For kids and the young at heart, the combination of thrills and chills at Gold Reef City theme park is sure to be a highlight of any visit to Johannesburg. The complex is located on an old gold mine which closed in 1971. The amusement park is themed around the gold rush that started in 1886 on the Witwatersrand, Afrikaans for "the ridge of white waters" on which the city was founded.
Tsogo Sun, the operator of the park, boasts that it contains "some of South Africa’s fastest, biggest, most twisting and turning thrill rides". Indeed, the spiralling Anaconda with its suspended open-air seats is a prime attraction. Just the queue to get onto it, can be a test of self-possession. This is true especially on weekends and public holidays (except Christmas), throughout which the theme park is open.
For the very young (or very old), Gold Reef City theme park offers the option of slower rides. Among these are perennial favourites like the Carousel and the Wave Swings. To get onto rides like the Balloon Wheel and the Golden Wave, those stacking up to only 1m in height need to be accompanied by others not so challenged.
Everyone taller than the metric unit gains entry to all rides upon payment of ZAR210. We visited in February in a party of four, all taller than 1m. This implies an outlay of ZAR840, excluding transport and lunch. For your money's worth, be sure to arrive early enough to sample a fair number of rides, allowing for queues. At least 30 minutes should be set aside for a bite or to smell the roses.
Then, if you are blessed with a strong stomach, you could brave the Tower of Terror. This is not a medieval torture device, but might as well have been one, to judge by the blood-curdling screams it elicits. Little wonder, since the tower is the headgear of the old mine, down which a wagon plunges riders 50m through a shaft at speeds reaching 100 km/h.
"With a hair-raising fear factor of 10 out of 10," Tsogo Sun assures us, "the Tower of Terror will surely fulfil your need for that adrenaline rush." No other ride has a "fear factor" so high, not even the Anaconda (9) or the Golden Loop roller-coaster, at a lacklustre 8.
But be warned. Not only must you be taller than 1.3m to hurtle down the shaft, you also need to be relatively toned. This is because the Tower of Terror’s seats "may not accommodate guests with certain upper body dimensions." A test seat is provided at the entrance for each rider "to ensure your ability to safely ride." In fact, only those who survived rigorous physical training can safely contemplate the Tower of Terror. JTJr