By Ruvesen Naidoo
In this week’s Feature Friday series, we focus on the outdoors and getting involved in different recreational activities in Makhanda that reflect both the region’s history in South Africa and its many cultural, fun, and interesting offerings. These range from the annual Ghost Walk next month to a visit to the Observatory Museum located at 10 Beaufort Street in Makhanda.
This week, Grocott’s Mail looks at ten things to do in Makhanda.
“For believers in the paranormal, Makhanda, (Grahamstown), is considered to be one of the most iconic towns in South Africa. Ghost stories abound in this historic town, with its architecture and cityscape adding to the atmosphere” Councillor Brian Jackson of the DA told Grocott’s Mail.
The Old Gaol at 40 Somerset St, now ‘Handmade Coffees’, was built in 1824 and ceased operation in 1977. This made it “the longest-serving prison in South Africa. During that time, it saw several executions, numerous floggings, and many other assorted miseries. Small wonder that several paranormal encounters have been reported within its walls,” Jackson added.
He pointed out that Selwyn Castle, which is currently being used as Rhodes University’s Anthropology Department, was built as the residence of Major Jasper Selwyn of the Royal Engineers. “It is said to be haunted by a servant of Major Selwyn who was murdered by her jealous lover,” Jackson said.
Other stops on the ‘haunted Makhanda’ tour include the Department of Education offices at St Aiden’s Ave, St Peter’s Campus, and the Rhodes University Administration Block. Other places with haunted history, are further explored by Makana Tourism’s Annual Ghost Walk, which is described as a fun Halloween-themed walk around Makhanda to look at old buildings and historic sites.
For more details on Makana Tourism’s Annual Ghost Walk contact Makana Tourism via email@example.com or 046 622 3241.
History of Makana
Renowned historian Alan Weyer hosts ‘Spirits of the Past’ talks at Signal Hill in Makhanda. “It’s a story that must be heard…a past that captures the imagination of all visitors, and the idea that somehow, we all have an ancient and personal investment in the area, that explains its magic.” Talks can be organised by appointment with Alan Weyer (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Interesting museums and galleries in Makhanda
The Devonian Ecosystem Gallery at 87 Beaufort Street, Makhanda is described by Robert Gess, Palaeontologist and Research Associate of Albany Science Museum as a gallery that showcases the unique 360 million-year-old fossils recovered from the world-famous Waterloo Farm lägerstatte on the outskirts of Makhanda.
“The displays cater for a wide range of levels of engagement and we welcome school learners, South Africans interested in our heritage treasures, and international tourists,” says Gess, who himself discovered Hyneria udlezinye, the biggest prehistoric bony fish ever described from Southern Africa. The Devonian Fossil Gallery is open for free on weekdays from 9am to 5pm.
Another place of interest is the Observatory Museum, which not only celebrates the beginning of history of diamonds in South Africa but houses the only genuine Camera Obscura in South Africa. Other museums in Makhanda include the Amazwi South African Literature Museum, which focuses on South Africa’s literary heritage.
Makana Tourism officer, Sanette Steyn, shares other things to do outdoors such as having a picnic and bird watching at Makana Botanical Gardens – the first Botanical Garden established by the British in the then-Cape Colony in Makhanda in 1853. A hike up Mountain Drive, and watching a sunrise or sunset at the Monument are highly recommended. Tourists and staycationers can also take a trip to the Toposcope located at Signal Hill, or take scenic drives out on Highlands Road towards Riebeek East.
Grocott’s Mail would like to remind all readers of the Heritage Month competition. The sentence that needs to be completed with words covered in each ‘Feature Friday’ article is:
_____the_____behind_____and its extraordinary_____experiences.
The completed sentence should be emailed to email@example.com. The first prize is a getaway trip to Halyards Hotel & Spa and Mansfield Private Reserve. The competition closes on 2 October 2023, and winners will be announced on 6 October 2023.