This is more than an escape. It’s a bridge to home

 
 
 

Volo Ganca moved to Johannesburg, and felt adrift. He missed Cape Town’s beauty and access to the outdoors. And then, in the concrete city he found solace. A decades-old garden has been providing the residents of Johannesburg with respite from the daily drudge of work and traffic for years. Only an hour’s drive from the centre of the city, and over 300 hectares in size, it’s a place where one can truly escape in nature.

Indigenous fauna and flora flourishes in the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden. It’s a place that takes Ganca back to his origins. “It reminds me a lot of home,” he says. “I didn’t know that a place like this even existed in Jo’burg, and when I got here I was just absolutely floored.” Founded in 1982, the area has provided residents with a sense of serenity since the 1800s. Today, people from all walks of life mingle in the park, a mix of languages filling the air. “You really start to feel that the gardens have a life and personality of their own,” Ganca says. The Witpoortjie Waterfall is one of the area’s gems, with white water constantly rushing down the 70-metre drop. At the top of the falls live two Verreaux Eagles, an African bird of prey that has nested in the gardens for generations – the only ones known to be in the area.

Situated near the Sterkfontein Caves and the Krugersdorp Nature Reserve, the gardens offer a piece of natural history. For Ganca, he knows he can always return to the grounds whenever life gets a little too busy. “I can feel myself unwinding as I drive up to the gates,” he says. “It’s my happy place.”