A stone’s throw away from South Africa’s capital, the city of Pretoria in Tshwane Municipality, makes it a popular day trip to Rietvlei – affectionately known as a “haven of nature” by the locals. Home to the endangered Bankenveld grassland and around 2000 different animals, visitors can get close and personal with rhinos, buffalo, black wildebeest, blesbok, zebras, waterbuck, reedbuck and oribi, and if they are lucky the elusive cheetah.
It is also home to around 240 different bird species, in particular those who have aquatic elements in their ecosystems. Do look out for African fish eagles, half-collared and giant kingfishers, and purple gallinules. You’ll also find grassland specials like the grass owl, spike-heeled lark, buffy pipit and orange-throated longclaw. Two dams on the reserve offer bird hides, which provide open-water and wetland habitats.
If you prefer something more active, try cycling, angling, and wonderful walks. Freshwater fishing for catfish, yellowfish, carp and tilapia is allowed at the northern and western shores. A variety of non-motorised water sports also operate from the yacht club, on the north-western shore.
Horse rides range from a 30-minute ride from the coffee shop, to guided one and two day horse trails, which can be arranged. One and two day guided hiking trips can also be arranged. An overnight option is also available. For guided game drives you will need to provide your own vehicles and book in advance.
History buffs should look out for a stone rampart, originally built by British troops during the South African War (Anglo-Boer War). This is also where they installed a cannon during the second occupation of Pretoria. Keep your eyes peeled for mule shoes. Mules were used to remove the soil when the dam was being built, and mule shoes are still found from time to time.
Rietvlei is named for the dam at its centre, which is the source of around 20% of Pretoria’s drinking water.