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Things to Do in Gauteng - page 2

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Pilanesberg National Park
7 Tours and Activities

Among the many options for going on a safari near Johannesburg, the Pilanesberg National Park offers all of the Big Five on a reserve that shares a border with the popular resort Sun City. The park, most often known as the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, stretches over nearly 221 square miles and is essentially contained within the crater of a long extinct volcano (hence its roughly circular shape). Inside the park there are more than 116 miles of roads – these are not paved, but they're maintained well enough that visitors can do self-guided driving tours through Pilanesberg National Park as well as go on guided safari drives. There are even “hides” where you can get out of your car and watch for animals in a safe and camouflaged spot. Because of the volcanic setting, Pilanesberg National Park is as interesting to geologists as it is to animal lovers. Several rare minerals can be found inside the park, as well as evidence of human existence dating from the Iron Age and Stone Age.

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Cradle of Humankind
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3 Tours and Activities

A 181-square-mile (470-square-kilometer) area to the west of Johannesburg contains about 300 caves where thousands of hominid and animal fossils have been discovered, some dating back as much as four million years. The UNESCO-listed Cradle of Humankind is one of the most significant archaeological and anthropological sites in the world, having produced the most complete human fossil record in the world and more hominid fossils than anywhere else.

Visitors to the Cradle of Humankind should begin their explorations of the area at Maropeng Visitor Centre, shaped like a giant grass-covered burial mound, where a variety of exhibits detail the formation of our planet and the four-billion-year history of life on Earth. Not all excavated sites within the Cradle of Humankind are open to the public, but visitors can explore the Sterkfontein Caves, one of the most famous fossil sites (and location of the world’s longest-running continuous paleoanthropological dig.

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Nelson Mandela Bridge

The Nelson Mandela Bridge covers a span of over 931 feet in the Johannesburg city center, but this bridge doesn't cross a river. Instead, the bridge soars over more than 40 rail lines, linking the Newtown and Braamfontein neighborhoods.

Opened in 2003 by Nelson Mandela himself, the Nelson Mandela Bridge is Africa's largest cable-stayed bridge. The bridge accommodates two lanes of car traffic, a cycling path, and pedestrian sidewalks on either side. The modern design has a lightweight appearance, and the entire bridge is illuminated at night with varying colors – it's something of a light show in the Johannesburg city center every night. The Nelson Mandela Bridge was built as part of a rejuvenation project in Johannesburg's business district. In 2011, it was used as a runway during Joburg Fashion Week. Thanks to the bridge, it's now easier to get between attractions such as the SAB World of Beer, the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, Mary Fitzgerald Square, the Civic Theatre.

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Montecasino Bird Gardens

Located in northern Johannesburg, Montecasino is first and foremost a Vegas-like gaming complex, complete with casino games, shopping and restaurants. It’s also home to the Montecasino Bird Gardens. This walk-through aviary houses more than 1,000 birds representing over 60 species, including Nicobar pigeons and the colorful Scarlet ibis. Other animals — reptiles, amphibians and a few mammals like antelope, sloth and lemur — also call the gardens home. The garden’s collection of more than 750 South African Cycads representing 37 species is the largest private collection of its kind in the world. One specimen is estimated to be more than 2,500 years old.

Twice daily on weekdays and three times daily on weekends, Montecasino Bird Gardens presents a 40-minute Flight of Fantasy educational bird show. Cafe Flamingo serves refreshments overlooking the flamingo pond.

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Hillbrow Tower

Africa's tallest structure is in the skyscraper-rich city of Johannesburg, in the suburb of Hillbrow to be exact. The Hillbrow Tower stands at 883 feet and has held the title of Africa's tallest tower for 40 years.

The Hillbrow Tower was completed in 1971, and was at one time the tallest structure in the Southern Hemisphere. It lost that designation in 1978 when a chimney in Queensland, Australia was built to be two feet taller. The structure is technically called the Telkom Jo'burg Tower, after the telecommunications company for whom it was initially built. The distinctive Hillbrow Tower is one of the symbols of Johannesburg – it was decorated with an enormous soccer ball during the 2010 World Cup. The tower was closed to visitors in 1981, which is too bad for anyone who appreciates soaring views – the tower was once one of the city's top tourist draws, and one of the top floors even had a revolving restaurant.

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