Visiting Johannesburg, South Africa

In October 2014, I was planning a trip a to Japan. I was researching what to see, how to get around, and how much it would cost. When out of nowhere I see a video on YouTube about a big cat sanctuary near Johannesburg, South Africa. Three months later, I landed in O.R. Tambo International Airport. Hello Joburg!

Here are 4 things to see/do in Johannesburg.

1. Living with Big Cats

The reason I went to Joburg was the big cat sanctuary I saw on Youtube. It is called Living with Big Cats, and it is located in Hartbeespoort, about an hour away from Johannesburg. At Living with Big Cats you actually live with big cats; Cheetahs, Leopards, Tigers, and you will know it when the roar of the Lions wakes you up every morning. Other than cats, there are also elephants, horses, giraffes, kudu, warthogs, ostrich, and hippos running around. You get to interact with the animals but you do have to work. We cleared the roads from rocks, weeding, feeding, and picking up dung, but the work is nothing compared to the amount of fun you will have. This project is also a fantastic place to meet animal lovers from around the world. I met people from Brazil, Australia, Switzerland, England, Argentina, Canada, and of course from different parts of the US.  There are so many activities that to really enjoy your stay you’ll want to stay several weeks.  The minimum stay for the project is one week but I recommend at least 2 weeks. 


2. Apartheid Museum

During a day off at the sanctuary, a few of us took a tour of Johannesburg, and on that tour we visited the Apartheid Museum. The Apartheid Museum is a must visit as it teaches how many people suffered from apartheid (segregation) in South Africa. There is a Nelson Mandela wing that captures his life from beginning to end.


3. Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary

On another day off at the sanctuary, I visited the Bushbabies Monkey Sanctuary. This is a huge enclosed sanctuary with lots of monkeys (not apes i.e. chimpanzee). The monkeys are rescues from a life of abuse and crime. Yes, these monkeys were taught to steal, so watch your belongings. Luckily, there are lockers where you can store your valuable. There are also lemurs which look like monkeys but they are not. If you’re lucky, a monkey will sit on your shoulder sometime during the tour. 


4. Soweto

The township of Soweto (South Western Township) is another location I visited during my stay in South Africa. If you have seen the film District 9, Soweto will look familiar. In Soweto, you see the effect that Apartheid had on South Africa. There are significant historical locations, amazing culture, and extreme poverty.  I visited the Kliptown Youth Center, and the children were full of life and having so much fun. They even did a dance for us.  If you get a chance to visit a children learning center, please donate. 


That was my time in Johannesburg, South Africa. It was an impromptu trip so I was there only a week, and I always think of going back. South Africa is a beautiful country with great people, culture, and animals. Another note, if you want to see animals, visit a reputable sanctuary. I recommend Volunteer Southern Africa. They have several projects.

Have you been to or plan on going to South Africa? What interests you about it? Let us know in the comments below.

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