Joburg’s nature reserves finally open to the public 

With the exception of the Johannesburg Zoo, The Wilds and the Emmarentia Botanical Gardens, all other nature reserves in Joburg remained closed for the better part of this year. Picture: JHB City Parks and Zoo website

During a pandemic, a change of scenery is a welcome relief to being cooped up indoors. 

Nature has provided humans with some of the most effective physical and mental stress reliefs. 

A study published by Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine last year found that just 10 minutes in a natural setting helped students feel happier and less anxious. 

And the longer one spends in nature, the more positive the effects are. Students reported significant mood improvements, better focus and even lower blood pressure and heart rate. 

Johannesburg residents will be pleased to know that with the reopening of nature reserves in the city, this free antidote is within reach. And during a pandemic, a change of scenery is a welcome relief to being cooped up indoors. 

With the exception of the Johannesburg Zoo, The Wilds and the Emmarentia Botanical Gardens, all other nature reserves in Johannesburg remained closed for the better part of this year. 

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Reserves in Kloofendal, Klipriviersberg, Northcliffe, Rietfontein and the Beaulieu Bird Sanctuary were officially reopened on Monday, from 9am to 6pm, Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo confirmed. Melville Koppies visitors can also hike to their hearts content, provided they pre-book. 

Residents would have had access to these reserves sooner, but a City Parks and Zoo staff member tested positive for Covid-19, which slightly delayed the reopening. 

Covid-19 protocols mean that entrance numbers could be limited, and that no groups would be allowed unless all members are from the same household. Masks, sanitising and social distancing must also be observed. 

City of Johannesburg community development MMC Margaret Arnolds said during a visit to The Wilds on Saturday that although she was pleased with the control measures in place and that visitors were complying, there was still concern that unfenced parks are still being used.

This is particularly problematic for young children, who she said “naturally do not understand the gravity of becoming infected” and bringing the disease home to their families. 

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“I am mindful that Covid-19 fatigue is real. The number of deaths too is real. As parents we need to safeguard our children in stemming the spread of the virus. We need every resident to make these short-term sacrifices until we can all venture outside and continue with life, as we knew it,” she said.

Those wishing to visit a nature reserve in Johannesburg can WhatsApp their enquiries or concerns to Bishop Nobel on 068-087-6382.

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