The Geological Trail as it tops out above the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens.

Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens

Geological Trail

“Go as far as you can see and when you get there, you will see further.”

There is much to see at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. As one of South Africa’s foremost parks, it is a journey through manicured gardens, over sturdy bridges and inevitably, expectantly out into rocky Highveld grassland. 

The perfect-to-picnic green parkland and neatly paved walkways that greet you at the entrance are bordered by carefully planted indigenous flower beds. The 300 hectares of botanical reserve house many indigenous gardens, including an aromatherapy, succulent, cycad and aloe garden. As a park, it is a triumph of green grass below the canopies of many and various trees, each expertly labeled for your curiosity. These carefully indexed trees form part of one of the few arboretums in the country. I love the idea of a library of trees where each living tree is praised as a prize specimen of its own kind. It is a beautiful idea that is just as enchanting to visit in real life. 

Network of paved footpaths running through the Botanical Gardens.

Witpoortjie Falls on Muldersdrif Se Loop.

"Dani and Jesse's Place. Go as far as you can see and when you get there you will be able to see further."

“19 / 09 / 2010. Dani – You are the air that I breathe. You are my inspiration, my soul-mate. You are my everything. Marry me, Wayne.” 

Whilst the gardens and lawns provide an antidote to the summer heat, the star of the botanical gardens is, for better or worse, its waterfall. The Witpoortjie Waterfall will be the most prevalent image result you’ll get should you choose to type ‘Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens’ into Google. I, however, will just have to agree to disagree with popular Google opinion on this score. I appreciate its harsh geometry, but am far more intrigued by the garden’s resident tortoise and ice cream van than the famed waterfall, to be honest.

It is an abrupt transition from the lush green man-made beauty of the gardens to the harsh and random construction of the hillside, but the pathway continues onwards and we must follow it.

Having summited the rocky hillside of the Geological Trail near the neck of the falls, we happen upon a rather weather-beaten little wooden bench. It is humble and perfect in that it provides us a moment’s rest after the steep uphill in the blazing Joburg sun.

We find ourselves reading two bronze plaques fastened to the browbeaten wood:  

Go as far as you can see and when you get there you will be able to see further
Stef and Maureen du Plessis”
Dani, y
ou are the air that I breathe. You are my inspiration, my soul mate. You are my everything. Marry me, Wayne”

 The plaques are fascinating, a kind-of-impossible word sum. We have been given a glimpse of strangers’ lives, etched into brass for any passerby to see. Who are Dani, Jessi and Wayne, and how do they fit together? It has all the elements of a good mystery: an object lovingly dedicated and countered by a romantic proposal, with the possibility of love, of loss, of tragedy and of triumph. With no apparent answers to the many questions the plaques pose, we are left to craft our own stories throughout the remainder of our walk. 

The Verraux's Eagle pair's nest which can be seen from above the waterfall.

Mirroring the unsolved romance of the bench is the Verreaux’s Eagle couple, whose nests can be seen from the bench’s seat. For the last forty years, they have made their home on the cliffs adjacent to the falls, and are part of a protected breeding programme. These eagles mate for life. The female eagle, Emoyeni (upon the wind), has nested here since the 1970s. The original eagle pair disappeared for a while, causing great concern. Only Emoyeni returned to the nest, bringing a new mate named Quatele (the cross one) with her. In 1998, but a few years later, Quatele also disappeared. After scouring the ridges for him, Emoyeni eventually took on her third life partner, Thulane (the shy one), who is much younger than she is and is still by her side to this day. This romantic drama has its own live stream via the internet, allowing you to visit the matriarch and her toy boy online.

“Go as far as you can see and when you get there, you will see further.”

Go as far as the front door
Go as far as the park and the picnic
Go as far as the pathway, to the end of the pathway
Go as far as the rocky veldt
Go as far as your legs will take you
Go as far as the bench on the top of the hillside
Go as far as the very the edge of the krans 

And when you get there, you will be able to see further; to see the start of your next adventure.

Trail Head Location (WGS84)

S26º 05’ 14.0” E27º 50’ 39.4"

Other Trails At Destination

Network of paved foot paths.

Geological Trail – 5,3km
Anglo Vaal Walkway – Est 4km

Route Info

Total Distance : 5,3km
Trail Type : Circular
Trail Markings : Very Good
Starting Altitude : 1499
Summit Altitude : 1691
Difficulty Rating : 2 / 10
Dustbins : Y
Water points : Y
Toilets : Y
Picnic: Y

How To Book

086 100 1278

Operating Hours

Monday to Sunday

Hiked 21 Jan