As the first term of school comes to an end, stay-at-home parents will be faced with children who require entertainment.
When children break from their everyday routine, they are ready to make the most of their holidays, which can be an overwhelming challenge at times.
If you are a Gauteng parent who is not among those going away these school holidays, Heather Mason says you should look no further than your backyard for entertainment.
Mason, an author on BrightRock’s Change Exchange platform, says whether you’re a history buff, a budding ornithologist, or a lover of the outdoors, these few off-the-beaten-path suggestions for day trips will be your best bet:
Explore a jewel of the diamond rush days
Cullinan is a quaint little town about an hour-and-a-half from Joburg, with just enough to see and do in a day – maybe two days for hardcore history buffs.
Cullinan is best known for its diamond mine tours, which range from R150 for a surface tour to R600 for an underground tour. But there is plenty to see in Cullinan beyond the mine.
Take a journey back to the origin of our species
The Cradle of Humankind, a Unesco World Heritage site less than an hour North-west of Joburg, is the bucolic home of some of the world’s oldest human ancestors.
Day-trippers can visit the Sterkfontein Caves, where archaeologists discovered the famous “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot” fossils, and the nearby Maropeng Visitors Centre, a museum that takes visitors on a journey through the history of the universe, for a combined price of R160.
See the Big Five close to home
Just 30 minutes from Pretoria, Dinokeng Game Reserve is the only free-roaming Big 5 reserve in Gauteng.
A large portion of the Dinokeng Reserve is open for self-driving day-trippers, but overnight visitors can also book into one of several private lodges.
Enjoy a day of twitching on an accidental wetland
The Marievale Bird Sanctuary, about an hour east of Joburg, near the town of Nigel, is one of Gauteng’s best-kept wildlife-viewing secrets.
The park is maintained by the Gauteng government and admission is free.
It’s best to arrive at Marievale early. Once you’ve spotted a few African spoonbills and pied kingfishers, plan a leisurely braai breakfast in the picnic area.
Marievale is located on the R42 in Ekurhuleni, about 4km from Nigel.
Opening hours are from 5.30am to 7.30pm in summer and 6.00am to 6.00pm in winter.
Go wild and amble on the Koppies
Spend a few hours in the Wilds, a municipal nature reserve between Killarney and Houghton.
It’s a wonderland of indigenous trees and shrubs and is dotted with colourful art installations. The Wilds’ greenhouse is home to a beautiful collection of rare cycads.
Walk in the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve and 1000 years back in time, to a rock-strewn, primordial landscape that looks much the same as it did in the Iron Age, only with a beautiful city skyline view in the distance.
Mason reckons that there’s a lot more to Gauteng than skyscrapers and traffic.