Ditsong National Museum of Natural History
Aryan has been having a little, nah who am I kidding, MAJOR dinosaur obsession for a while now. He has an impressive dinosaur book collection, his fair share of dinosaur toys and even some clothes. Dinosaurs is his favorite movie (even though he never watches it for longer than 10-20 minutes) and my YouTube Downloads basically consist of dinosaur videos – the obsession is real I tell you. So, a while back, I decided that it might be fun to take him to the Dinosaur Expo currently exhibited in Sandton, but as a family of 5, it was just too expensive for us. I started searching on Google for other possible dinosaur experiences and that’s when I found the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History – little did I know that it is in fact Pretoria’s very own hidden (not so hidden-seriously you can’t miss the dinosaur fossils) Gem.
I expected a few Dinosaur fossils here and there and that we will be in and out within an hour. This was obviously not the case. No, the museum offers a vast range of exhibits and displays of which includes hundreds of taxidermized birds and animals (the wild animals were obviously Aryan’s favorite inside the museum), some amazing collections of insects and butterflies and a valuable geological collection. I were surprised at how much educational value this museum holds and even more surprised that in 25 years of living in and between Johannesburg and Pretoria I have never been there. The Austin Roberts bird hall shows off an astonishing collection of 875 species of stuffed bird indigenous to South Africa, some of which includes eagles, owls, the secretary bird and vultures. The halls were all well arranged with a ton of interesting facts and information to be studied. Lets just say it took about 3 hours and a couple of hundred photos later before we finally got to the dinosaurs, and not once did anyone feel bored or agitated. That’s pretty amazing when the crowd is made up of 2 adults, a tween and a 2 year old toddler.
“The Ditsong Museum of Natural History is the only natural History Museum in Gauteng and one of the largest in South Africa. It is unique in that it is the only institute in South Africa that offers the local, national and international community the opportunity to view its collections including original fossil material usually denied the public.” (https://www.ditsong.org.za/?venue=national-museum-of-natural-history)
All the walking, talking, posing and learning made our tummies grumble and roar for attention (obviously louder than all of Aryan’s roars, hoo-hoo’s and grrrr’s as we pass by all the animals) but lucky for us the museum even had the sweetest little restaurant with, what looked like and smelled like, the most delicious buffet and at only R35-R50 per plate was incredibly affordable. Please note – they only sell yummy, delicious, cooked food and If you have a bratty little 2 year old who insists on French fries you might have to drive to the closest McDonalds or KFC. Luckily I packed this particular bratty 2 year old some snacks and we were able to calm his tummy for a while as we headed on outside to the long awaited dinosaur fossils.
The huge dinosaur fossils were definitely Aryan’s favorite and we could not pass by the opportunity to get some more photos before heading onto the Discovery Center, which is also included in the R40 entrance fee. The gardens were neat, beautiful and well taken care of and even have some benches if you are looking to take a quiet, peaceful break.
The Discovery Centre was definitely the highlight of our trip and the best way to end a very exciting day. Finally the rules of “look but don’t touch” didn’t apply anymore and in the discovery centre they were able to use all of their senses to truly experience the museum’s animals, insects and species. From Hide-and-seek games in a little forest with animals, to audio sounds, touch and feel boxes, microscopes, puppet shows, discovering new smells and textures through tasting and smelling different spices, building puzzles and relaxing in the little library – there were so much to do and I’m pretty sure we could have easily spent the entire day in that room alone. There was something to do for everyone – yes even my overtired 2 year old had fun. It was such an amazing sensory experience.
It was a day well spent where everyone learned a little something and for only R120 for a family of 4 it was definitely value for money. I would love to return again when Aryan is a bit older and can appreciate all of the educational value that the museum offers, but we all had a wonderful time together and made some pretty awesome memories.
Moms if you are still looking for something Fun, Educational and Affordable to do with your kids indoors this winter, the Museum of Natural History is definitely well worth the drive.
Real museums are places where Time is transformed into Space – Orhan Pamuk