If you’re looking for an entertaining excursion that’s a little more unusual than the same old theme parks and nature drives, we’ve got a few suggestions for going off the beaten track!
For culture and architecture enthusiasts
The Nizamiye Complex towers over Midrand as the largest mosque complex in the southern hemisphere. If you live in Joburg, you’ve likely driven past it and marvelled at the sheer size and opulence of the building, but did you know the complex is actually open to the public, seven days a week?
The complex contains a mosque that can accommodate up to 6 000 worshippers, an exhibition hall, and a bazaar that offers a market, a fabulous bakery, and a must-visit Turkish restaurant.
This impressive building was completed in 2012, its style inspired by the 16th-century Ottoman Selimiye mosque complex in Edirne, Turkey. It is 31m high at the main dome, and sports an additional 4 large half domes, 21 smaller domes and 232 stained glass windows. The building is decorated inside with authentic Turkish ceramics and calligraphy. The dome is patterned with Turkish art, which is reflected in the custom-made carpet below.
Visit www.nizamiyecomplex.co.za for more info.
Safari and secret underground dinner
The JoburgPlaces signature experience, hosted at City Central and Zwipi Underground Bar, is a one-of-a-kind treat for foodies, historians and adventurers alike. Guests are taken between the impressive venues for a dinner-safari experience that usually includes a themed food and drink pairing with a delectable three-course meal, a short walking tour, and storytelling by an experienced guide.
On this urban ‘safari’ you can expect to taste dishes like seared biltong-spiced beef fillet with a garlic jus, served on a crispy samp rösti with snap peas, charred baby tomato and edamame beans; charred quail with stewed mushroom and bright fermented spring vegetables, and salted caramel profiteroles with dark chocolate sauce. The menu changes depending on the date of the tour, and you’ll be treated to either a gin and tonic pairing or a wine and port pairing. The cost is around R650 per person, all inclusive.
JoburgPlaces run a variety of other tours, including the Fashion District & Little Addis tour, Money, Banks & Vaults, and a tour of Urban Farming & Green Rooftops.
Visit www.joburgplaces.com for more info.
Magaliesberg canopy tour
Adventure through one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world – estimated to be 2 500 million years old – on this exciting canopy tour, located in the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve.
If you have a fear of heights, this tour may not be for you (unless you’re ready to conquer it!). It consists of ‘foefie’ sliding between platforms that are built into the rock faces of the Ysterhout Kloof, an impressive gorge carved out of the mountainside. The tour will take you zigzagging down the Kloof, stopping at each platform to admire the expansive views and unique surrounding ecology.
Nature lovers and birdwatchers are in for a treat, as the Magaliesberg mountains are home to an impressive array of plant and animal life, including the notoriously shy klipspringer, which you might spot jumping across the rocks, and
endangered black eagles. Trained canopy guides are there to assure the safety of each participant, and to share their knowledge of the surrounding indigenous plants, bird and wildlife, geology and ecology. The cost is around R660 per person.
Canopy Tours also offer adventures in other areas, including the Cape and Drakensberg.
Visit www.canopytour.co.za for more info.
For nature lovers
Melville Koppies nature reserve and heritage site tours
Take a guided tour or a bracing hike through this hidden gem of an area. The three-hour guided tours provide access to a wealth of nature and history, with guides to take you through the flora, fauna, geology, archaeology and history of the koppies. The tour is a 3km walk, so you don’t have to be a regular hiker to take part.
The actual hike through the koppies consists of an 8km walk, and covers all three sections of the Melville Koppies complex. You’ll travel through grasslands, forests, and a bubbling spruit, and experience stunning panoramic views when you reach the top ridge. Children must be over six years old to participate in either tour, and it’s advised that
you kit yourself out in comfortable walking shoes and a hat.
The cost for both events is R60 per adult and R40 per child. All funds go towards the maintenance of the Koppies.
Enquiries: Mk.org.za or 011 482 4797.
For a spiritual experience
Nan Hua Temple
The Nan Hua Temple in Bronkhorstspruit is the central religious and administrative office for all African branches of the Humanistic Buddhist order, Fo Guang Shan. As a non-profit organisation, the temple is open to the public for tours free of charge. The tours include access to various halls and sacred spaces, as well as a museum, gallery, curio shop and courtyard.
Nan Hua offers a vegetarian lunch every Sunday for only R30 per person, as well as meditation retreats throughout the year. The retreats teach techniques that can be incorporated into your lifestyle, and allow you to focus your energy on ‘finding the answers you seek and on rejuvenating your body, mind and spirit’. The cost of accommodation during a retreat starts at R400.
Visit www.nanhuatemple.org for more info.
For a challenge
HintHunt is the first live, interactive escape game concept in South Africa, following successful global franchises in cities like Dubai, London and Paris. You’ll have to muster all your wits, teamwork skills and puzzle-cracking abilities to escape your room, with the added adrenaline rush of having to get out within the 60-minute time limit!
The ‘game’ is designed to put your minds to the test, as you work to find hidden clues, solve riddles and unlock mysterious puzzles. HintHunt Johannesburg is situated in Illovo and has five uniquely themed game rooms, each catering for small groups of 3-6 people. You’ll also be able to enjoy a fully stocked bar and have a bite to eat.
HintHunt has two Cape Town locations too, at The Old Biscuit Mill and the recently launched HintHunt Superpark at the V&A Waterfront, which features 10 game rooms and an exciting new virtual reality arcade. Costs start at R400 (off-peak).
Visit www.hinthunt.co.za for more info.
For art and culture aficionados
Past Experiences offer a variety of walking tours, including their famous Joburg graffiti tours, which give a unique insight into the history of this fascinating art movement. You’ll learn about the international impact of graffiti and closely explore the incredible work of top artists throughout Joburg. Street art is ideal for anyone with an interest in inner-city photography (as well as keen Instagrammers!).
For an extra-special experience, you can book a tour led by a top graffiti artist, who will share first-hand knowledge of their art form. There are also graffiti workshops available if you’re feeling inspired and would like to give it a go. The workshops are run by experts from the Two by Two Art Studio, who will help you get creative with a spray can.
The cost of a two-hour tour starts at R1 100, and there are bimonthly budget tours for locals, priced from around R220.
Visit www.pastexperiences.co.za for more info.
For water babies
Full day boat-based whale-watching tour
The trip begins with a journey from Cape Town to the Great White House in Kleinbaai, where you can visit the restaurant and gift shop, and listen to a short introduction on what to look out for before embarking on your ocean adventure.
The trips are led by experienced marine guides, who share their knowledge and emphasise the conservation and welfare of the incredible ‘Marine Big 5’, namely whales, dolphins, seals, penguins and great white sharks, all of which you could spot during the tour.
The tour takes you through the renowned ‘Shark Alley’, a channel of water between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock, where you’re especially likely to see a friend of Jaws. Animals that have been spotted often during the tour include Bryde’s whales, humpback whales, southern giant petrels, Cape gannets and dolphins. The cost is around R2 657 per person.
Visit www.Ilios.co.za for more info.
FEATURE: CAITLIN GENG PHOTOS: FOTOLIA.COM AND SUPPLIED