Once in a Lifetime: Johannesburg

By: Katie Manning

January 9, 2013

Johannesburg is a city people know little about, tending to use is as a gateway to southern Africa or to visit game parks in the rest of South Africa. However, it has a lot to offer as a destination in its own right. We love some of the unique and awe-inspiring sights that the city has to offer.

Western Deep Levels

Johannesburg Once in a Lifetime | Liquid Gold

Liquid Gold © Dan Brown/Flickr

Journey 3.9 kilometres to the centre of the earth down Western Deep Levels, the deepest gold mine in the world. Here you will experience the extreme conditions faced by today’s miners in a series of shafts and tunnels, as well as being closer to the core of the earth than you’re ever likely to get again! We recommend keeping your eyes peeled for those golden nuggets and wearing layers – it can get pretty hot down there”¦ 44 Main Street, Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa, +27 11 638 9111.

Adventure Skydives

Johannesburg: Adventure Skydives
Skydiving with Adventure Skydives © Adventure Skydives

We’re always up for seeing a city in a different way, and we love this experience of Johannesburg from a very different vantage point – jumping out of light aircraft from 10,000-feet above the city. Tandem skydiving, where you’re strapped to a trained instructor, leaves you free to focus on the ridiculously extraordinary experience of falling through the air. We guarantee that, in the forty seconds that you freefall through the air, you’ll never have felt so alive – and once safely back on earth you can relive it all over again by getting yourself a DVD of your jump! Carletonville Airport, +27 83 949 7894,

The Soweto Rhubuluza

Johannesburg Once in a Lifetime | SowetoSoweto is a vibrant destination for visitors © William Murphy/Flickr

For us, a tour of Soweto with Rhubaluza is a bar crawl with a difference. Described as the “˜edutainment experience of a lifetime’, you are taken on a tour of the taverns of Soweto, a township that was the product of the apartheid regime, and granted a glimpse of the life of the place. It has been transformed into a very accessible destination for both historically interested tourists and party people alike. So grab a vuvuzela, pick up a pint, learn and enjoy. Soweto, +27 11 463 8895,

Lion Park

Johannesburg: Lion ParkLion Park Johannesburg © Lion Park

Spending some time at the Lion Park, which has been split into two camps, one for carnivores and one for herbivores, is our idea of a truly Jo’burg experience. You feed giraffes, interact with young lion cubs, see rare white lions, take a cheetah for a walk, go on a guided game drive or even join a night drive and see lions feeding, before sharing a meal with other guests around a boma fire. No matter what you decide to do here, we guarantee it will be an experience that will last a lifetime. Cnr Malibongwe & R114 Lanseria, Johannesburg, +27 11 691 9905,

Hot Air Balloon Safari

Johannesburg Once in a Lifetime | Hot Air Balloon
Hot Air Ballooning © Michael_Dodd/iStock/Thinkstock

A flight in a hot air balloon is one of our favourite ways to see the South African landscape, and we particularly like the early morning launches. Sip champagne as you watch the sun rise over the outskirts of the city with a hearty bush breakfast and let the electric atmosphere wash over you. This is an experience that all ages will enjoy. Bill Harrop’s “Original” Balloon Safaris, +27 11 705 3201, Launch site: Magalies River Valley, Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Pre-booking essential.


Header © chrislitschka/iStock/Thinkstock


Katie Manning

Katie is an author for the Virgin Atlantic blog. Despite her urban London residency, Katie can often be found exploring far-flung corners of the globe in search of exciting new experiences and stories. A self-confessed night-owl, she makes it her mission to search out the best cocktail bars and live music venues on each and every expedition. Follow Katie @kt_saramanning

Categories: Our Places