There is always something new to see even if one has been to a place many times. This is even true of one’s own home town, but this isn’t a story on my home town. There is so much I haven’t seen around Johannesburg and Gauteng, but I don’t always have a lot of free time when I am up there to go exploring. My last trip to Jozi left me an open morning and I decided to go and visit the Walter Sesulu Botanical Garden. Although the botanical garden was only founded in 1982, the area has been a popular picnic spot since the late 1800’s already. Back in those days Johannesburgers would go by train as far as the Witpoortjie Station and walk down to the waterfall for a day of leisure. And it was said waterfall I was actually here to see.
The natural vegetation of the area is known as the ‘Rocky Highveld Grassland’ and is a mixture of grassland and savanna, with dense bush in the kloofs and along streams. The botanical garden accommodates over 600 naturally occurring plant species with various walks and trails that visitors can explore. I especially liked the variety of succulents that was planted around a couple of the pathways.
The main path into the gardens took me all the way to the Witpoortjie Waterfall, named after the nearby railway station. Not quite sure why they would have done that though. The grassy area in front of the waterfall is a popular picnic spot with a lot of people going there with the hope to see the resident pair of rare Verreaux’s eagles that nest on the steep, inaccessible cliff next to the waterfall.
Verreaux’s eagles are spectacular birds of prey, with a wingspan that extends to over 2m. The pairs are monogamous and stay together, nesting on the same spot year after year. A couple of years ago the male eagle disappeared, followed shortly after by the female. It was feared that the carefully monitored 40-year breeding programme would end, but the female miraculously reappeared with a young male as a companion.