Saturday Adventures in Johannesburg

22 June 2015 | Shaun Demmer

The Joburg Red Bus City Tour is the best way to see your city

As winter was kicking into full force, and we all started rummaging through our drawers for scarfs and beanies, my mother and I decided to dress up warmly and hop onto the Johannesburg City Sightseeing bus.

Having heard about the bus and having seen it around (even in Singapore), I knew not much more than that it is a tour bus that takes people around Cape Town and Johannesburg to see the cities’ sights.

Greeted by Siphiwe on the bus, he quickly explained the route and introduced us to a buzzing inner-city on a cold, yet sunny Saturday morning. Having had a quick word with Siphiwe and his colleague Eva, we were told of the exciting day that lay ahead and were encouraged to be sure to hop off at the Carlton Centre (now stop 11) and the Apartheid Museum (now stop 14).

The two entrances to the Apartheid Museum, each of them telling a different story upon entry. Image by Shaun Demmer

Eager to experience as much as we could, we hopped off at stop 11 and met Tshililo, who took us to the 50th floor of the Carlton Centre, often referred to as the Roof of Africa (the elevator trip took no more than 36 seconds).

While taking in the spectacular 360° view from the 50th floor, Tshililo told us how much he loves his job and that he enjoys meeting people from around the world.

Johannesburg as seen from the tallest building in Africa, the Carlton Centre. Image by Shaun Demmer

Hopping off at Gold Reef City (then stop 6) we quickly confirmed our tickets for the Soweto tour and jumped into City Sightseeing’s bright-red taxi. One of the great things about the tour is the diverse group of people one encounters. On our Soweto tour alone, we made new friends from Sri Lanka, Iran, Brazil, Paris and the US, each given a “Soweto-an name” by Phiwe. I was given Nklankla (which means “luck”) and my mom, Ma Mpho (“gift”).

Experiencing the wonders of Soweto is something I would recommend to anyone. We were also lucky enough to be in Soweto during an energy-filled international children’s day parade from the Hector Pieterson Memorial down to Vilakazi Street, a street that has been home to both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.

Upon our return to the Gold Reef City Casino, we hit the slots for a few rounds of fun and then hopped back onto the bus, ready to see what else the Red City Tour has in store.

We hopped off in Newtown (now stop 14) and with a quick stroll past the SAB World of Beer, which offers beer tours and tastings, we headed into the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, which turns science into fun.

Our last walkabout for the day was in Braamfontein (now stop 17). Popping in at the Neighbourgoods Market and walking the surrounding streets, we rounded off our day of sightseeing and looked back on just how much we had seen. On our relaxing drive back in the top of the open red bus, we didn’t even mind the chill in the air as the sun set on our exhilarating, day-long adventure.

Every stop on the tour filled us with South African pride.