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Things to do in Johannesburg, South Africa: Shopping Guide

African souvenirs and sculptures bought home from your trip will remain conversation pieces in your home for years to come.

A vacation to South Africa is a life-changing experience for many people. It is not merely a holiday but a trip where you will see and experience things you’ve only read about or seen on television. With so much to take in, you’ll definitely want to stop by one of the many artisan markets to pick out some souvenirs. Having lived in Johannesburg, South Africa for the better part of 10 years, I know that these masks, giraffe sculptures, and hand-painted fabrics will quickly become some of our most treasured possessions.

Below are some of the best flea markets in Johannesburg where locals go to fill their homes with the sights and sounds of Africa.

Rosebank Mall

Rosebank Mall has become the go-to place for everything African-arts-and-crafts-related. The market is full of artists selling their hippo figurines, elephant tables, and ebony masks. The craftsmen and women pay a fee for their stall and as a result the market is clean and organized. Cash is the main method of payment here so make sure you bring lots. However, if there’s that one last piece you simply can’t go home without, many sellers will go to the market office with you where you are able to pay by credit card.

The Rosebank market has become a staple in South African souvenir shopping. If you only have time to visit one market, make it this one.

Melrose Arch

Melrose Arch consists of a cobbled street closed off to cars and perfect for romantic evening strolls. If boutique shopping and fine dining is what you’re looking for, than Melrose Arch is right up your alley. Small shops are nestled among gourmet restaurants featuring outdoor seating in the warm, evening air. The architecture is modern yet classic and fountains create a piazza atmosphere.

The stores cater to the rich and famous and are often over-priced. There is no hackling with artisans to be had here, and international delivery is the norm.

The V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront, also known as the Randburg Waterfront, was once a vibrant and popular dinner and entertainment venue. Originally named for it’s central lake, the water has since been drained and replaced by grassy mounds. Many of the stores have closed down but a dynamic flea market has sprung out of the economic bust experienced by the Waterfront.

The Waterfront has become the best place to get a good deal. Many of the vendors cannot afford the steep fees required to sell their works at more up-market venues and are often looking to make minimal profit. As a result, the Waterfront market may not be as fancy as some other markets, but it’s definitely worth a visit. If for no other reason than to support the new and struggling artists. Cash is king here so make sure to bring cash when visiting the Waterfront.

Montecasino

Montecasino was completed in November 2000 in the image of an Italian palazzo. Once inside, the cobbled streets draw you in as the ceiling fades from day to night. Old-fashioned bicycles and small, Italian cars litter the streets, which are filled with the bustling sounds of diners enjoying their spaghetti and tiramisu.

The stores are moderately priced and feature everything from furniture to jewelry to clothing. Montecasino is an experience all in itself. With a children’s gaming centre, a casino, a full movie cinema, and a broadway theatre, plan to do more than just shop when visiting Montecasino.

Sandton City and Nelson Mandela Square

Sandton City is one of the largest malls in Johannesburg. Featuring international stores like Cartier, Gucci, Hugo Boss, and Lacoste, this up-market mall is a great place to pass the day if you’re looking to spend some serious cash. The mall complex is opulent and extensive, and is surrounded by a world-renowned hotel and several dozen office complexes.

The biggest draw for tourists to Sandton City may be its newly created Nelson Mandela Square. The outdoor area, modeled on an Italian piazza, features a dynamic fountain, outdoor restaurants, and a six-foot-tall sculpture of former President Nelson Mandela. The square is a great place to enjoy lunch in the sun and provides a great photo opportunity with the statue.

When on vacation in South Africa, set aside plenty of time for shopping. The general consensus among travelers is that no matter how many souvenirs you buy, when you return home, you never have enough, so pick up more than one of each curio to be on the safe side.

 

 

 

Relaxing on the Island of Rodrigues

A small island 560 kilometres east of Mauritius proves to be a wonderful holiday location. Rodrigues is for those who love the sun, beach and no stress.

Located in Anse Aux Anglais is a hotel that resides on the beach, perfect for those on vacation. For those wanting a chance to explore the island of Rodrigues, this could prove to be a great place to stay and explore from.

Port Mathurin

Five mintues away by car is the town capital Port Mathurin. A stroll around the local town will afford the tourist with the opportunity to try local cuisine, pick up some new clothes and admire the many fruit trees that seem to be on display in every garden. These include the easily spotted bananas, guava, paw paw and mangoes. Those more familiar with local fruits may also recognise pomme grenade (literally translated as apple grenade) and the large green sphere ‘fruit a pain’ (bread fruit).

Hire a car !

In town a car can be hired for somewhere in the vicinity of 1100 – 1500 rupees (about 38 – 50 dollars ) for the day. When exploring Rodrigues, it’s worth utilising a four wheel drive vehicle, as some off road driving will allow a chance to see a greater number of beautiful places.

A ten minute drive at around 40 – 50 kilometers per hour will take the traveler to Baladirou, a small, quiet beach. Driving along the coast from Anse aux Anglais (English Bay), you will pass through Caverne Provert, Jeantac and Grande Baie before reaching Baladirou.

Baladirou

An off-road drive for a few minutes will result in reaching the top of a hill, overlooking the sea. A map of Rodrigues indicates the location of Baladirou. To the right of this map, a flight of uneven stairs winds its way down to a quiet beach. Those walking the steps may spy a lone crab the size of one’s fist, trying to back inconspicuously into the shadow of a protruding rock.

A small beach, Baladirou has many filaou trees that line a grassy area, meeting with the grainy sand that is far from coarse underfoot. A stroll along the beach will afford plenty of opportunity to admire various pieces of coral. Observant eyes may spy pale craps the size of one’s thumbnail darting across the sand. For those eager to enjoy a small, peaceful beach, consider:

  • Skipping stones across the water
  • Building sand castles
  • Sitting in the shallow waters or even a swim

If not wanting to travel from the comfort of the hotel, it is possible to stay looking out over the beach of Anse aux Anglais. A short walk from a couple of shops that offer refreshments in the humid weather, the beach offers another beautiful place to rest, watch a gorgeous sunset and admire the view of a few boats being lifted by the small waves.

Bras d’eau

The scattered vestiges of the French colony, its ponds and nature trail recount the story of a bygone era. Today, under the management of the Forestry Department, Bras d’Eau greets visitors to a tour of refreshing smells, scents, plants and landscape located in the North East of the island.

Bras d’Eau got its name from the outline of the mass of water protruding in the land in the shape of an arm between Pointe Radeau and Belcourt. The region was once covered by dense forests consisting of black ebony, Eucalyptus, Bois d’Olive, Bois j de Ronde and other indigenous species of which many are still found scattered over the area. ..

ln 1840 the land around Bras d’Eau was owned by Mr Clement Ulcoq, until it formed part of a domain and in 1867 a sugar factory was set up there. Later in 1901, the Government acquired the land and created the Bras d’Eau forest. Exotic species of economic importance like ‘Eucalyptus tereticornis’, ‘Araucaria cunninghamii’, ‘Tectona grandis’ (Teak) and ‘Albizia Labbek’ (Bois Noir) were planted in the forest.

A litchi and a mango orchard, was created and still exists today. It extends over an area of seven hectares, consisting of 280 litchi and 2,800 mango trees. Today the mango orchard çan produce up to 100,000 mangoes when harvest is not aflected by pests and thieves.

The Bras d’Eau forest is also the natural habitat for an isolated species, çalled Mauritius Paradise Fly Catcher more commonly known as the ‘Coq des bois’.

Some years back this endemic bird was considered as a critically endan- gered species but fortunately today some 40 pairs roam around the forest. It indeed, is also a nature) habitat for migratory birds coming from the northern hemisphere to escape the rigours of winter. The Mare Sarcelle in thee vicinity of the nature trail is usually their meeting place.
To protect these species along with the special variety of trees which characterise Bras d’Eau forest, the reserve was put under the Wildlife National Park Act 1993 and the management given to the Conservator of Forests.

The forestry zone of Bras d’Eau spreads over 432.73 hectares of land and its vegetation is mainly Coastal type, rich in lowland plant species putting together some 13 species of which Eucalyptus, Tecoma, Teck, Mahogany, Filao and Bois Noir are the most popular.

One of the main features along the 3,6 km of nature trail between Bras d’Eau and Poste Lafayette, is the three ponds named Bassin Camaron, Bassin, Coq de Bois and Bassin Mahogany.

An ancient railway track sends one wondering about the time when Bras d’Eau was a railway station.

What was formerly a sugar factory was later converted into a granary where goods and stuff used to be stored and provided the neighbouring regions with food. The sugar factory was 183m long by 17m large, a measurement which was quite exceptional at that time.

In the vicinity of the nature track was also an ancient aloe fibre factory. Aloe fibre was brought from the neigh¬bouring regions, processed and bags were made out of them.

Another vestige of the French colonial period is a well built during the French era. A particularity of the well is its rectangular aspect from the outside, which loudly contrasts with its circular form from the inside.

Thirty-seven feet deep, the well was later preserved and restored as a testimony of the French development of the island.

With the aim to sensitise people on preserving natural habitats and plants, and bringing awareness of people to the wealth of endemic and indigenous plants of Mauritius, a forest nursery has been set up for the sale of indigenous and ornamental plants. Today some 125,000 plants are available for Mauritians.

Mauritius: Bucketlist for the adventurous traveler!

Mauritius- Welcome to paradise! A small jewel, casts adrift in the Indian Ocean. Its very name triggers images of turquoise waters and dreamy beaches. With the perfect location, just 20 degree to the south of the equator, Mauritius remains the ideal holiday destination at any point of the year.

More than an exclusive beach destination for big spenders, this small slice of paradise has a lot more to offer. The island opens up to a traveler step by step and will not fail to amaze you. Relaxing by the crystal clear waters on a white sandy beach is all right for a while, but if you would prefer to seek some thrills during your stay in Mauritius, what follows are heart-pounding, life-affirming activities that will get your blood rushing.

In some cases, literally!

 

#1 MAURITIUS SKYDIVING

 

#1 MAURITIUS SKYDIVING

Crazy enough to take the leap? It’s time to get high. As we often say, sky is the limit for the adventure traveler seeking to squeeze the most out of the island.

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Dive into the sky for a heart pounding experience

The knot in your stomach as the airplane door opens up. Goose bumps on your skin, not to forget that tingling sensation in your feet right before you jump. Nothing equals the adrenaline rush you get while freefalling towards the earth. No wonder skydiving is the ultimate bucket list experience.

What really makes skydiving worth a try, is the view. Falling from a plane loads your eyes with a bird view of one of the most spectacular paradise island of the world. As you are plummeting towards the fields, be sure to take in the deep azure of the ocean and lush greenery of the mountains. A majestic sight. Definitely the best view you will get of Mauritius. Flying like bird as the parachute opens up. A dream cherished by many, coming true. Trust me, you will be blown away by your first skydive.

Insider Tip:

Skydive Austral is the sole operator offering skydiving in Mauritius. Do not forget to ask for your skydive certificate after landing so that you can show the world your love for adrenaline back home.

 

#2 JUMPING OFF THE CLIFF AT MONTAGNE ZAKO

Do you laugh in the face of danger? We might just have what you need.

mauritius-cliff-diving-travelers
Take a leap of faith and dive in!

Fear – inducing, thrilling and the maximum fun one can pack in just a few seconds of actions. Welcome to the hazardous world of cliff diving. Nothing quite beats that quick transition from terror to adrenaline. When you look down one last time, commit to the abyss below and dive into space. And then there is the best feeling in the world when you pop to the water surface with a grin, if not a smile.

Jumping off the 20 meters picturesque cliff at Montagne Zako is one of the most authentic extreme thrills Mauritius has to offer. One that will not cost you a dim. No fancy equipments, guides or safety harnesses. There is purity to it that most expensive adventures do not carry. Only two elements to count on: your body and fate. Once you have thrown yourself off the cliff, the edges are not as terrifying.

The Monkey Mountain or Mount Zako, known as Montagne Zako by the locals, is a magnificent rock formation along the island’s western coast. Located just behind the Petit Verger jail, it is not far from the Albion Lighthouse and only 10km away from Port-Louis, Mauritius’ capital.

Insider Tip:

Take the time to examine the site carefully before jumping. Check for any obstacles on the side of the cliff, the wave action and depth of the water. Wear swimming goggles to see clearly when landing into the sea water.

It is a common sight to see kids there jumping half way, some even jump from the main cliff. You may ask them for tips to land safely as they are used to it.

Check out the video for a taste of cliff jumping in Mauritius

 

Still up for it?

 

#3 PARTICIPATE IN A TRAIL

WHY? Because it’s there.

mauritius-trail-travelers
Life changing experience

Few experiences open up the heart, lungs and mind quite like hiking in a new place. Mauritius is an adventurer’s paradise. One with grit. One with mountain tracks and trails to the highest most remote peaks and lowest valleys.

Definitely not for the faint-hearted, trail running requires you to dig deep for endurance and determination. The reward? A unique occasion to run through stunning landscapes, exclusive to the island’s trail community, often with breathtaking views of the turquoise lagoons as well as the tropical forests found inland. The heart of the island hides a wonderful series of “miniature” mountains (easy to climb), offering unique viewpoints of the Indian Ocean, splendid waterfalls and streams.

Mauritian people preferring sedentary activities while tourists seek out the comfort of lazy resort hotels, you will be often alone, close to nature while running or hiking in the mountains.

Insider Tip:

We highly recommend the dodo trail, a mountain race of international standard, covering the south west region (most beautiful part) of Mauritius. It usually takes place in July. The Rando trail & Nature community organizes twelve monthly trail per year.

Finally, check out the best of Mauritius wilderness in this short video:

 

#4 DIVING WITH SHAKRS IN MAURITIUS

To dive or not to dive? A first-timer feared question. Getting up close and personal with one of the ocean’s greatest predators will utterly blow your mind. Nothing substitutes the thrill of diving with sharks. You won’t feel it until you live it. A climb many may never reach.

mauritius-shark-diving
Thrill at its peak!

“Sharks Pits” and “The Pass of Jacque” are two diving sites famed for spotting sharks in Mauritius.
Owing its name to its large concentration of sharks, “Sharks Pits” is found at the south-western side of Flat Island, on the foot of a huge rock called the pigeon rock. You will depart from Grand Baie on a boat trip lasting for almost an hour before reaching the site.

“The Pass of Jacque”, on the other hand, is located off the west coast of the island between Tamarin Bay and Le Morne.

You are likely to encounter black tip reef sharks, silvertip reef sharks, grey reef sharks and bull sharks. Of course, the probability of seeing the sharks is never 1, unfortunately. In case you do not get that lucky, the Mauritian sea will still live up to your diving expectations with its wide variety of reefs and marine treasures.

Insider Tip:

Do not miss out this video to give you a taste of the sharks before diving into the adventure!

 

#5 MAURITIUS HOTEL TRANSFER: TAKING THE BUS

YES – Taking the bus from the airport to your hotel! I know; this one may not be as thrilling as the rest. But getting on a bus just after landing onto a foreign land, heading to an unknown destination can be one hell of a challenge, especially if it is your first time. We believe that a challenge, whether it is climbing a mountain or meeting people who do not speak your language, is an opportunity to grow yourself.

Bus travel is cheap and fun. You will have all the time in the world to marvel at the beautiful scenery and enjoy the warm chatter of the locals. A bus trip from the airport to the North might last for 80 minutes approximately. Although you will be nowhere near setting a land speed record, the ride will be a pleasant one.

Landing into Paradise
Landing into Paradise

Insider Tip:

If you land in Mauritius in the afternoon, hiring a taxi might be a better option since buses stop operating as from 6.30 p.m. Also, stick to express buses to avoid embarking on long tiring trips.

 

#6 Curious Corner Chamarel: An adventure of magic

From the instant you walk in and see the receptionist sitting in the back of an old Mini, you know this is going to be bizarre! A world full of illusion, mind bending fun and laughter. Cleverly put together, the curious corner of chamarel is a haven for the inquisitive mind.

mauritius-curious-corner-travelers
Stepping into a crazy world

From the mirror mazes designed to bamboozle you to the inverted room that defies Newton’s law of gravity, you will be left scratching your head with amazement. Not to forget the Ames room where two people standing in it appear much bigger or smaller than the other one and the famous farting chair. You will love all the quirky displays and interactive exhibits, set out to give your mind a wobble.

Truly a respite welcome from the usual sightseeing around the island. Holidays in Mauritius will not be complete without a visit to the curious corner, if you’d asked us. A refreshing change, completely out of the ordinary, that promises tons of amusement and delusional fantasies for people of all ages, particularly for kids. But then we are all children at heart, right?

mauritius-curiouscorner-chamarel
The illusion house is located just opposite Chamarel’s entrance

Insider Tips:

It is located opposite to the 7 colored earth entrance in Chamarel (west of Mauritius). Plan at least an hour for a complete visit. And once again do not forget to bring your camera along.

 

#7 LE POUCE: GETTING TO THE PEAK ON A RAINY DAY

Brace yourself for one of the most adventurous hike of your life.

mauritius-lepouce-peak-travelers
360 degree view of the Island

While it’s most likely to make you question your sanity, words fall short to describe that unique heart pumping sensation you will experience. Nothing like a little danger to get you out of your safety slump. The 360 degree panoramic view of the whole island awaiting you at the top is simply out of this world! It is exhilarating and crazy (especially the last bit to the summit) but totally worth the climb.

The plan is simple – setting out to climb Le Pouce Mountain while it’s RAINING (which occurs in winter – August). It seems a daunting task. The path can be very slippery. During the last 5-10 minutes, you will be holding on to your dear life. The ascension is really dangerous.

lepouce-mountain-travelers
At top of the island

But then, rainy days offer a special ambiance. The brown of the soil are richer while the greens of the moss are accentuated, almost picturesque. The wet ferns shine even in the dimmest light. Mist and fog make the mountain’s forest even more enchanting.

Named after its dominant feature, Le Pouce (thumb in French as it looks like one from afar) is the third highest mountain in Mauritius and definitely the easiest to climb on a sunny day.

Insider Tips:

We do not recommend this attempt if you are afraid of heights, as while climbing you will be less than 1m away from the edge. A guide is not necessary unless you wish to have some company. Your camera is a must to capture this unique moment.

 

#8 RIDE YOUR OWN JET SKI IN MAURITIUS

Fancy a go at jet skiing? GO ON – TRY IT!!!

Definitely a fun loaded activity with lots of thrills and spills. As you pave your way into the sparkling waters on board the Jet Ski, do not resist revving it up and make a splash. You are in for the thrill of a lifetime!

mauritius-jet-ski-travelers
Nothing like a little speed to get your heart racing

Cruising the west and south coast at high speed, you may even spot a friendly Bottlenose dolphin or Spinner dolphin. Appreciate the calmness of the turquoise lagoon set against the striking backdrop of the majestic Le Morne Brabant. The sight will take your breath away. AWESOMENESS at its peak.

Insider Tips:

Make sure you wear a life jacket that fits you right to avoid being uncomfortable since the ride will last 30 minutes and wear sunscreen.

 

#9 DISCOVERING BRIANI AT STAR DEG, PLAINE VERTE

Food – deliciously glorious lip smacking food! One of the greatest pleasures of travel is discovering new tastes and scents. So, brace your palate and stomach for an awfully challenging culinary adventure. One you are not likely to experience elsewhere.

mauritius-briani-travelers
Sink your teeth into this delicious briani!

Fine long grains of basmati rice gently cooked with rich spices, layered with an exquisitely spicy gravy bursting with the savors of powdered spices, golden fried onions, fresh coriander, mint leaves and yogurt. Soft pieces of chicken or meat, and potatoes deliciously marinated, melting in the mouth. Only one spoon is enough to fall in love with this fiery hot, headily aromatic and incredibly tasty dish.

Biryani, sometimes called briani, is really something else!

Insider Tips:

Head to the Star Deg restaurant (main branch found in Port-louis, more precisely at Plaine-verte; the heart of the Capital), which has earned itself the title of King of Briani in the whole Indian Ocean, and dig into this unique dish bursting with spice, flavour and freshness.

 

#10 FROM GRANDBAIE TO PEREYBERE: HIKING THE BEACH

It makes an impression. Always has. An oasis of calmness. The thrill of exploring the unknown, unseen by most. Stunning and unique landscapes you would not have seen otherwise. The north coast puts a beautiful scenic adventure within easy reach. One you should not miss at any cost while on the island.

mauritius-secret-beach-travelers
Desert beach

Rich in colors and variety, you will marvel at the different shades of blue. Lagoons fading from emerald to sky blue, crystal clear waters topped by the deep blue of the ocean. Black coastal rocks blending with the whiteness of velvety beaches. Beautiful private villas; some with impressive modern architecture while others with charming cozy look. All shaded by the lush greenness of casuarinas trees. A feast for the eyes!

Admiring Gunner's point
Admiring Gunner’s point

If you are fond of intimate havens, large strips of beaches and natural coves offer numerous love nests to share moments together. Walk on romantic wooden jetties overlooking the turquoise lagoon, hand in hand. Take a pause to admire the spectacular view on the northern islands. The ideal spot to share a kiss, far from prying eyes!

mauritius-jetty-travelers
Contemplate the ocean from the privacy of this wooden jetty

Except from the staff and holidaymakers at the hotels, the places you will discover will be void of any living soul. A true escape from the hustle and bustle of Grand Baie.

mauritius-north-beach-travelers
Peaceful spot

Insider Tips:

The walk from Grand baie to Pereybere is 2.4 km, a two hours hike at most. Do not walk barefoot; the rocky surface will make it impossible to pursue the trip. Wear sunscreen and a hat or cap if you have one.

ALL BEACHES are public in Mauritius, so do not be intimidated if you encounter hotels’ staff or villas owners. They have NO RIGHT to prevent you access from “their” beach.

 

PARADISE AWAITS YOU HERE!

Feeling brave enough to pursue a bold adventure? What are you waiting for? Time to get out there and chase the dream!

Share this bucketlist with a thrill seeker, if you happen to know one.