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.

Upfront Africa With Discovery Networks

Last night, my Glugster and I were lucky enough to attend the Discovery Networks Upfront Africa event at Levelthree Premium Venue, where the 2016 lineups for the Discovery Channel South Africa, Animal Planet, and TLC Africa were announced.

Whitney Thore was on stage, as was Andi Rive – The Lion Queen, and after a card trick or four Troy The Magician got someone on stage who then coloured in a picture he had drawn – and while he had his back turned she had to choose one colour at a time… And then he told us to look under our seats for a photograph from a photoshoot last week!

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The winner of TLC Next Great Presenter competition was also announced – Namibia’s David Mbeha. While our vote totally went to Joburg’s Star, David is very deserving of the win. What a personality for a twenty-year-old! He will become the first-ever African presenter for the channel!

I got to do some celeb “stalking” too, while nibbling on delicious snacky things – sushi FTW – and sip champagne. Here’s me with Whitney Way Thore, Troy The Magician, The Lion Queen, and Mix 93.8 FM‘s Helen Desbois!

Here’s the official press release:


Discovery Channel Presents New Scripted Series HARLEY-DAVIDSON; Oprah Returns to TLC with BELIEF; and More Local Content on Animal Planet with THE LION QUEEN S2 and MAN IS WILD.

Johannesburg, November 18 2015; Discovery Networks today announced its impressive 2016 programme line-up in spectacular fashion at its exclusive Upfront event in Johannesburg. The event also saw the crowning of Discovery’s first African presenter for TLC, as David Mbeha from Namibia was announced the winner of the hotly-anticipated TLC NEXT GREAT PRESENTER campaign.

Over 200 guests were treated to the presentation which saw Discovery and DStv executives announce the key shows set to premiere in Africa next year across Discovery Channel, TLC Entertainment and Animal Planet, while performances byWhitney Thore (MY BIG FAT FABULOUS LIFE), Andi Rive (THE LION QUEEN) and Troy (TROY) provided added star power to the night’s proceedings.

“2016 is set to be another incredible year for Discovery Networks in Africa, with a fantastic slate of new series and one-off specials proving yet again why we have the leading factual entertainment portfolio in Africa,” said James Gibbon, EVP & Country Manager, Discovery Networks CEEMEA. “From landmark documentaries filmed right here in Africa on Animal Planet and even more must-see lifestyle content on TLC, to a brand-new ambitious scripted series for Discovery Channel, next year our content offering will be second-to-none!”


Key Discovery Channel series announced at the event include the ground-breaking documentary SHERPA premiering in Q2, which details how Mount Everest’s Sherpa community united following the deadly avalanche that struck in 2014, killing 16 of their members. TELESCOPE is the brand-new documentary film set to premiere in Q3 that will take Discovery Channel audiences behind the making of the greatest telescope yet – NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope – a veritable time machine capable of taking us back to the origins of our universe. In Q4, Discovery Channel will look at the real-life story behind HARLEY-DAVIDSON in its next scripted series which examines how the iconic brand has paved the way to becoming a national symbol in American culture. And returning favourites FAST N’ LOUD, GOLD RUSH, and RUNNING WILD WITH BEAR GRYLLS will ensure Discovery Channel is truly unmissable in 2016.


On TLC, South Africa’s #1 lifestyle channel, audiences can look forward to a host of new faces and must-see moments.TINA MALONE: MY NEW BODY (Q1) sees British actress Tina Malone attempt to reshape her entire body after a huge weight-loss; then in SAVE MY STYLE, celebrity stylist June Ambrose transforms contestants from social media in this brand new makeover series coming to TLC in Q2. FIRST HEARTBEAT is the moving reality series premiering in Q1 following one couple and their emotional journey to start a family. And Oprah Winfrey returns in the New Year withBELIEF, a ground-breaking television event exploring humankind’s ongoing search to connect with something greater than ourselves. TLC viewers can also look forward to new dating series MARRIED BY MOM AND DAD and LOVE AT FIRST SWIPE, as well as new episodes of SEX SENT ME TO THE ER, CAKE BOSS and MY BIG FAT FABULOUS LIFE.


Africa will once again take centre stage in 2016 on Animal Planet in series such as MAN IS WILD premiering in Q3, which follows one outlandish animal tracker and his novel and very brave approach to studying animals in the wild. South African lion conservationist Andi Rive returns for a second series of THE LION QUEEN in Q2, as she continues her mission to raise awareness about a species that is facing extinction. DR. DEE: ALASKA VET follows one dedicated woman as she travels across glaciers and mountains to care for the wild and domestic animals of America’s largest state; and frightened felines are reunited with their owners in the lovable new series TREETOP CAT RESCUE coming to Animal Planet in Q1.