Cradle Of Humankind Tours -- Palaeo-Tours (tel. 011/023-4234; www.palaeotours.com; by arrangement only) offers fascinating trips to some of the key sites in what has become known as the Cradle of Humankind, declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 for the significant paleoanthropological discoveries made in the area since 1966. The Cradle again made headlines in 2003 when a new dating technique (called burial cosmogenic dating) revealed that the Little Foot skeleton, found in 1997, is 4.17 million years old -- one of the oldest in the world. Since the discovery, scientists have been hard at work excavating the full Little Foot skeleton. More recent developments have been banal: an "improved" visitor center and an unremarkable underground "museum." However, with Palaeo-Tours, your guides are paleoanthropology scientists or Ph.D. students who explain the history of evolution while taking you to working excavation sites. Tours cover our origins, as well as some of the philosophical aspects of the appearance of humans. The area is some 20 minutes from the city, and both half- and full-day tours include a short game drive on the way to the fossil site at the Rhino and Lion Park.
Township Tours -- Popular with foreign visitors keen to experience "real" urban life, "township" tourism originated in Soweto. Township tours offer a fascinating insight into daily life in the segregated black neighborhoods constructed during the apartheid years and the remaining ubiquitous economic contrasts found in the City of Gold, like Alexandra, where an estimated 600,000 people live in abject poverty in a 19-sq.-km (7 1/2-sq.-mile) enclave, just across the highway from glitzy Sandton, the suburb with some of the highest real estate tags. Among the sights on Alex's Heritage Trail tour is the house Mandela lived in when he first came to Johannesburg and the headquarters of the Msomi gang, who terrorized the community in the late 1950s. To arrange a tour, contact the Alexandra Tourism Association (tel. 011/882-3406 or 011/882-0673).
Incidentally, the word township -- used to denote poor black suburbs -- dates back to 1912. While commonly used, it should perhaps be replaced; it's something you may want to discuss with your guide.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.