Fun things to do in Pretoria

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Pretoria

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    State Theatre old MArket Sqaure

    by kenHuocj Written Feb 20, 2013

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    Once upon a time, when i was young, my father would take me along to the market, either to buy fish from Natal i, of Fruit & Veggies. from one of the Indian Vendors, i remember the excitement of the cobblestones, the trucks delivering their produce and sometimes was taken to Katzen Meat when the carcasses of beef, lamb and pork were being likewise unloaded to be collected by butchers for retail sales in the suburbs. When i became a teenager and we were allowed to go out, we'd go into the small Italian Diner, for a Cappuccino from the expresso machine, the little cups of black aromatics were never tried until i became a young adult student in Johannesburg.

    a Ballerina because she was not white in the mid 60's could have become one of the senior dancers, but to escape the wrath of the Separate amenities act i.e Segretation / Apartheid - instead she danced professionally with the Royal Winnipeg and Montreal Les Grandes Ballet Companies. Sandra Prinsloo i knew as a student studying under Ann Neethling Pohl, that was about 1969 ~ 45 years ago

    if iwas to be in Pretoria in August /Sept 2013, for $3:50 - $11.59 i'd be able to enjoy her acting artistry again as Magdaleen in &B&L[http://www.statetheatre.co.za/Default.aspx?tabId=135&ShowID=82&ReturnURL=133]the Sewing Masjien / Naaimasjien &L* in Afrikaans or Englsih. Reviewed by the Guardian and the Telegraph , these 4 and 5 star reviews she received is interesting considering Hendrik Verwoed's "ugly" Bronze head under the Ferro Concrete arch West of the STate Theatre on the Pazza disappeared into the parking Garage below by who ?
    or at the Rendesvous for only $9:50 but it was on the 1st and 22nd feb, therell always be something happening.
    %L[Kirk Whalum, American smooth jazz saxophonist and songwriter, willperform at the State Theatre’s Opera Hall in April 2013

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    Stroll through history at Jan Smuts House

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Dec 18, 2012

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    Jan Smuts' House in Irene (a southern suburb of Pretoria) is a serene place to spend a couple of hours. Added to that, you have an opportunity to gain an understanding of General Jan Smuts, possibly South Africa's most prominent international statesman prior to Mandela.

    Smuts was a paradox - an Afrikaaner who fought against the British in the Boer War, yet he was a total Anglophile and royalist who commanded Allied Forces in both the First and Second World Wars. Many people would consider it unlikely that a South African could have been such a prominent world leader in the 20th century, yet he was one of the chief negotiators of the Treaty of Paris at the end of World War I and played an instrumental role in the establishment of the League of Nations (the predecessor to the United Nations). He was eventually voted out of power by a narrow margin in 1948, and was replaced by D.F. Malan of the National Party, who subsequently launched the disastrous system of grand apartheid. Make no mistake - Smuts was no saint - but this wiley fox is a complex and compelling character who provides a very different perspective on South Africa's early 20th century history that you probably won't get to appreciate anywhere else.

    Smuts hobnobbed with the influential and famous during his time as Prime Minister and even had royalty such as the present Queen and her parents to stay - which doesn't sound like much of an achievement until you understand that he accommodated them in his personal home (rather than a state residence). Even more remarkably, the house in question was a modest wood and corrugated iron farmhouse that had been originally fabricated in Britain and was bought on auction at the end of the Boer War (although admittedly, considerably extended and upgraded thereafter). The spirit of his wife Ouma (literally 'Grandma') - who was a very unassuming woman who hated the limelight - is apparent in the modest furnishings.

    The house is much as he left it, and the walls are covered with fascinating photos that conjur up the life and times of a most remarkable man. The displays are well pitched in that they provide a good overview of his life, but it is the visual images - which present a veritable 'who's who' of celebrities of the first half of the 20th century - juxtaposed with a very simply furnished house that really makes the impact.

    The house is surrounded by a tranquil garden and it is possible to take a short walk up to Smuts Koppie (translated as 'little hill', although 'koppie' actually means 'little head' in Afrikaans), where Smuts used to retreat to think: this is where the ashes of both Smuts and his wife were scattered.

    There is a cafe (which was rather good when I was last there) and the property also hosts a flea market (open on the first and third Saturday mornings of the month and particularly vibrant in the run up to Christmas), so you could easily combine both attractions if you visited over a weekend.

    Assuming that you're driving, Irene is also quite close to the Voortrekker monument: given the antipathy between Smuts and the National Party leaders who succeeded him, it would be particularly interesting to combine both attractions in a day! It's also easily accessible from Freedom Park, which would provide an interesting contrast with a post-Apartheid view on South African history.

    Given the other historical attractions that Pretoria has to offer, this would be easy to overlook if you're hot and tired, but I think that to miss out on Jan Smuts' house would be tragic from a historical and aesthetic perspective. Presuming that you're staying in Johannesburg, do yourself a favour and make this the last stop on your Pretoria foray: you won't be disappointed.

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    Quake under Oom Paul's grumpy stare ...

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Dec 18, 2012

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    It is difficult to overstate Paul Kruger's significance to the Afrikaaner people, and so it is no surprise that a monument to his memory was placed in pride of place in Pretoria's Church Square.

    'Oom' Paul (a respectful term for an uncle) is a towering figure of Afrikaaner history, and was the State President of the South African Republic. He is probably best known as the Afrikaaner leader at the time of the Second Boer War (1899 - 1902) against the British, and as the man who lent his name to both the Kruger Park and the Kruger rand.

    Kruger was a former farmer who rose through the ranks of the Afrikaaner resistance movement who opposed the colonial British forces. He was a deeply religious man, to the point where he was often quoted as having said that he had only read one book in his life: the Bible. Kruger was an effective leader on domestic matters, but one whose weak spot was his poor understanding of foreign policy. After the Boers were defeated at the Battle of Berg-en-Dal (see my Machadodorp page), he fled into exile in Switzerland, where he unsuccessfully tried to rally international support for the Afrikaaner cause, and subsequently died. With him went the contents of the State treasury (estimated at 800 000 sterling in 1900), which was never found, leading to the legend of the missing 'Kruger millions' - still eagerly sought by treasure hunters over a century later.

    This bronze statue is by the celebrated Dutch sculptor, Anton von Wouw, and is a stunning piece of work that perfectly captures the demeanour of the man. In his time, Kruger was a cartoonist's dream, with his dour, grumpy expression and chin strap beard, and yet von Wouw manages to convey the gravitas of a man who may have been ridiculed by the colonial forces, but was beloved by his people.

    The detail of the rest of the monument is equally impressive, particularly the figures of the Afrikaaner commandoes that sit in quiet contemplation at the four corners of the base (see other photo).

    If you're interested in learning more about Oom Paul and the towering influence that he had on Afrikaaner history, follow Church Street westward for a few hundred metres to the excellent Paul Kruger House museum, and thereafter a couple of kilometres further west to his last resting place in the former Heroes' Acre.

    Update (October 2011): In doing some research on Anton von Wouw in preparation for a visit to the collection of his work displayed in his old house which is now part of the University of Pretoria (but which has been closed to the public due to resource constraints), I was fascinated to discover how much this statue had moved around. It was actually completed in Rome (yes, the Italian one) in 1899, and shipped by sea to Delagoa Bay - now Maputo - in Mozambique. However, this unfortunately coincided with the outbreak of the Anglo Boer war, and so the statue was left in a warehouse and handed over to Lord Kitchener, the commander of the British forces when the Boers were defeated. It was only erected in Pretoria's Prinsepark - without the commando figures - in 1913 and was relocated to a position in front of the railway station (this time with commandoes in attendance) in 1925.

    The completed product was finally installed in its current location in Church Square in 1954.

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    National Cultural History Museum

    by kenHuocj Written Nov 2, 2012

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    This was the Old Mint, now a new building, well researched exhibits, of Southern Africa.
    If you see some wooden folding chairs from Botswana, i was travelling with one f their Archeologist on that "hunting/procurement" expedition.
    A block away from the Transvaal Where Mrs Ples is kept under lock and key.
    This is one of the branches of 8 museums, 7 in Tshwane/Pretoria and one in Johannesburg under the The DITSONG Museums of South Africa banner

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    Marvel at monumentally awful 60s concrete

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Aug 21, 2012

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    The passionate and enduring love affair between Afrikaaners and concrete is one that I have never fathomed out (and suspect I never will)!

    Obviously it's a generalisation, but most Afrikaaners are fairly conservative and traditional in their tastes - although, as with any group, there are some spectacular exceptions - so their passion over the years for this most modern of building materials is baffling. Sometimes this relationship has borne spectacular fruit - such as the eccentrically wonderful Taal (Language) Monument in Paarl and some very thoughtprovoking churches which pop up in the most unlikely of places - but sadly the most visible legacies of this infatuation are the soulless CBDs of the 1960s.

    Architecturally, it could be argued that the 60s was the decade that good taste forgot, and the sterilisation of inner city spaces with concrete high rises over this period was certainly not a phenomenon restricted to South Africa. Nonetheless, the CBDs of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town (and, to a lesser degree, Durban) all have an anonymous, grey sameness to them, which is particularly out of kilter with their often picturesque surroundings and is all the more depressing as the CBDs - particularly Pretoria's - have been allowed to plummet unchecked into inner city decay.

    On a recent visit to Pretoria, I was struck by the stark contrast between the elegant simplicity of Paul Kruger's Cape Dutch House and the monstrous high rise apartment blocks which overlook it. Kruger was a conservative - even by Afrikaaner standards - and I don't doubt that he would have been absolutely horrified by subsequent developments!

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    The railway carriage that housed a Government

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Feb 10, 2012

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    South African history has more than its fair share of unlikely tales to share, but few as bizarre as the fact that for a brief period during the Anglo Boer war, the Transvaal Government was housed in a carriage parked in a railway siding!

    Machadodorp - a sleepy dorpie just off the main road to Nelspruit - bizarrely became the nation's capital for a three week period in 1900. After the fall of Pretoria to the British, the Transvaal Volksraad (the Boer forces) made the town their temporary base and reestablished the seat of government (and, importantly, the mint) in railway carriages parked in a siding at the Machadodorp station.

    After the battle of Bergendal (just outside Machadodorp), the ailing and aged Kruger fled to Mozambique, from where he travelled to Europe to try and raise support for the Boer Republic. The rest of the Boer forces dissipated to wage a gruelling and highly effective guerilla campaign on the British for the remainder of the war.

    The railway carriage has now been permanently installed in the grounds of Paul Kruger House. Entry to the interior of the carriage is not permitted, but it is possible to peer through the windows and imagine the unlikely events that must have unfolded inside.

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    An insight into Paul Kruger's world

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Feb 10, 2012

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    It took me a quarter of a century to visit the Paul Kruger House in Pretoria, and even then, I visited on a whim because I had an hour to kill over lunchtime between business meetings. So, faced with the choice between feeding my face and feeding my mind (and VT pages), I decided that I would finally address this oversight.

    Paul Kruger House was where Kruger lived before he fled from the British (and ultimately went into exile) after the fall of Pretoria in the Anglo Boer War. It is an attractive single storey house built in the Cape Dutch style, and is of surpringly modest proportions considering that it was used for State as well as personal purposes (for an interesting contrast, have a look at the Old Presidency building in Bloemfontein, which housed the leaders of the Boer Republic of the Orange Free State - Kruger's contemporaries - amid much more imposingly elegant surroundings). It is also endearingly homespun in certain aspects: for instance, the ceilings in the main reception rooms are made of plain wood planks, but have had strips of wood somewhat inexpertly applied to the surface to give them a more ornate, moulded appearance.

    The interior is furnished in a characteristic gloomy Victorian style, complete with stiffbacked chairs and framed samplers featuring inspirational texts, and it's difficult to imagine anyone ever relaxing there. But then relaxation wasn't part of the strictly Calvinistic ethos that the Kruger family espoused, so that wouldn't have been a consideration. The Krugers were deeply religious - even by the religious standards of the time - and even the guards that were posted at the entrance to the house were required to stand up when the family was at prayer inside. The photos convey a sense is one of a closeknit and unostentatious family who did not court the limelight - indeed, there is a distinct sense that Kruger disliked being an international figure and would much rather that he and his people had been left alone to focus on their farms and traditional way of life.

    The house is fairly interesting, but what I found far more absorbing were the exhibits that have been established in a series of outbuildings at the back of the house. These include the railway carriage from which the Transvaal Government operated in Machadodorp after the fall of Pretoria (see my other Pretoria travel tip and my Machadodorp page) and also document Kruger's period in exile. The exile material is particularly poignant, as it conveys a sense of earnest desperation as an ageing Kruger tried to muster support and resources for his cause to unseat the British against a backdrop of general apathy, with his only real champion being the young Queen of the Netherlands.

    Paul Kruger House is located on the western edge of the Pretoria CBD, and there is some street parking outside the house. It is directly opposite the Paul Kruger Church, and it is located between Kruger's grave in the Church Street cemetery (a short drive to the west) and Paul Kruger's statue in Church Square (an even shorter stroll to the east), so you could easily combine all of these into a morning or afternoon, after which you would be all Krugered out!

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    Heroes Acre: unfashionable heroes from another era

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Feb 10, 2012

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    Heroes' Acre in Pretoria's Church Street cemetery is a fascinating place which is almost impossible to write about without risking the ire of the VT censor.

    Heroes' Acre is the last resting place of some of the most influential figures in South Africa's pre-democratic history. And therein lies the rub, as - other than Paul Kruger - its most (in)famous 'resident' is HF Verwoerd, the architect and instigator of Grand Apartheid. He is perhaps the most reviled figures in South African history, and frankly, I'm quite surprised that his grave has survived so long without being vandalised. And, as I discovered when researching this tip, to add insult to injury, the man who unleashed such catastrophic social engineering on South Africa wasn't born in South Africa at all!

    It is difficult to find anything positive to say about Verwoerd: perhaps the best that can be offered in mitigation is that racial segregation in South Africa dates back to the initial period of European colonisation in the seventeenth century, and became progressively more rigidly enforced from the early 20th century when the British colonial 'pass laws' were enacted. However it was Verwoerd who provided a coherent vision for segregation, codified apartheid and put in place the lumbering administrative and legal machinery that was required to enforce the apartheid creed of 'separate development'.

    Verwoerd was born in Holland, but emigrated to South Africa with his parents when he was a young child. He became an academic who was first appointed a Professor of Applied Psychology and then branched out into Sociology and Social Work - hugely ironic considering the disastrous outcomes of the social engineering that he implemented. One of the biggest influences on his politics (and his subsequent political vision) was the social work that he undertook in the poor white community during the Depression of the 1930s.

    His first Cabinet appointment was as Minister of Native Affairs. As part of his portfolio, he was also responsible for education of the black population, and laid the foundation for the notorious 'bantu' education system. Verwoerd maintained that blacks should only receive education to a level which would enable them to perform their appointed role in society - which he notoriously defined as blacks being destined to be ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ - thus condemning most Africans to an education that consisted of nothing more than basic numeracy and literacy. The disastrous outcome of this decision was the creation of several generations of black South Africans who were appallingly badly educated - irrespective of their potential - and is perhaps the single most destructive legacy of apartheid, which still blights South African development half a century on.

    Verwoerd was Prime Minister of the South African Republic from 1958 until he was assassinated in 1966 by a parliamentary messenger, Dimitrios Tsafendas, who stabbed Verwoerd whilst he was sitting at his desk in Parliament.

    Leaving Verwoerd's politics aside for a moment, even his grave is unsettling. I don't recall ever seeing a grave which featured the 'autograph' of the person it commemorates, and I find it hard to understand why anyone would think this appropriate for a gravestone.

    Across the way from Verwoerd lies JG Strijdom, one of his mentors, and the man that he succeeded as Prime Minister

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    Feel the impact of obscure Tswaing Crater

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Feb 10, 2012

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    The Vredefort Dome, to the south of Johannesburg is a meteorite impact crater that has been granted World Heritage status in the last couple of years: however, very few people are aware that there is a second meteorite crater in the area, which is, for my money, much more worthwhile.

    Tswaing is a meteorite impact crater north west of Pretoria. It is less than an hour from Pretoria, but because it's well off the beaten track, it is seldom touristed, and feels rewardingly remote. If you like visiting offbeat locations, are crowd-averse and have an appreciation for the natural environment and disaster movies, then Tswaing's definitely the place for you!

    The meteorite which created Tswaing is estimated to have been 30-50m in diameter and the impact left a crater over 1km wide and 100m deep - talk about creating an impact (sorry!) In geological terms Tswaing is brand spanking new, since it's estimated to be only 220,000 years old: as a result, it is remarkably well preserved, and much more recognisable as an impact crater than the older, larger and much more famous Vredefort Dome impact crater (a recently created World Heritage area about an hour's drive south of Johannesburg).

    Wikipedia says the following: "The name Tswaing means Place of Salt in Tswana and was previously known as Soutpankrater in Afrikaans (which still appears on some of the road signs). Stone tools from the Middle Stone Age show that the crater was regularly visited by people from as far back as 100 000 years ago in order to hunt and collect salt. Water in the crater comes from surface springs, ground water and rain water and is rich in dissolved carbonates and sodium chlorides. Tswana and Sotho people harvested the salt by filtering and decoction between 1200 AD and 1800 AD. Between 1912 and 1956 brine was pumped from the floor of the crater by the company SA Alkali Ltd. in order to extract soda and salt" (by the way, you can still see the remains on this infrastructure on the crater floor).

    By far the best way to appreciate Tswaing is to hike the circular 7.2km crater trail, which follows the perimeter of the crater and allows you to descend down onto the crater floor along a section of the route. Quite apart from the unique scenery (there are, after all, less than 200 of this type of terrestrial meteorite crater in the world), this is a lovely walk through pristine indigenous vegetation - see my photo of gorgeous aloes in bloom during winter - that is energetic but manageable for the moderately fit. Be warned that it can get very hot in this area, and that there is relatively little shade along some sections of the route, so come prepared with hat, sunscreen and plenty of water. I would recommend starting the hike as early as possible to avoid the midday heat, which will also give you a better chance of seeing the mammal and birdlife (the latter is particularly rewarding, since the juxtaposition of woodland and wetland ecosystems means that you have a chance to see species from both).

    There is a 'museum' by the parking area where the trail begins - to be honest, this makes it sound rather grander than it is, but the poster displays on the formation of the crater and the attendant wildlife are worthwhile perusing before you set forth to explore. There are four other trails in the 2000ha surrounding conservation area and some group accommodation (I have no idea what this is like).

    From Johannesburg, take the N 1 north towards Polokwane. Take N 4 west towards Rustenburg at next off-ramp (signposted Bakwena Platinum Freeway). Drive through the Doornpoort toll plaza (19 km) and take M 80 Pretoria/Soshanguve off-ramp towards Soshanguve. Drive north along M 80 (Mabopane Freeway) until a point where this freeway stops at three-way stop-sign intersection (about 18 km) and turn right towards M 35 (signposted Soutpan Tswaing) at this intersection. Turn left at T-junction with M 35 Soutpan or Tswaing Road and drive on for about 15km north past Soshanguve’s informal settlements. Watch out for game fence (left) and Coca-Cola sign indicating Tswaing Crater 2.7 km and turn left at brown tourist signs after 2.7 km into gravel road leading to main gate - keep a sharp eye out, as when I visited, this sign wasn't very obvious (easy, eh???)

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    Interesting municipal art in Hatfield

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Dec 19, 2011

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    Anyone who has read some of my other pages will know that I have a particular weakness for municipal art, and that sculpture is the form of artistic expression that I like and understand best.

    I am saddened that I have yet to find out anything more about this huge metal sculpture at the back of Hatfield Plaza in Pretoria, a short stroll from the Hatfield Gautrain station: I would say that there is a reasonable chance that it depicts Nelson Mandela, but even if it doesn't, it's a very striking piece of art, and well worth a look if you're in the area.

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    The two ugliest buildings on Pretoria's skyline!

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Dec 19, 2011

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    The grotesque holds a particular appeal for me, so when I saw the opportunity to photograph the two ugliest buildings on the Pretoria skyline in a single frame, I grabbed it with both hands!

    I find that I'm unwittingly writing quite extensively about TV towers in one context or other - maybe because they are so very visible on a city skyline - but even by the low aestethic standards that one comes to expect from these structures, the Pretoria tower does represent the scraping of the proverbial barrel. If I had my way (and sufficient budget), I'd import David Cerny to cover the thing with marauding, crawling, bronze babies as he did in Prague, but I doubt that it would go down well with the honest burgers of Pretoria!!!

    The UNISA campus building is arguably an even uglier structure. A veritable celebration of the great Afrikaaner love affair with concrete, this structure always reminds me of a space ship that has mistakenly landed in the southern suburbs of Pretoria, especially late in the afternoon when all the lights are blazing. For the unitiated, UNISA stands for the University of South Africa, and is a distance learning institution. It has over 200,000 enrolled students, and is therefore happy to describe itself as 'one of the world's mega universities'.

    For those eager to similarly abuse their visual senses, this photo was taken from Freedom Park!

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    Excellent use of local art for display purposes

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Dec 19, 2011

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    The Transvaal Museum (now Ditsong) is chronically underresourced, and has clearly seen much better days. Which is a great pity, as some of the exhibits - such as the coelocanth and the hominid exhibit- are world class but time worn, and deserve to be displayed in a manner that does them justice.

    I have to give the cash-strapped curators credit for having done as much as they can with the limited funds at their disposal. One aspect of their display material that really appealed to me was the innovative use of batiks by an artist (who signs their work as 'L. Steyn') to enliven the exhibits. The photo, which illustrates the transmission mechanism of the bilharzia parasite is an excellent case in point, and illustrates that when the going gets tough, the tough get creative!

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    Raymond Dart and the Taung Child

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Dec 19, 2011

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    Most tourists who come to South Africa have a burning desire to see wildlife - and quite right too - but I find it slightly sad that not so many know anything at all about our stunning hominid heritage.

    The region between Johannesburg and Pretoria - now incorporated into the somewhat pretentiously titled 'Cradle of Humankind' World Heritage site - is home to literally dozens of sites that have provided a fantastic perspective on the origins of our ancestors (see my tip on Maropeng and Sterkfontein for more on this). The geological strata that have preserved this fascinating legacy are predominantly infill sediments which have accumulated in dolomitic caves that early hominids used for shelter.

    The same dolomite is South Africa's major aquifer (underground water resource) and extends in a broad band well into the arid interior of the Northern Cape. And it was in a similar cavefill site excavated by the Northern Lime Company during 1924 that workmen found the skull of the Taung Child - a juvenile Australopithacus Africanus - and probably the most important hominid fossil of the generation. Dioramas of the Child - and several other significant hominid finds - have been reconstructed at the Transvaal Museum (now Ditsong).

    The importance of the skull was immediately realised by Professor Raymond Dart of the University of the Witwatersrand. In hindsight, the find was hugely significant, but little regarded at the time as its characteristics (particularly its large, forward-focused eyes) were very different to those shown by the skull of Piltdown Man, which shaped the perception of our closest ancestors at the time. Piltdown Man was later exposed as a fraud, but as a result, it took decades for Professor Dart's theory on the Taung Child to be widely accepted.

    The Taung Child is now regarded as being about 2.5 million years old and having been about 3 years old when it died. Research concluded in 2006 that it was probably killed by a large eagle. This has been deduced on the basis of pierce marks in the skull similar to those seen on primates who have been killed by large raptors) - hence the trepidation that the Child is showing in the reconstruction! (see other pictures)

    I love this sculpture of Professor Dart lovingly regarding 'his' Child because it celebrates the remarkable person responsible for this scientific breakthrough, rather than just the achievement itself. I wish that more museums commemorated their scientists similarly.

    P.S. Although Raymond Dart (who died in 1988) spent virtually all of his adult life in South Africa, it's a well kept secret that he was actually a Queenslander by birth. Who cares? By then we'd long since embraced him as one of our own!

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    An unlikely place to bump into 'Old Four Legs'

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Dec 19, 2011

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    I make no bones about the fact that my favourite fish of all time is the coelacanth, so when I unexpectedly happened across one in the Transvaal Museum (now Ditsong), it was cause for celebration!

    The amazing story of this large armour plated fish that was thought to have been extinct for 70 million years until it turned up on a dock in East London in 1938 is well documented, and beautifully told in the superbly crafted 'A Fish Caught in Time' by Samantha Weinburg (which qualifies as the popular science book that I would like to have written myself had I the time and talent).

    It took another 14 years for the second coelacanth to be found, again over the Christmas period, but this time off the remote island of Mayotte in the Comores. The island had no refrigeration facilities, so the fish was therefore slit open and salted, doused in the entire consignment of formalin held in store by the island's medical officer, and then wrapped in cotton and placed in a crate.

    Professor J.L.B. Smith, the man who had described the first coelacanth, recognised the vital importance of recovering the second specimen as soon as possible, hoping that this time, he would be able to examine the fish's internal organs - this had not been possible with the first coelacanth, which had been gutted to assist preservation. He therefore lobbied the South African president, D.F. Malan to make available an Air Force plane to collect the speciment form the Comores. This posed a considerable moral dilemma for Malan - who was a devout Calvinist and a Creationist - but also a pragmatist who recognised the immense public relations value that this major scientific find would bring to South Africa. He promptly scrambled a Dakota - and a highly overexcited Professor Smith - to collect the specimen, much to the consternation of its crew, whose Christmas leave was cancelled for the sake of collecting a dead fish!

    For a more detailed summary of the history behind the discovery of the first modern coelacath speciment, see my Toliara, Madagascar travel page, since I get bored repeating myself.

    This specimen is CCC120, a 1m long speciment caught off Grande Comoro in 1980. The reason why I happen to know this is that when I wrote up the coelocanths that we'd seen in Toliara, the link got picked up in cyberspace by a guy called Rik Nulens, who is compiling a worldwide database of coelocanth specimens, who hadn't any details about the Toliara collection. The wonderful Rik kindly returned the favour by helping me to identify the provenance of this specimen. Such is the reach of VT that your idle bloggings on your most recent holiday can see you unwittingly dragged into the forefront of coelacanth research!!!

    Plane buffs and coelacanth fanatics will doubtless be delighted to discover that Dakota 6832 KOD, which was used for the coelacanth 'rescue mission' is now at Cape Town's Ysterplaat Air Force Base awaiting renovation!

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    Paul Kruger church: a convenient place to worship

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Dec 19, 2011

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    Paul Kruger was a famously religious man who insisted that even security guards deployed outside the house stood during family prayers conducted indoors and was proud to announce that the Bible was the only book that he had ever read - a fact that was repeated with great relish by his detractors. So the fact that he had a church built directly over the road from where he lived (now Paul Kruger House) should come as no surprise.

    The Paul Kruger church is a pleasing architecture mismash which apparently "shows a strong influence of the Dutch and Belgium Neo-Renaissance, the Flemish Renaissance, as well as influences of Art Nouveau and late Victorian styles". Kruger himself laid the foundation stone on his birthday (10 October) in 1896 at which point, a 'time capsule' comprising a lead tube containing key documents pertaining to the Reformed Church were plastered into the structure.

    The church was declared a national monument in 1979. It is a beautiful building at any time of year, but given that it is flanked by enormous jacarandas, it would be even more photogenic in September/October when the jacarandas are in bloom.

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