The Wilds is a 16 hectare nature reserve nestled on the border between Killarney and Upper Houghton. Opened to the public in the 1930s, this serene landscape of koppies, foot trails and natural waterfalls is a wonder to behold. However its reputation came under fire in the early 2000s as the park became heavily overgrown. Many runners, hikers and tourists kept a firm distance from the park, frightened by rumours of rampant crime. The fate of The Wilds seemed equal to many other inner city parks until one man stepped up to make a change. Artist James Delaney set out to clear out The Wilds, determined to bring this lush area back to life and to restore its reputation to its former glory.
Between 2013 to 2018, Delaney and a group of volunteers tirelessly worked to clean up the park. They removed tons of overgrown plant life in this time, opening up the foot trails and hiking paths to eager explorers. Delaney and his team have maintained the indigenous flora here too, celebrating its history and meaning as one of the city's best preserved nature parks. An array of indigenous plants and flowers bloom here year round, including the glorious red aloes that peak their heads over the koppies come wintertime.
When Johannesburg Consolodated Investment Company developed the suburb of Houghton in the 1920s, they left the area now known as The Wilds untouched. Then in 1936 the Empire Exhibition came to town in celebration of Johannesburg's jubilee. After the exhibition thousands of indigenous plants were donated to develop The Wilds as a park. Delaney believes that this spirit of public intervention is vital to keeping The Wilds thriving. He hosts monthly clean ups with community volunteers to keep the park in top condition. So far they've managed to clean up most of the overgrown western section of The Wilds. With their sights set on the eastern section next, Delaney and his volunteers show no signs of slowing down.
It is this spirit of community that led to the Delaney's Mandela Day Project at The Wilds. In July 2017, Delaney undertook a massive art project to bring back visitors to The Wilds. He had noticed that despite his years of dedication to cleaning up the park, people were still nervous to visit it. In response, he created 67 owl sculptures to be displayed around The Wilds. These owls were hung high in the forests of the reserve, acting as a draw card for tourists and local nature enthusiasts. But Delaney didn't stop there. He has continued the project, crafting an array of critters to decorate the park. On your next visit to the park see how many sculpted owls, bush babies, monkeys and buck you can spot on your walkabouts.
Under level 3 lockdown restrictions, The Wilds remains closed to the public. Follow Friends of The Wilds on Facebook to keep up to date with opening dates and Delaney's community clean up initiatives at the park.
Visit www.jhbcityparks.com to find out more about The Wilds and Joburg's many other city parks.
The main entrance to the reserve is located on Houghton Drive.
Have you visited The Wilds? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!
Rietvlei Zoo Farm in Johannesburg South is the perfect place to get out your fishing gear. This family-friendly venue has tons of outdoor activities to entertain the whole family. Enjoy a braai along the banks of the dam or settle down for a family picnic. The Fun Fishing tackle shop is nearby too, for all your fishing requirements, as well as snacks. All fish are catch and release here. Try your hand at reeling in carp, kurper, bass and barbel at this fantastic fishing spot just outside of the city centre.
Under level 3 lockdown, the fishing area at Rietvlei Zoo Farm is open. Keep an eye on their Facebook page to keep up to date with happenings at the farm as we move into advanced level 3 lockdown.
Details: 101 Swartkoppies Rd, Alberton, Johannesburg South | (Tel) 079 041 1488 | [email protected]
Modderfontein Reserve is an idyllic escape, situated just on the outskirts of the city. Here you can hike, cycle, picnic, braai, go on trail runs and even take a guided wildlife tour. One of the reserve's standout features is its bird life and expansive dam. Take a seat inside one of the many bird watching outlooks or get out your fishing rod to score a great catch. You will need a fishing permit to do so and it is strictly catch and release at the reserve. However the tranquility of the environment here is unrivaled. If you've never been on a fishing expedition at the Modderfontein Reserve, pack up your tackle this weekend and head out for an adventure.
Details: 1 Arden Rd, Modderfontein, Johannesburg | (Tel) 079 519 1589 | [email protected]
We bet you didn't know that there is a nature reserve in the middle of Lonehill. Roughly 28 km from the Joburg city centre stands a koppie that's rich in natural history. An important historical site and conservation area, the Lonehill Nature Reserve is only open over weekends. Take a hike up the koppie to see fantastic views of the city expanse below. You may also come across a few cheeky dassies or porcupines, so keep a watch out!
Adjacent to the reserve is what's known as Lonehill Park. Here you can cast a line and make a few prize catches. Bring the family along for a stroll in the park or a quiet picnic. This is the perfect place for a relaxing weekend, looking out over the water and taking a breather from the inner city hustle and bustle.
Please contact the reserve to find out whether their fishing area is open in level 3 lockdown, as public parks are not yet permitted to welcome visitors.
Details: Crestwood Drive, Lonehill, Sandton, Johannesburg | (Tel) +27 (0)11 467 2868
If you don't mind a bit of a drive out of the city, take a trip to Ezemvelo Nature Reserve. Situated near Bronkhorstspruit, this expansive reserve offers game drives, hikes, mountain biking, running trails and fishing. With a wide variety of plant species, birds and mammals, this reserve feels totally removed from the smoggy city. Come and get your dose of fresh air and sunshine at one of their fishing spots. The dam is filled with carp, catfish and bass, however there is no tackle shop on site, so you must bring your own equipment. The reserve operates under a catch and release policy.
In level 3 lockdown, Ezemvelo Nature Reserve has slowly been welcoming visitors back to explore its natural wonders. There are a couple of rules which apply should you wish to visit, including pre-bookings, a cap on vehicle entries into the reserve and strict hygiene measures. Make your booking by emailing [email protected]
Details: R25, Bronkhorstspruit, Gauteng | (Tel) +27 (0) 13 680 1399/ 087 405 3554
In the mood for a spot of fly fishing? Get you gear packed up for a trip to Cradlemoon Lakeside Game Lodge in Muldersdrift. Their dams are stocked to the brim with an array of local fish species, including the Nile Tilapia, Blue Curper and Largemouth Bass. Come out to test your willpower and skill over a weekend. You must obtain a fishing band from the activity centre before fishing. Bands cost R100 per person. The area is strictly fly fishing and no barbless hooks may be used. Other than that, feel free to sit back, relax and have the time of your life out in the wild outdoors.
In level 3 lockdown, Cradlemoon Lodge is back up and running at near full steam. You are welcome to join them for hiking, mountain biking, self game drives, fly fishing and a number of other activities. The lodge is open from 08:00 on weekdays and from 07:00 on weekends.
Details: Plot 59, Beyers Naude Drive, Muldersdrift, Gauteng | (Tel) +27 11 919 5000 | [email protected]
Looking for more outdoor adventures just outside the city? Check out our guide to exploring nature in and around Joburg.
So, when it comes to being adventurous, the most exciting thing on my repertoire was abseiling (and that was indoors). I’ll admit that I’m not the biggest thrill seeker out there. But, on my most recent trip to the Drakensberg with my family, I got the chance to soar through the air (literally!), and see the berg like I’ve never seen it before.
For those of you that have been zip lining, you’ll know how intense and adrenaline-charged the experience is. The Drakensberg Canopy Tour, which is located in the beautiful Blue Grotto Forest, has 12 slides and 14 platforms, with the longest slide being 180 metres, and the highest slide being 65 metres above the ground! Before the tour, you’re given a safety briefing at the reception area, where you can ask questions, and are introduced to your two guides.
After being kitted with your safety harness, gloves and helmet, you’re transported to the start of the tour by vehicle… and that’s where the fun really begins. The first zip line is always the hardest, but luckily, they start you off on an easy one here. After that, you get to zip line through trees and over valleys, and you even get to walk along a wobbly bridge.
The tour is about 2-3 hours long and ends off with a 20-minute hike to the pick-up spot (which felt more like a climb at times because you’re walking in an upward direction). You’re also provided with water and chocolate during the hike… the sugar definitely helps.
One of the highlights for me was learning about the different trees along the tour – you leave knowing something you didn’t before. I suppose that’s why one of the stops along the tour is known as ‘The Classroom’ (it’s easily the most beautiful classroom I’ve ever seen). I would also encourage you to take a camera with you, which your guide can keep; you’re guaranteed to capture one or ten unforgettable moments.
After you’re driven back to the reception area, you get to enjoy a light meal and something tasty to drink. In winter, hot chocolate really hits the spot, trust me. As an added bonus, you get a Certificate of Achievement after you complete the tour – which I think is awesome (I’m going to buy a frame for it this week… don’t judge me).
The Drakensberg Canopy Tour is R680 per person and bookings are essential. Needless to say, its best to wear comfortable clothing, and a pair of cheapie sunglasses wouldn’t hurt either.
All in all, it was time incredibly well spent. By the end of the experience, I barely had a voice (I admit it… I screamed my lungs out on almost every zip line), but I was thrilled I did it. Oh, and if you’re brave enough, I definitely recommend you look around as you sail through the air – the view is nothing short of spectacular!
*Prices Correct at Time of Writing*
By Nicole Naidoo
Have you been on the Drakensberg Canopy Tour? How did you enjoy the experience? Let us know in the comments section below!