With my kids being older now, and having moved past the stage where petting zoos and jungle gyms are of much interest, I’ve been hard pressed to find other avenues to keep them entertained this summer. Naturally being summer, there was lots of swimming, but I also wanted other experiences for them.
It had to meet at least one of the following criteria:
•Whilst it had to be entertaining, it also needed to have some educational aspect to it.
•It needed to be an experience/ outing that was unique, and something that we hadn’t done previously.
After some research, and reading reviews, as well as speaking to friends and getting recommendations, these are some of the activities and experiences that feature in my top 5.
1. Sci-Bono Science Discovery Centre
Whilst this first location isn’t too far out of the way, I still count it as a day trip! A visit to Sci-Bono isn’t one that can be completed in an hour or two. It was our first visit to this amazing centre and we arrived just after 10 am, and only left at 2pm because we were hungry!
The centre has a wide variety of different exploration areas. To be honest, I very quickly lost count of the number of different areas. It is jam packed with interactive displays, and unlike a museum set up, where visitors only view objects on display, Sci-Bono encourages experimentation, discovery, play, touch, feel, smell, see, learn!
They also offer a highly educational and thoroughly entertaining science show. This is a series of experiments that are designed for maximum wow factor…explosions, fire, colour changing liquids, sound experiments and more dramatic explosions that are carried out by very skilled and knowledgeable staff members.
This isn’t just for the science enthusiast, although they would be in 7th heaven here! The Murray and Roberts construction site, the Lego centre, and Zoob play area are perfect for the construction enthusiasts. The dinosaur displays for the future paleontologist. The science of soccer area for the sports star…Pretty much an area for every pursuit and interest.
2. Sterkfontein caves and Maropeng Centre
This is a highly highly recommended day trip for the active nature enthusiast. The caves date back millions of years, and visitors over the age of four, are taken down on an adventure tour by qualified guides. The area is fascinating, and the trip down into the bottom of the caves is far underground. The underground lake was last measured to be at least 40 m deep, however the actual depth is not known.
Comfortable clothing and shoes are a necessity, as there’s quite a few areas where one needs to crawl through small chambers. This is still an active site with excavation and discoveries still occurring so large areas are closed off. However this does not at all detract from the awesomeness of the experience.
A short drive away is Maropeng-Cradle of Humankind. I would suggest buying the combo ticket at the caves. Maropeng is simply amazing. It incorporates both the natural scientific journey of life through the ages, with the cultural, religious and traditional aspect. Without giving away too much info, the entry point of the tour was by far one of my favourites! The entire area has been deemed a Natural Heritage Site, and a visit here simply highlights how very apt it is! To be honest, I was very surprised by the level of expertise, attention to detail, use of the latest technology, and overall atmosphere and professionalism of the centre. This is a must see for the entire family!
3. Chameleon Village – Haartebeespoort
Whilst this isn’t technically in Gauteng, its a common destination and not far from the major cities. ‘Haarties’ as is commonly known, is a holiday destination, or rather a resort town, on the banks of the Haartebeespoort Dam. Chameleon Village is located a short drive past the dam wall, and offers everything that is best of the area! A variety of restaurants, a huge flea market area, arts and crafts, jungle gyms and best of all, a lion interaction experience!
The Lion park offers a short tour of the animals in enclosures, as well an interaction experience with lion cubs. This was simply incredible! The guides here too are extremely knowledgeable, and this is sure to be an unforgettable experience. This was truly one of my bucket list activities.
The drive back along the dam, offers viewing of springbok, ostriches and zebras, which add to the overall enjoyment of the day.
4. Gold Reef City
This is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s premier destinations. The theme park is built on what was originally a gold mine, and sticks to this theme throughout the amusement park. There are a variety of rides for all adrenaline levels, from the scream inducing Anaconda and Golden Wheel, to the more relaxing lazy river ride, and everything in between. The kiddies area, for the little ones under 1.3 meters also offers a mini rollercoaster and a host of other rides.
All of this is in addition to the numerous food vendors, stalls, clowns, jugglers, musicians, play areas, inflatables, face painters and many many more! This is truly an entertainment arena that caters to the entire family.
5. Water parks!
Because what would summer be without pools and water and slides! This last suggestion has 3 options, because its that hard to narrow it down. My top 3 suggestions would be: Wild Waters in Boksburg, Klein Paradys just outside of Brits, and the long time favourite, Warmbaths Forever Resort in Bela-bela. All 3 offer a variety of different water slides, and pools, and so long as you remember to pack the sunscreen and stay hydrated in this heat, you’re guaranteed to enjoy this!
All in all it has been one amazing holiday, ending in a very sunburnt family, with lots of quality time together and a wealthy bank of wonderful memories to look back on.