Planning a trip to Africa?  In this installment of our Africa Travel Guide Series, follow us on a full private tour of Johannesburg, Soweto and Apartheid Museum.

Day Tour to Johannesburg, Soweto and Apartheid Museum

Trust me when I say that Johannesburg is not a place that is safe enough to step out of your hotel alone, not even in the daytime – in fact, among the numerous cities that we have traveled to, Johannesburg ranks as the only city where we felt unsafe at all times.

It actually felt a lot safer and more peaceful at Kruger National Park where all the wild things were, rather than at the city where the humans were.

Even if you feel brave enough to venture out alone, there’s hardly any semblance of a public transport system to get you around.  This has given rise to many locals providing their own private transport to ferry people around for a fee, and unless you are very familiar with this system of travelling and feel safe enough travelling with the locals, you will do better to arrange for a private tour of the city.

Fortunately for us, this was taken care of entirely by Wild Wings, who not only provided services for the safari at Kruger National Park, but also made arrangements for all other parts of our itinerary.

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This morning, our private tour of Johannesburg was provided by Spurwing Tourism Services in a private vehicle for just the 2 of us.

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Nelson Mandela Private Residence

There were quite a number of attractions that we were scheduled to visit within a day, and the first was the private residence of Mr Nelson Mandela.  Since his demise, the residence has passed on to his descendants who still occupy the house today.

So many of us tourist continue to turn up at this place even after the demise of Mr Nelson Mandela, that its residents had to resort to this to protect their lawn.

The sights of the city as we drove by.  Unlike other cities where we usually would request to make a stop to take a better picture, we actually do not want to leave the safety of our vehicle at this place.

Hard to believe that there is a Chinatown in Johannesburg, but yeah, it does seem that the Chinese are really everywhere, even in South Africa.

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Nelson Mandela Square

Our second stop was at the Nelson Mandela Square where there was a huge statue of the legendary man in front of a shopping mall.

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Johannesburg City Drive

Throughout Johannesburg city, you’ll come across very high end resort-like homes, and in sharp contrast to the the poshness of these homes, some very humble housing where most of the locals live in.

These wonderful houses were actually located up a hill with fresh air and a very good view of the city, a reminder of the splendid way that the rich live.

Passing by one of the shadiest part of town, where illegal activities and transactions take place.  It feels terribly unsafe even in a vehicle with dark shades, because people have been known to be shot and dragged out of their vehicles.  That’s how violent the crimes in Johannesburg can be.

Some parts of the city actually look quite modern.  A pity that the crime rate is still so high in this city.

Crossing the Nelson Mandela bridge.

The Museum of Africa.  Not sure what it contains, but the sprawling premises do suggest that you need a day at it.

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Top of Africa

At Johannesburg observation tower,  which they call the Top of Africa.

It does feel good to have a bird’s eye view of the city, and to have a better look at some of the landmarks and iconic buildings.

That’s the Nelson Mandela Bridge that we drove on the way here.

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The Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum was where we would spend the most of the afternoon at.

The Apartheid Museum exhibits the 20th century history of South Africa, and more importantly, illustrates the racial segregation experienced by the country.

To let visitors have a first-hand experience what it means to be black or white, visitors will have to join separate queues to enter the museum based on the race indicated at the back of the entry ticket.

No Photo-taking is allowed in the museum. It is an interesting museum – Do drop by to pay a visit if you are in Johannesburg.

The FNB Stadium, besides being a fine works of architecture, was also the site of Nelson Mandela’s first speech in Johannesburg after he was released from prison.   It was also the venue for the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final played between Netherlands and Spain.

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Soweto Township

To the township of Soweto, which in English means South Western Township.

Soweto’s population is predominately black.  And at this place, what we were to see was the contrast between some beautiful housing and the public housing that were provided for the general population, a reminder of the disparity between the rich and the poor all within the same town.

These were the public housing that the government had provided to house the homeless and those who were living in slums.  It was said that the local residents still conduct uprisings over the quality of housing provided for them, but honestly these housing looks more than decent to us.

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Mandela House

Next stop was Mandela House.  It has now been made into a museum and a monument, but this was the house that Nelson Mandela came back to live in with his wife Winnie after his release from prison.

The house is a single-storey red-bricked one, which looked humble for a man of Mandela’s status.

Inside, we find some original furnishings and memorabilia including photographs and citations.

Along the streets, we find some bazaar or marketplace.  It looks kind of interesting, but always be wary of taking out your wallet and for your own personal safety because fights constantly break out among the locals.

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Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum

Our last stop for the day was the Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, which commemorates the country’s struggle against apartheid and in particular, the role that young school children played in the 1976 Soweto Protests, where many were killed by the apartheid police.

One of the earliest casualties was Hector Pierterson, a 12-year old black boy.  The iconic photograph of Hector Pierterson being carried by a high school student, with his elder sister running alongside has now become a graphic representation of the repression that the blacks face under the apartheid rule.

This was the exact place where the young boy Hector Pierterson was shot and killed.

This concludes our one-day private tour of Johannesburg.

Join us next as we travel to Zimbabwe to view the majestic Victoria Falls.

First published 21 Jan 2018
Last updated 2 Feb 2019

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