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The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Centurion, Gauteng

Centurion

Centurion

Photo © Steven Herbert

Nestled between Midrand and Pretoria in the Gauteng province, lies the municipality of Centurion. This area is mainly made up of residential suburbs, but it does have many other places of interest. While Centurion has plenty of schools, offices, and shops on offer, Johannesburg and Pretoria are nearby. If you are looking for places to stay in Centurion, never fear! There are a number of hotels and guesthouses in Centurion for you to stay in. If you are looking at moving to Centurion, then you are in luck as the area is developing at a rapid rate and there is no shortage of accommodation.

Centurion weather today

CENTURION WEATHER

The area now known as Centurion has undergone numerous name changes since its establishment. In its early days, Centurion consisted of a few farmlands and the Lyttleton township. Over time, the township and the neighbouring Doornkloof, Irene and Lyttleton areas joined together, and the settlement was renamed Lyttleton in 1962. Fast forward a few years to 1967 when Lyttleton would be renamed to Verwoerdburg, after the South African Prime Minister Dr Hendrik Verwoerd was assassinated. At this time, Lyttleton became known as one of the suburbs which exists to this day. Residents of Verwoerdburg voted to rename the town to Centurion when Apartheid ended in 1995.

If you are fascinated by history, then it is worthwhile to spend some time exploring Centurion and the areas nearby. You can learn more about the origins of humankind as the Sterkfontein Caves are located about 50km outside of Centurion. The town also has a complex history of events that occurred during both the First and Second Anglo-Boer wars. In 1881, the Battle of Rooihuiskraal took place in one of the suburbs that now make up Centurion, Rooihuiskraal. During the battle, Colonel Gildea was defeated by a Boer commando. Colonel Gildea was the British Commanding Officer in charge of the Pretoria Garrison. As part of the Second Anglo-Boer war, a concentration camp was founded on the Doornkloof farm by the British during their scorched earth policy. Today, the site has been memorialized and remembers the lives of the 1 249 people who died at the Irene Concentration Camp.

One of Centurion’s most popular suburbs is Irene. Originally part of the Doornkloof farm, Alois Hugo Nelmapius bought some of the northern portions of the land and named the area after his daughter, Irene. Jan Smuts used to own some land in the area and stayed there until his death. Jan Smuts’ original house still stands and has been turned into a museum that is open to the public. Nowadays, the area is commonly known for its popular markets and the Irene Dairy Farm. The farm is a great place to spend the day out with your family. Visitors can visit the pastures to see the cows that have become so symbolic to this area. During your tour around the farm, you can also grab a bite to eat at the restaurant or stop by their shop to get some fresh milk to take home.

Centurion

A White Rhino crosses the road at Rietvlei Game Reserve

Photo © Steven Herbert

Rietvlei Game Reserve, Groenkloof Nature Reserve and the Voortrekker Monument are must-see attractions to visit while you are in Centurion. Rietvlei is home to a diverse range of animals and is a great place to go for a game drive. When visiting the reserve, you will most likely see herds of eland, springbok, blesbok, zebra and even buffalo. Keep an eye out for some of the smaller creatures as the reserve also has meerkats and jackals that can sometimes be seen. If you enjoy hiking or a bit of off-roading, then Groenkloof Nature Reserve will be right up your alley. This nature reserve doesn’t have as many animals as Rietvlei does, but it is one of the best places to go hiking without having to travel too far out of the city. The Voortrekker Monument also has a small game reserve where some animals can be seen while hiking or on horseback. The main reason to visit the Voortrekker Monument is to get a visual representation of the early history of the Afrikaners. The monument is dedicated to the Voortrekkers who left the Cape Colony between the years 1835 and 1854. There are some breath-taking views of Centurion from the top level of the Monument.

Some may be surprised to find that the South African Air Force has not one, but two bases located in Centurion. When you stay in Centurion, you can often hear and see the planes or helicopters doing drills throughout the day. The Waterkloof Air Force Base often hosts air shows which are open to the public and they are highly recommended. For those who love to see planes up close or find out more about military history, I would suggest that you make a trip to the South African Air Force museum at the Swartkop Air Force Base.

Motor-racing at Zwartkops Raceway

Young and old will enjoy a train ride at the Model Engineers grounds near Centurion Mall

Photo © Steven Herbert

There are a few smaller shopping centres in Centurion, such as Mall @ Red’s, Irene Mall and Forest Hills Mall, but the main centre is Centurion Mall. If you enjoy doing a bit of shopping, but prefer not to go to a mall, then you should visit one of the many markets that take place. The most popular market is the Irene market which is located near The Big Red Barn. Typically, the market opens on the first and last Saturday of every month, but they do sometimes have markets on different days throughout the year.

Centurion

Photo © Steven Herbert

If you are looking for something a little out of the ordinary, then you should check out the Zwartkop Raceway. The racetrack holds events all year round and the dates can be found on their website. While you may choose to visit the track as a spectator to watch a race, you could also go there for advanced driver training. If that isn’t enough for you, then you could put yourself in the hot seat and take your car or bike for a spin on the circuit. The Zwartkop Raceway offers regular drivers the chance to test out their vehicles on the track on certain days.

Motor-racing at Zwartkops Raceway

Motor-racing at Zwartkops Raceway

Photo © Steven Herbert

While Centurion may seem like a small town, it certainly has a lot to offer if you know where to look. From the quiet nature reserves to the raucous raceway, everyone will be able to find something that interests them in Centurion.

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References and further reading

Book of the Road - 4th edition - Author: MapStudio - Year Published: 2019 - Page: 113

Farm Stall to Farm Stall - Author: Jennifer Stern - Year Published: 2014 - Page: 132

On Route - A region by region guide to South Africa - Author: B.P.J. Erasmus - Year Published: 1995 - Page: 226

Reader's Digest Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa - 4th edition - Author: - Year Published: 1986 - Page: 237

The Pictorial Motoring Atlas of South Africa - Author: Maxwell Leigh - Year Published: 1987 - Page: 92

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