he shared with his wife, Albertina, is the stuff of legends. (Learn more about it here.) I couldn’t help but think of the iconic couple when walking past the “dancing trees” – two trees that have grown beautifully entwined…
Situated about 30km from the Joburg CBD, the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens is one eight national botanic gardens in South Africa. It’s apparently been a popular picnic spot since the Gold Rush of the 1800s, and so it remains: the park has been voted the best place to get back to nature in Gauteng for nine years in a row.
There is grassland and savanna, a cycad garden, a bird hide, a restaurant and waterfall. You can also learn a bit about plants in the educational section, or brush up on the geology of the area on the JCI Geological Trail.
But if it’s romance you’re after, the shady kloofs and bubbling streams will be more to your liking. And with over 220 bird species spotted in the area, you’re guaranteed a soothing chirruping soundtrack to accompany your tranquil walk or picnic. Try spot the breeding pair of Verreaux’s (black) eagles, which nest above the gardens’ dramatic waterfall.
The absence of litter, thanks to the park’s “take out what you take in” policy, means you can expect a clean, more natural experience, which makes a great alternative to lunch out at one of Joburg’s many malls.
For more information, visit the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden page on the SANBI site here.
There is also a Facebook group for the gardens.