Did you know?
A lightning strike can increase the temperature of the surrounding air by as much as 27 700?C.
The Highveld is home to the celestial theatre of spectacular thunderstorms, with flashes of lightning frequently illuminating the skies during the summer months.
Highveld lightning storms are generally accompanied by brief but heavy downpours, winds and dark rolling clouds. Although it's never a good idea to use a metal rod as a pointing device there are a couple of vantage points in Johannesburg from which a glimpse of a distant storm is safe and well worth the effort.
Johannesburg has some excellent spots to look out for a Highveld thunderstorm. The Skye bar at the top of the Holiday Inn in Rivonia, ZAR Lounge on the 13th floor of the Radisson Blu Gautrain Station, the Top of Africa in the Carlton Centre, and the Westcliff Hotel all have views sprawling out in every direction, if there's a storm going on, you will see it from here.
Munro Drive is another outstanding viewpoint in Houghton, worth a visit for the sprawling city lights below you as well as on the off-chance of a storm.
If you're up for a bit of bashing through the undergrowth, Northcliff Hill has unparalleled views of the city's northern suburbs and some parts of the CBD. However, the area is not well lit and can be a security hazard, so only leave your vehicle if there are lots of other cars parked on the hill.
You can work out how far away a storm is by counting the seconds between the lightning flash and the thunderbolt. For every second that passes, the storm is roughly 2km away. Make sure you have plenty time to get back to your car, and you should be fine.
You can also keep track of thunderstorms in the Highveld on a local storm-chasing website.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Top of Africa
Tel: +27 (0)11 308 1331
West and Rivonia Road
Tel: + 27 (0)11 021 6854
Holiday Inn, Sandton
123 Rivonia Road
Tel: +27 (0) 11 282 0000
67 Jan Smuts Avenue
Tel: +27 (0)11 481 6000
How to get here
Drive or catch a taxi to the top of Northcliff Hill, up the Munro Drive viewpoint or to the Holiday Inn on Rivonia Road in Sandton. If you’re hopping out at the first two destinations, pay the taxi driver to wait – these are not high traffic areas.
Best time to visit
Thunderstorms are most common in November, December and January, but they do make their flashy appearance throughout the summer months and occasionally even in winter.
You’ll need your own car to go storm chasing, or a metered taxi can take you to any of the locations mentioned in the text.
What will it cost
Viewing the night skies is free. The Top of Africa costs R20 p/person. ZAR Lounge charges an entrance fee Friday-Sunday after 8pm.
What to pack
Take a torch up Northcliff hill, as the rocky terrain might be hard to navigate in the dark. An umbrella or raincoat might not be a bad idea, considering the weather you’ll be venturing out in.
Where to stay
Jo'burg and Pretoria have numerous high-rise hotels that will afford you a good night's sleep and spectaular sky views.