The Westcliff targets family marketMay 13th, 2011 by Susan Reynard | Categories: environmental, food, hotels, industry, tourism
The lofty hillside location of the five-star Westcliff hotel in Johannesburg, part of the Orient-Express group, provides guests with an ideal view of Johannesburg Zoo. To make the most of this, the hotel now provides guests, especially those with children, with specialised tours of the zoo.
The Behind the Scenes tour allows guests to get up close and personal with the animals. They get to visit the zoo kitchens and, depending on the time of day, will accompany the staff to feed the animals. Visitors can also visit the zoo hospital and the animal “night rooms” – many enclosures have an area which is protected from the elements where the animals can relax, sleep or hide.
The Westcliff prepares picnics for guests keen on attending the zoo’s Night Tour. During this event, visitors learn about and observe nocturnal animals going about their business, including honey badgers, owls, tigers, lions, hippos, crocodiles, civets, caracals, genets, African wild dogs, gorillas, foxes and more. Afterwards, guests can sit around a bonfire, enjoy their specially prepared picnic, toast marshmallows and enjoy spending time in nature.
The Westcliff’s concierge desk will make bookings for any of the tours on offer at the zoo for guests and can also arrange for picnic baskets to be prepared.
In 1904, the land which the Johannesburg Zoo encompasses was donated to the people of the city of Johannesburg to be used for recreational use by the firm of the late Hermann Ekstein. Eckstein was involved in the development of the then new mining town of Johannesburg. He also had three million trees planted in an area which he christened Sachsenwald, now the suburb of Saxonwold.
For much of the twentieth century, the Johannesburg Zoo developed and many facilities were built, for example the hospital in 1936. The zoo also went through some difficult periods where the animal collection was diminishing and not growing.
Public perception of the zoo changed in the 1960′s where visitors wanted to see animals in larger, more natural enclosures. This was the start of the zoo’s long term plans to grow and improve the facility for both the animals and the visitors.
These changes saw the upgrading and creation of old and new enclosures, development of education and environmental programmes and the zoo becoming part of local and international breeding programmes.
The original animal collection at the zoo consisted of one lion, one leopard, one giraffe, two Sable antelope bulls, one baboon, one genet, one pair of Rhesus monkeys, one pair of porcupines and one Golden Eagle.
The first “official” enclosure was built by the town council to house two young lions. Only the lions and leopard were in the public area at this stage.
In 1910, the famous Bandstand was built to host the popular brass band music of the day. Between 1913 and 1915 the stone elephant and rhino house was erected. Also at this time, one Asian elephant and one Bactrian camel were purchased and trained for rides.
In 1961 for the first time visitors over the age of 16 were charged to enter the zoo.
(Johannesburg Zoo information courtesy of www.jhbzoo.org.za.)