Westdene Dam in Johannesburg – Travel Review

The Westdene Dam is part of the series of connected streams flowing through Johannesburg. The dam was designed to reduce the impact of flood peaks and erosion potential of nearby spruits. It is also a park and a facility that supports plant and animal life.

Where is the Westdene dam?

The Westdene Dam is located near the South African Post Office (on Thornton street), the University of Johannesburg (Auckland Park, Kingsway Campus) and UJ sport fields. Entrance to the dam is free and it operates daily (weekdays and weekends) from 6am – 6pm.

Where is Westdene?

Westdene is predominantly a residential area located between Melville and Triomf in Johannesburg. It is close to Johannesburg City Business District and it is a place of choice for student accommodation.

My visit to the Westdene Dam

Although I live around Westdene, I drove and hiked past the Westdene Dam for more than two months before my visit to the dam. I remember staring at the dam’s beautiful free ranging team of waterfowls through its ClearVu security fence. Hiking over the cycle and pedestrian skywalker gave me an impressive view of the Westdene Dam. But, I was always shocked to find this interesting place often deserted. This peaked my curiosity and I wanted to find out what the Westdene Dam was all about and to share my experience.

Ducks, geese and playground at Westdene Dam

Ducks and geese at the Westdene Dam

I eventually found time to visit on a Saturday. Entering through the Lewes road access gate, my first encounter was with a raft of ducks I had been admiring from across the road. Neatly organised in two groups, they scrambled through trash left behind probably by visitors. The ducks were easy going and beautiful. The team of waterfowl I came across were made up of different breeds ranging from the yellow-billed duck, white-faced duck, Egyptian geese, snow goose and the Toulouse geese. They mind their business and pose no threat to visitors.

Playground and outdoor gym at the Westdene Dam

The Westdene Dam is an interesting community recreation area that offers great views, amazing relaxation spots, functional outdoor full body gym equipment and a well managed children’s playground.

The playground at the Westdene Dam

The outdoor gym equipment at the dam is great for members of the community to keep fit, for free. All the equipment comes with instruction labels which make them public-friendly. The kids section is also packed with different outdoor recreational equipment that is safe, structured and modern.

The gym at the Westdene Dam

Restrictions at the Westdene Dam

A number of rules are on display on the public boards around the dam. Some of the prohibitions include:

  • The littering and dumping of refuse.
  • Setting up of any sort of fireplace, braai or bush burning.
  • The riding of motorcycles are disallowed in the park but bicycles are acceptable.
  • Alcohol and drug use is highly forbidden
  • Camping is not allowed
  • Loud music is forbidden
  • Guns and any forms of dangerous weapons are forbidden
  • Sleeping at the park is not allowed
  • Feeding of the ducks and geese are prohibited
  • Trading within the park is forbidden
  • Swimming in the dam is not allowed
  • Fishing is not allowed
  • Boat riding is also forbidden

Permissions at the Westdene Dam

Meanwhile, the following activities are allowed on The Westdene dam:

  • Cameras
  • The use of the playing ground by kids however, adult supervision is advised for children below the age of 10.
  • Bicycle riding
  • Pets are allowed

Westdene dam bus disaster memorial

A memorial for school students stands on the dam’s northwest bank which is at a corner close to the Westdene Dam wall. The memorial stone which was built in 2009 represents the remembrance of 41 school children who lost their lives after their double decker school bus lost control, ramped through the road barricades on the bridge and drowned in the Westdene Dam on the 27th of March 1985. It remains one of the darkest moments for the Westdene community.

The park at the Westdene dam

The dam has a park with open grass fields, an appealing landscape and giant trees. Taking a seat on one of the concrete benches (near a curvy footpath) is a great way to observe the tranquility of nature. You will notice the intermittent quacks of the marching ducks and geese scavenging the park and marvel as they suddenly nose dives into the water. The sweet chirping and singing of the birds also add to the tranquility of the dam. The Westdene Dam is a pleasant and therapeutic distraction from the seriousness and busyness of life in the City of Johannesburg.

The park at the Westdene dam

The award winning dam

The Westdene Dam is a great initiative of Johannesburg City Parks and Joburg Zoo. It has even won a number of awards, including the South African Landscapers Institute (SALI) Gold Award for Specialised Landscape Design as well as the SALI Silver Award for Environmental and Water Wise Landscaping in 2017. In the spirit of maintaining the award-winning scenery, Joburg City Parks should consider providing more trash bins and constructing public toilets.

Entry into the Westdene Dam is free

The Westdene Dam is a free, safe and pleasant place for quality quiet time during the day. It offers a host of opportunities for personal and family recreation.

Please feel free to share your comments, questions or experience of the Westdene Dam. You can also read our review of the James Hall Transport Museum in Johannesburg.

Leaving Nigeria for South Africa? Read This First!

South Africa is a beautiful country. However, immigrating to South Africa when you are Nigerian, na very big decision. But, make you no scatter your brain o. We have 15 tips to help you plan well well.

A man cannot sit down alone to plan for prosperity – Nigerian Proverb

1. Location

South Africa has 9 provinces (states) and over 70 towns and cities. Choose your preferred location wisely o.

South Africa, Johannesburg - Nelson Mandela Cable Bridge
South Africa, Johannesburg – Nelson Mandela Cable Bridge

In the United Kingdom, East London is a popularly and informally defined part of London. In South Africa, East London is a city in the Eastern Cape province. Know the difference! Do not get scammed.

Ask Yourself: Which province and town/city will I be living in? How much do I know about the place? Is the area safe for African immigrants? Do I know anyone in that area? Has this area had issues with xenophobic attacks?

2. Accommodation

Use property websites such as Property24 and Private Property to find accommodation in South Africa, while you are still in Nigeria.

Unlike in Nigeria, rent is paid monthly in South Africa and it can be relatively expensive (depending on the property type and where you are renting the property).

Ask Yourself: How much do different property types (house, flat, townhouse etc.) cost in my preferred province? Will I be renting from an agency or homeowner?  Will I be living alone or sharing? Will I be renting a room or the whole property? What are my rights as a tenant?

3. Income

The average cost of living for one person living in the City of Johannesburg is R8500 (N225 462.55) per month (University of the Witwatersrand: 2017).

University of the Witwatersrand: 2017).

South Africa has an expanded unemployment rate of 36.3%; which means over 9.2 million people are unemployed in South Africa (Statistics South Africa, 2018).

Your income will need to cater for rent, food and transport (among other things). You need a job or a business that will cover your monthly expenses. If you will be going the job route then find the job while in Nigeria. If you will be going the business route then start it while in Nigeria (if possible). Make sure that you have permission from the South African government (a valid permit) to work or conduct business in the country.

Already in South Africa but struggling to find job and/or business opportunities? Consider volunteering at one of the Registered Non-Profit Organisations for Nigerians and relatives in South Africa.

Ask Yourself: What is my current source of income in Nigeria? What will be my source of income in South Africa? How much will I need to earn every month to cover living expenses?

South African Rands and Cents

4. Currency

Change your money into the local currency (South African Rand) at the airport.

Do not pay for anything in dollars in South Africa. Think in rands and nairas not dollars. 

Find out local prices and naira equivalent while you are still in Nigeria, e.g. taxi fare, airtime/credit, food, accommodation. Convert South African Rands to Nigerian Naira on https://themoneyconverter.com/ZAR/NGN.aspx.

Ask Yourself: Do I have enough to survive in South Africa for at least 6 months? How much does everything cost in South African Rands versus Nigerian Naira?

5. Banking

Money is a sensitive matter. Do not resort to using other people’s accounts to bank your money. This can get very complicated very quickly.

Unlike most banks, Standard Bank has different banking solutions for foreign nationals and all you need is a valid passport, permit or visa, and proof of residence.

Ask Yourself: Which bank offers banking solutions for foreign nationals? How much will my bank charges be every month?

6. Communication

Buying a South African sim card at the airport is less complicated – all you need is your passport. If you do not buy it at the airport and try to buy it later at a retail shop, you will be asked for your passport and proof of residence. Your +27 sim card is your gateway to communicate with locals as well as family and friends back home.

A new study by Research ICT Africa shows that South Africa has the highest data costs among the continent’s leading economies, which include Egypt, Nigeria, Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya 

Calling an MTN Nigeria subscriber back home? MTN offers discounted international calling rates such as their “R30 International Calling bundles with discounted rates”.

Ask Yourself: Which network provider will I be using? How much is airtime (credit)? How much is data? How do I buy airtime? Where do I buy airtime?

7. Explore

If you will be staying with friends of friends, do not let anyone keep you indoors or collect money to go buy things on your behalf. Explore your surroundings – go to the nearest park for a walk or the shopping mall for some window-shopping. Do not explore your surroundings at night, prioritise your safety first.

The best way to get to know a new place is to walk around when the sun is up. 

If safe to do so, ask as many questions as possible. This is not the time to form ‘big boy’ o. If you are too shy then Google and Quora are your friends.

Ask Yourself: Do I know the surroundings of the area I am living in? If living in other people’s home, am I free to leave anytime? Do I feel in control of my stay in South Africa?

South Africa, James Hall Transport Museum
South Africa, James Hall Transport Museum

8. Travel

If you have enough money then consider going on one or more of our recommended Affordable South African Tourist Attractions. South Africa is a leading travel destination; use this time to travel within the province you are in.

“In 2017, South Africa received 3.5 million travellers. The top five overseas countries with the largest number of tourists visiting South Africa were the USA, UK, Germany, The Netherlands and France.” – (Statistics South Africa: 2017)

9. Spending

Use your money wisely and sparingly. Once again, do not try to do ‘big boy tings’ o. Keep your money safe and do not get distracted by the noise of others. Make sure you know what you are paying for. With that said, maybe you should avoid clubs and clubbing for now.

Be quick to think and slow to pay. 

10. Passport

Always carry your original passport or a certified copy to avoid unnecessary drama. Your passport must be valid (not expired) and you need to have a valid South African visa/permit.

Your passport is your responsibility, do not allow anyone   to keep it ‘safe’ for you.

11. Crime

Do not allow anyone to convince or force you to do any illegal activities or jobs. Anyone who has your best interests at heart will not introduce you to an illegal job or business opportunities.

If any one approaches you with an offer to make quick money doing illegal activities, stay clear of them immediately.

12. Rights

Familiarise yourself with the South African constitution, laws etc. Know your rights and always abide by the law. Try a visit to Constitution Hill, it is one of our favourite Affordable South African Tourist Attractions.

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity. Nelson Mandela