Having been brought up in Britain, Guy Fawkes Night (5th November) was always the big celebration, and having only celebrated the event since my children were born, I am a relative novice when it comes to Halloween. However, like most new converts, I am evangelical about my new-found passion, and have fallen hook, line and sinker for its charms!
By far the nicest - and safest - way to celebrate Halloween in Johannesburg is to take part in the 'Howloween' celebration at the Johannesburg Zoo. This runs from 1700 to 2000 on the Saturday closest to Halloween (30 October in 2010) and is a magical event that should enchant both children and adults alike.
The Zoo switches on its light sculptures for Howloween (it may come as a surprise to know that it's dark in Jo'burg by 1900 even in mid summer), which are beautiful and lend a fairytale atmosphere to the proceedings. Usually they lay on special events for the kids and zoo staff wander around in costume (see one of the photos of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse). Families bring picnics to enjoy on the Centenary lawn and children dress up in costume and go 'trick and treating' (something that you wouldn't consider doing after dark in most neighbourhoods of Johannesburg because of security concerns). Meanwhile their mothers and fathers kick back over a cold beverage or two amid beautiful surroundings and good company and ponder on the fact that parenthood isn't such a bad gig after all!
Entrance to the zoo is R30 per child and R50 per adult at the time of writing (2010) plus R10 for secure parking (which fills up quickly). If you're interested in taking part in Howloween, I would suggest that you consider arriving earlier in the day so that you can explore the Zoo and its excellent exhibits during daylight and then stay on for Howloween - it won't cost you any more.
Just bear in mind that Halloween is during Jo'burg's rainy season, and that most of our rain falls as thunderstorms that take place in the late afternoon or overnight. Just because it's bucketing down at 16:00 doesn't mean that it will still be raining by 17:30, so don't let this put you off, but bring some rainproof clothing just as a prophylactic measure (if you bring these, chances are it won't rain!)
The Johannesburg Zoo is a world class zoo located just north of the CBD on Jan Smuts Avenue and is sadly often overlooked by tourists. It has a glorious setting amid the leafy suburbs of Forest Town and Saxonwold (some of the most established suburbs in the city) and has been progressively revamped over the past couple of decades (just visit the old lion and polar bear enclosures to see how far it's come!). The range of animals is comprehensive, with dedicated exhibits on primates, reptiles, South America, Central Africa and Madagascar having opened in the last couple of years, and upgraded enclosures for the pygmy hippos and the tigers. As you might expect, there is also a good selection of African animals.
In a city where security is always a concern, the Zoo is an oasis of tranquility. It is beautifully landscaped, with wide expanses of parkland between the enclosures, and even if you're not particularly interested in the animals, it is a lovely place to park off for a couple of hours and read a book under a tree or have lunch in the excellent cafe by the ape enclosure. It is extremely family-friendly and there are often special events - see the website for more information. For families, the wonderful 'Howloween' at the end of October is a must, when the zoo is open after dark, the animal light sculptures are illuminated and kids dress up in costume and go trick and treating! Similarly the Tree of Light (in aid of the Hospice charity) in December is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy a moonlit picnic and check out the nocturnal animals. For active types, the Zoo Trot also takes place on a Sunday once a month, and is an early morning fun run. It is also possible to do night tours - again, see the website.
The zoo was established in 1904 and I was surprisingly impressed by the layout, cleanliness and ease of mobility around the 54 hectares. From their brochure I read that there are 2070 animals and 265 species.
Conservation and education are two of the main goals of the zoo. The education of the public is very important to the zoo promoters. Much research is done here so whatever you may think of zoos in general, I think this is an important part of the life of animals in the wilds.
It is easy to get around. You can walk, hire a golf cart or take a jitney type bus around the premises. I recommend these modes of transport because you can get the general feel of the grounds and then go back to where you are most interested.
We ate at a very nice outdoor cafe and the service was good and the prices reasonable.
Well if you wanna take your kids to a day at the zoo. The Johannesburg Zoo is a very nice to go to..... its Huge and its close to the City.
Well you can see almost about any animal here... anything from the Big 5 to Polar bears and so on.