Sad, Sad Santarama Miniland

Last weekend, my Glugster decided he wasn’t in the mood to stay home and binge on series, so he Googled up a storm to see what was free in Joburg, and decided we must go and see the James Hall Museum of Transport, since it’s free entry. I love museums, with many fond memories of trekking through all kinds of different ones with my family, so I was very keen.
Off we went, only to discover that the place is closed on the third weekend of every month!
Not wanting to waste our drive out there, we did some more Googling and found the Bensusan Museum Of Photography And Library, but it was also closed already.

Then we remembered we had driven past Santarama Miniland on the way to the transport museum, so we decided to stop there. There were a few buses and cars in the parking lot, so it looked busy, and parts of the giant van Riebeeck statue had been repainted. My Glugs has fond memories of visiting the place as a child, and I’d never been, so we were both keen on visiting it.
There was nobody at the gate as we walked in, and there was the racket of happy kids from inside, so when we met up with someone just inside and she said there was a graduation party going on, I asked if we could walk around while they partied on, and we didn’t pay an entry fee.

The first thing we saw as we went through was a run down putt-putt course, and a HUGE statue of Michael Jackson! Huge as in two or three stories tall! Of all things!

We carried on down the path, rather aimlessly as there didn’t seem to be any directions or guide anywhere, it became clear why we hadn’t been asked to pay an entry fee.
Neglected is not the word.
Abandoned. Forgotten. Dilapidated.
Only the party venue in the corner behind the entrance is still maintained.


March 2014: image credit The Citizen

As we walked around we were horrified by the ruin. It was almost too depressing to take pictures. The harbour is mostly empty. The giant shark – which I don’t get – has had dots and eyelashes drawn on it, and it now lounges in smelly mud. Some of the signs have been re-written by hand, with a permanent marker- the horrendous spelling a testament to disinterest. There are dead birds in various states of decay just lying around.
On the street side of the park, a tree has fallen over and collapsed the fence.

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When we got home I took to Google to try and find out what the hell had happened.

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The place is 42 years old, opened in September 1973 by SANTA to aid in fundraising for their fight against TB, and whilst they still own it the place was put under new management in about 2010. Perhaps after 42 years a level of neglect is to be expected, but this was quite ridiculous.

2013 picture credit: PathFinda

2013 picture credit: PathFinda

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The Hop-on Hop-off bus doesn’t even stop there anymore, although it used to!

I found the following on Jozikids amongst a string of negative reviews, but clearly things didn’t get much further after Mr Pillay posted:

Friday, 8th April 2011 at 01:28:34 PM
The Website had been updated on the day that I spoke to you, the price change as well as the fact that Miniland is under new management and ongoing repairs / maintenance. Santarama Miniland is actually owned and operated by the South African National Tuberculous Association. 
The place is under new management and ongoing maintenance / upgrade, we apologise for any inconvenience caused during this time of upgrading and assure our client’s that Santarama Miniland’s management team are doing everything in their power to restore Santarama to originality as quick as possible so as to eliminate any future disappointments. 
Mr Pillay 
Property & Asset Manager 

Strangely enough, still describes Miniland as “…a truly enjoyable and rewarding Johannesburg attraction…” with “…an amazing replica of the Dromedaris… a venue for parties, functions, events and weddings…” even though the ship was destroyed by fire in September 2013! There’s no trace of the ship now, but it used to look like this, and my Glugster remembers walking around on it.


picture credit: 2summers

Looking at pictures of the park in its heyday makes me wish it had been maintained… There were little people in and on the models, and the models themselves had lights, music, and moving parts. There was a water feature running from a mini-Howick Falls, into a mini-Wagendrift dam, down a little river into a mini-harbour.
The mini-train doesn’t exist anymore let alone run on its overgrown track, although it’s said to be “in for repairs”, and there are pieces of a little display train now scattered around the park.


image credit: MAHALA

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Robben Island has moved!


2011 image credit: MAHALA

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I found this picture of the Maatjiesfontein display from way back when…

And look at it now…

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It’s very sad, and really not worth a visit.

4 thoughts on “Sad, Sad Santarama Miniland

  1. We went over ten years ago as I had happy memories as well and than it was horrible and heavily neglected. I walked on the ship and was saddened.

  2. What a shame!David and I also had a quick, cursory look in passing a while back and were very sad to see what a sorry state it was in. I remember many happy school outings to this place and huge amounts of fun.
    Perhaps the public could persuade management to fix it up and get it running again…
    MeeA recently posted…LemonadeMy Profile

  3. This made me sad. Our Durban MiniTown, while not great (it could do with an update!) is still very loved and relatively well taken care of.

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