Rietvlei Nature Reserve (Irene)
Overview of Rietvlei Nature Reserve
The Rietvlei dam was built during the great depression in South Africa (1929 to early 1930's), and was completed in 1934. Feeding the Rietvlei dam in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve is the Sesmyl Spruit (Six Mile River), five fountains and five boreholes. The dam wall, as well as all the other brickwork was done entirely by hand. Soil was carted away by mule carts.
The Rietvlei Nature Reserve is situated about 18km from the center of Pretoria, and 38kms from the OR Tambo International airport. The Rietvlei Nature Reserve stretches over 3 800 ha of endangered Bakenveld grassland, and includes wide open plains and undulating hills. The dam has a surface area of 204.13 ha, and a storing capacity of 12.024 million m³ when full.
The Rietvlei Nature Reserve is home to some 1 600 head of game, including blesbok, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, Burchell's zebra, waterbuck, springbok, mountain reedbuck, steenbok and grey duiker, as well as a multitude of birds. The 60kms or tarred and dirt roads in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve are well maintained, and makes it is easy for visitors to spot the various animals from the comfort of their own vehicles.
The Rietvlei Nature Reserve has a long history, and some of the historical sights include an old homestead dating back to the early 1900's, a stone rampart built by British forces during the second occupation of Pretoria, and three groups of graves on which some of the epitaphs are still legible.
Marais Dam Picnic Site
Visitors are allowed to get out of their vehicles at the Marais Dam Picnic spot, where ablutions, braai facilities, shady trees and a bird hide are available.
Rietvlei Nature Reserve also offers daily game drives inside the reserve, and also to the lion enclosure, where visitors can experience the majesty of the Kings of the Jungle.
Review of Rietvlei Nature Reserve
One of the joys of living in Gauteng is die wide range of activities available to enjoy whenever the mood strikes. Rietvlei Nature Reserve is one of those. On a whim, we decided to enjoy a sunny day at Rietvlei. Luckily, we asked the entry office about other activities at Rietvlei Nature Reserve, otherwise we might've missed the opportunity to go on a guided tour to the lion enclosure.
But, let's start from the beginning. Within easy reach of Pretoria, we were quite surprised to find such a lovely and well maintained nature reserve. The staff is friendly and helpful, the roads well-kept, and animals in abundance. Although we did not see any of the big game, such a hippos which are rumored to be in Rietvlei Nature Reserve, we did see many different species of bucks and birds.
Rietvlei Nature Reserve has many bird hides, where we stopped and enjoyed looking out over the lake at the breeding-islands of the busy birds. The lake is full of fish, and at Marais Dam picnic site it is a common occurrence to see massive fish swimming around. I can take a guess as to why their are so big and abundant... These fish have found the perfect feeding spot at the hands of visitors throwing pieces of bread and simba chips in the water! Quite a sight :)
After driving around for a while, it was time for our guided tour to the lions. Since it was a pretty hot day, it came as no surprise that the lions where lazily laying around their feeding area. Although these lions are not really wild-wild lions, they are well cared for and a joy to behold.
The game ranger leading our game drive was very knowledgeable, and gave us a lot of interesting information about the lions, the Nature Reserve itself, and animals in general. We managed to take a good number of photographs under his guidance and ability to find even the smallest interesting things.
One thing I did not enjoy however, was the state of the old barn house. One would think that such a treasured old building would be better cared for... Alas, it is slowly falling into ruin.
But, apart from the poor old farm house falling apart, Rietvlei Nature Reserve is worthy of a visit.