Pretoria / Tshwane, South Africa
While South Africa has three capital cities, Pretoria (in the Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality), is still the most important and recognized of the three.
It is technically the administrative capital and is home to the national archives, and the Union Buildings, which is the president’s home and official seat of the SA government. This beautiful city is nicknamed Jacaranda City after the blossoming Jacaranda trees that line almost every street with a lovely blue purple color in the spring. Close by the town of Cullinan is worth visiting as this is where the Cullinan Diamond was found – the largest gem stone in the world.
If you are more adventurous why not go tandem skydiving or hot air ballooning? In Tshwane, which incorporates the cities of Pretoria, Akasia and Centurion among others, you will find many monuments and museums like the Transvaal Museum, Kruger House, Mapungubwe Museum at the University of Pretoria, and African Window. At the Traansvaal Museum you will find the display of the 2.5 million year old fossil of Mrs. Ples who was excavated from the Sterkfontein Caves and at the Mapungubwe Museum there is a large display of Iron Age artifacts also found in the Cradle of Humankind. There are also 6 main nature reserves to visit such as Wonderboom, Groenkloof, and Rietfontein.
The people of this city are also passionate about sports, the main one being rugby which is played at Loftus Versveld. Accommodation options vary and some of the choices include the Casa Toscana Lodge, Cricklewood Manor, Avalon Guest House, Coral Tree Inn, Sheraton Pretoria Hotel, and Hotel Boulevard.
The Union Buildings were designed by renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker shortly after 1910, when South African became a Union. The buildings were built of light sandstone and designed to represent the union of the two sides fighting for power of the country, the English and the Afrikaans (former Dutch). Aside from the architectural masterpiece of the buildings, the terraced gardens are also of great popularity and amongst the indigenous vegetation there is an amphitheater that seats 9000 people. Of the many statues that are found in the garden, the main one is of the first Prime Minister of South Africa, General Louis Botha on horseback.
National Zoological Gardens of South Africa
This is the national zoo of the country and was formerly called the Pretoria Zoo. Inside you will find species of animals from all over the world including some koalas. You can view the zoo by vertical cable car and shop at the curios and craft markets outside. This zoo is the largest in the country and biggest in terms of research, education and conservation initiatives. There are many events that take place, especially during the school holidays for the kids and you can go on various day tours, night tours and camping tours. The conservation initiatives include animal breeding programs, adoption programs and insightful talks.
A not to be missed experiences is the Voortrekker Monument which is a large granite feature towering above the city.
There is also a massive amphitheater next to the monument which seats 20,000 people. It was erected to honor the Voortrekkers who had founded this area, upon leaving the Cape Colony. The imposing structure measures 40 meters by 40 meters and in 40 meters high. It is complete with plenty of displays, statues, and each room offers visitors an interesting slice of Voortrekker history and culture. There is also a garden of remembrance and a nature reserve around the monument home to zebra, blesbok, springbok, impala and reedbuck.