Take a walk on ‘The Wilds’ side 

One of Johannesburg’s most scenic destinations is a nature reserve in the middle of the city – just a stone’s throw away from Wits University. 

The Wilds Nature Reserve (The Wilds) is a 40-acre public park located between Killarney, Parktown, and Houghton. It is known for its tranquil ‘koppies,’ natural waterfalls, indigenous gardens, wildlife, and footpaths leading to breathtaking cityscape skylines.

A mosaic commemorating Sir James Percy FitzPatrick, author of the classic novel Jock of the Bushveld who frequently used the Wilds. Photo: Seth Thorne

In the 1990s extending into the 2000s, The Wilds was seemingly a ‘no-go zone’ due to its notorious reputation of rampant crime, neglect, and overgrowth of vegetation. 

“People stopped coming because of crime,” said Sabelo Matihidi, a coffee shop employee at The Wilds.  

That was until Johannesburg-based artist Patrick Delaney decided to reclaim the park through a community initiative in 2014. While it focused on clearing overgrown vegetation for visibility, the move also allowed locals to keep watch over the space.  

When suspicious activity is noticed by walkers, security is alerted. “We [the community] are the park’s necessary eyes and ears,” said Delaney. 

“Like [The Wilds], Central Park had a serious rough patch…It was notorious for crime and [being] in bad condition, but the community turned it around,” said Delaney.  

Security at the park has also improved significantly in recent years. Security guard Petunia Matemane said: “We will protect this park, we are not scared.”  

This change has not gone unnoticed. “People are coming back to the park,” said Matihidi. “It feels already feels peaceful now.”  

The community also works alongside Johannesburg’s city parks and zoo department (JCPZ) to maintain the grounds. 

Located around 2kms from main campus and just over 1km from education campus, Wits and the Wilds could have a mutually beneficial relationship. As a large historic reserve, with a vast array of indigenous biodiversity and urban architecture surrounding it, the possibilities for research are seemingly endless. 

Students and staff also use the park as a location for study groups, walks, picnics, or to simply clear their minds. “The outdoors is incredibly crucial to your physical and mental well-being – people at Wits should utilize the reserve,” said Delaney. 

There are also often activities such as guided hikes, picnics, and yoga. It is the perfect space for Witsies to visit when wanting an escape from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of the city.

One of Kudos Kudu’s cousins which was brought to the Wilds by James Delaney . Photo: Seth Thorne

FEATURED IMAGE: View overlooking the Johannesburg skyline from the east Wilds. Photo: Seth Thorne