Over the road from the Johannesburg Zoo, but not immediately visible to the motorists humming (!) along Jan Smuts Avenue, is the very popular and attractive Zoo Lake.
An extensive park surrounds a large man-made lake, and the wide open grassy spaces, trees and shrubberies create a relaxed and peaceful environment. The water is encircled by paved pathways, for easy walking, and the large numbers of ducks are likely to pace you on the water, looking for some tasty titbits. They are also quite unfaithful, and will go tearing across the water if there seems to be a more generous person on the other side! The island in the centre has a number of well established trees and shrubs and is, according to the Parks Department, home to over 2000 large birds. And for those who like that sort of thing there are also rowing boats for hire. Like Ratty in the Wind in the Willows, you too might be forgiven for thinking that, “..there is nothing – -absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats… and when you’ve done it there’s always something else to do if you like, but you’d much better not.”
The area was originally a part of the Sachsenwald forest, and over the years has been a favourite place for individuals and families – not to mention courting couples – to picnic, walk and just relax. Like the Zoo, the land was donated by Hermann Eckstein’s company to the city, on condition that it would remain open to people of all races. The land at the centre was marshlike, affected by water from the Jukskei River flowing through the area. In the early 1900s a lake was created, partly in an effort to provide employment. It naturally attracted a large number of birds which nested and bred on the safety of the island. The lake was opened by the City Council in 1908, and the first boats appeared in 1911. The fountain was built in 1937 to mark the coronation of King George V1, and was known as the ‘Coronation Fountain.’ The water pressure can be varied, and red and green lights used, to create a marvellous, changing picture at night. In 1956 Margot Fonteyn danced Swan Lake on a specially erected stage off-shore.
As an added attraction the Artists under the Sun, display their work on the lawns on the first weekend of the month and, whether you are a serious buyer, or you just like looking, it is a satisfying stroll. There is also a large and colourful play area for children who might wish for more active forms of entertainment!
The very popular Moyo Restaurant, with its African theme and style, overlooks the lake. Set in lush green surroundings, with the sounds of falling water, there is extensive seating outside under large shade cloths and umbrellas and attractively designed areas inside. The Wishy-Washy ladies will come to your table to welcome you with the age -old tradition of the Africa hand-washing and face painting ceremonies. The staff are cheerful and attentive, and the food very good. We enjoyed a very happy family gathering there, and were in no hurry to leave. As they say of themselves, “ By day moyo offers a relaxed, family-friendly atmosphere; as the African sun sets, cocktails on the deck and fabulous live music sets the tone for an extraordinary evening of fine-dining and soulful vibes.”
Green pastures, still waters, and space for Him to restore my soul.
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