Thursday, 20 October 2011
Rietvlei Nature Reserve, South Africa
Rietvlei Nature Reserve is managed by the City of Tshwane. It is located just off the R21 near Irene, which consists of a large security estate, several residential and business areas and a small mall, approximately 10kms from Centurion.
There are 30kms of Tarmac road and a further 10kms of dirt roads. These roads are suitable for all types of vehicles, however I suggest you have a vehicle with high clearance or a 4x4 for the dirt roads in the rainy season as the roads get waterlogged and when they dry out there are deep ridges that a smaller car may get stuck in.
My chosen route is to stay on the tarmac roads and follow the signs for the bird hide and picnic spot. It’s about 7kms into the reserve. Along the way you will spot zebra, many varieties of antelope and Ostrich. The mongoose are always a delight to see, more visible in the winter when the grass has been burnt.
At the picnic spot there is a bird hide, you are allowed out of your vehicle here but the sign reminds you, you are still in a dangerous place and to watch out for the wildlife. I saw the tail end of a crocodile here last week, you’d be surprised how fast I can run.
There are Braai facilities, picnic benches and shade, plus very, very clean toilets. I like to sit here for a while and unpack my camping stove, read a book and keep an eye open for the Hippos. I’ve been fortunate to see them twice and on one occasion the mother and its young were walking the edge of the lake, sunbathed for a while then disappeared into the bush.
There are turtles in the water, best viewed from the hide and a wonderful variety of birds to see.
I then move onto the coffee shop, which was once a Homestead dating back to the early 1900’s. They offer a full menu and do a wonderful Sunday lunch. Again there are toilets and showers here, which are very clean and there’s an overnight youth hut and a pool.
I’ve been fortunate to see a young rhino grazing, while I was having lunch and often the Red Hartebeest will wander down.
This route I prefer is 41kms round from door to door. Depending on the time, I will often drive the dirt roads where you’re more likely to see more animals, such as the Rhino and the African Buffalo, there are cheetahs and hyena’s but I’ve yet to see them.
As you can see you can get as close or stay as far away from the animals as you like, the Rhino were a little to close for Daniel’s liking.
There is a separate Lion Park, where for an additional charge you’ll be driven to see the two rescued lions, which were living in someone’s garden. The Lion enclosure is under development.
From experience the best time to see the animals is either first thing in the morning or towards the end of the day, when they congregate around the watering holes and first thing in the morning. In winter the water is limited, due to lack of rain and the animals are more concentrated due to the location of the water. I’ve been informed that the best game viewing takes place in November when they have their young; I’ll let you know when we reach that time of year.
I’ve had many wonderful trips out here, with family, visitors and just by myself it costs all of R40, less than £4, plus your fuel and a picnic or money for lunch, snacks and drinks in the cafe.
And don’t forget your camera.