Looking for some fun back to school activities to inspire and help shape young minds? Then, visit one of these educational places and show your kids that learning can be so much fun!
The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, Johannesburg
Not only is this Southern Africa’s largest interactive science centre, but it’s also affiliated with the Gauteng Department of Education in support of maths, science and technology education in the region. Yet, more than just ticking all the right educational boxes, the excellent exhibition and practical experience around science will surely provide plenty of fun while learning important things. The centre also offers amazing birthday party services in a dedicated space-themed venue. Warning: the science fun will get you too, parents!
Times: Open Monday to Friday from 09h00 to 17h00, and Saturday and Sunday from 09h00 to 16h30.
Entrance fee: Free for kids under 3; R30 for kids between 3 and 16; R45 for people over 16 years of age.
Ditsong National Museum of Natural History, Pretoria
Housed in a magnificent sandstone building, the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History is one of the oldest in South Africa and also regarded as our country’s leading natural history museum. So, naturally, a visit here is a must! Especially to see Mr Ples, the 2,3 million year old fossil skull believed to be a distant relative of all human kind. There are also all kinds of different natural history exhibitions that will blow young minds, including a reconstruction of a Deinonychus dinosaur (which was allegedly used in the Jurassic Park movie!). There’s no going wrong with a visit here.
Times: Open Monday to Sunday from 08h00 to 16h00 (except Good Friday and Christmas).
Entrance fee: R15 for kids under 18; R30 for adults; R10 for pensioners.
Cape Town Science Centre, Observatory
We’d like to call this place the Smarties of science centres because you and your kids will most likely leave saying “What a lot I got!” The centre might just look like an obscure building from the outside, but inside you’ll find more than 250 interactive science exhibition and mind-boggling puzzles. There are also hands-on displays, science shows, and science and maths workshops. One thing is certain of this centre: no one (including parents) will be bored here!
And while you’re in the area, pop next door to the Heart of Cape Town Museum at Groote Schuur Hospital to learn all about the world’s first heart transplant of 1967.
Times: Cape Town Science Centre (CTSC) is open Monday to Saturday from 09h00 to 16h30, and Sundays and public holidays from 10h00 to 16h30. The Heart of Cape Town Museum offers guided tours at 09h00, 11h00, 13h00 and 15h00 7 days a week.
Entrance fee: CTSC costs R50 for anyone over 3, R25 for pensioners and a family of 4 can enter for only R180. The Heart of the Cape Town Museum costs R150 per adult and R75 for students.
The Observatory in Sutherland
What child doesn’t like to gawk at the moon and the stars out there? Wait, let’s rephrase: what human isn’t fascinated by it? While there are observatories scattered across the country, we strongly recommend a family trip to one of South Africa’s best observatories in Sutherland: this little Karoo village is renowned for its unspoilt environment that makes it ideal for gazers to see some of the most impressive stars ever. Well worth the drive.
Times: Please note that booking is essential for all tours. Self-guided tours take place every hour on the hour between 08h00 and 15h00 every day; fully guided tours take place daily at 10h30 and 14h30. Night tours take place on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, starting time will be confirmed when you book.
Entrance fee: Self-guided tours: R40 per person; R20 for children between 6 and 11; free for kids under 6. Fully guided tours: R60 per person; R30 for children between 6 and 11; free for kids under 6. Night tours: R80 per person; R40 for children between 6 and 11; free for kids under 6.
Durban Natural Science Museum
It might be one of our country’s smallest museums, but it’s certainly one of the busiest with nearly 300 000 visitors making their way through the doors annually. And for good reason too: the Durban Natural Science Museum is talked about for the realistic dioramas, its life size T-Rex model, a near-complete skeleton of the extinct Dodo and, of course, an authentic Egyptian Mummy called Peter Amen. A journey back to the origins of Africa is just a visit away.
Times: Monday to Saturday from 08h30 to 17h00; Sundays and public holidays from 11h00 to 17h00.
Entrance fee: Free for all.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Science & Technology Centre, Uitenhage
Children of all ages will marvel at this centre’s 3600sqm’s interactive exhibition area where anyone can learn more about seven specific sciences: automotive, electrical, lights and optics, flight, momentum, life sciences and construction. Another exciting part is that the centre also has green screens and motion activated exhibitions, and a climbing wall for the brave at heart.
Times: Monday to Friday from 09h00 to 16h00; Sundays and public holidays from 11h00 to 17h00.