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Rhinos in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve

Rietvlei Nature Reserve is a small reserve in the Gauteng Province of South Africa.


Map of the reserve.
Rietvlei dam.
Rufous-naped Lark sitting on an ant hill.

Rietvlei (Reed marsh) covers 38 km2 and has 40 km of roads that are open to the public (30 km tarred and 10 km dirt road) for self-drive game viewing. The Rietvlei and Marais dams are inside the reserve.

The reserve consist of three main areas:

  • The wildlife reserve area, rgewrgeger, +27 12 358-1811. A picnic area with toilet and braai facilities can be found at Marais dam, four birdwatching hides are situated throughout the reserve and open to anyone in the reserve. Two lapas can be rented for exclusive use.
  • Angling area, +27 12 358-1819. Offers camping and chalet accommodation.
  • Yacht Club, +27 12 454-0637, +27 82 488-9900, . Operated by the Pretoria Sailing Club.

The only boats allowed on the dams are those operated from the Yacht Club. Powerboats are forbidden as the noise disturbs the wildlife.

The reserve is generally not very busy. You will often have a bird hide all to yourself and there is seldom anyone else around to make noise and scare away the wildlife.

Summer is excellent for bird watching as many of the migrating species will also be found in the reserve, but the long lush grass may obscure some of the other wildlife. Rhino may be especially difficult to spot. Some antelope species will still be easily visible due to their size and the fact that they graze along the hill sides.

The Rietvlei dam supplied about 5% of Tshwane's water supply.


To be involved with a team of volunteers at Gauteng's Rietvlei Nature Reserve, visit the web site of the Friends of Rietvlei:


The government bought Rietvlei on 2 Sept 1929 as Rietvallei (Extent 1), from DM Munro, in order to build the Rietvlei dam. As part of the Rietvlei water scheme, the Rietvlei dam was built in 1934 on the Six Mile Spruit. The dam wall is an earth structure and was built completely by hand. Donkey carts were used to cart soil onto site and remove any soil and other material that was no longer required. Many horse shoes lost by these working donkeys can still be found in the hill behind the Yacht Club.

In 1948 the city of Pretoria, which owns the land, proclaimed the area a nature reserve.


Mostly open grassland covering low hills with indigenous tree in small groups. Rare for South Africa, it also contains a peat wetland area. An ancient lava stream runs north–south through the park.

The dams are fed by the Six Mile Spruit, four fountains on the reserve, and one fountain from an adjacent property.

Flora and fauna[edit]

The reserve has 272 bird and 530 plant species. 1 600 head of game, including someblesbuck, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, Burchell's zebra, waterbuck, reedbuck, springbuck, mountain reedbuck, steenbuck and grey duiker can be viewed here. From your own vehicle it is easy to spot these animals on the open plains. Lions can be seen with a game drive from the Coffee Shop in as separately fenced off area.


The reserve has a typical Hightveld climate with hot days regularly followed by short and intense afternoon thunderstorms in summer. The thunderstorms are often accompanied by lightning and occasionally result in hail. Summer temperatures range between 16 °C at night to 30 °C during the day. Winters are mild and dry with temperatures averaging between a minimum of 5 °C and a maximum of 20 °C.

Get in[edit]

The reserve is just off the R21 between Pretoria and OR Tambo International Airport.

Take exit 12 (M31 Nellmapios Dr., Irene) from the R21, turn towards the east (there is a brown information sign boards indicating the reserve), at the first 4-way stop, turn right and about 2.5 km down the road you will find another brown information sign board indicating a left turn towards the reserve entrance.

Gates are open for day visitors from 6AM to 5PM in summer (September to March) and 6AM to 4PM in winter. Day visitors are required to leave the reserve by 7PM in summer and 5PM in winter.

Fees and permits[edit]

Entrance to the reserve costs R55 per adult, R30 for children (6–16 years) R10 children (2–5 years) and free for children under 2. The disabled or elderly (over 60 proof required) pay R32 entrance fee. Six month season tickets Adults R795 and children/pensioners R370

Access to the Angling area is also R40 and the reserve can be accessed from the angling area.

Get around[edit]

The easiest option for day visitors is to self-drive. 30 km of tarred and 10 km of dirt road is provided for this. Speed limit within the reserve is 30 km/h.


See more wildlife

Larger game tend to stay away from the main tar roads in the park. To improve your chances of seeing rhino, zebra and other larger animals it is a good idea to get off the tar and use the couple of dirt roads that are open to visitors, specifically those between the Gwarry Route and Main Road.

  • Wildlife
  • A stone rampart build by the British forces during the Boer wars.
  • An old homestead dating back to the 1900s


The picnic area
From the bird hide at the picnic area
  • Angling, +27 12 358-1811. catfish, yellow fish, carp and tilapia are common. A one-time R40 permit is required.
  • Bird watching. There are four bird hides in the reserve. The one at the picnic area is a bit old and creaky and some of the seating need repairs, kids from the picnic area can also be a nuisance to the serious bird watcher. The one on the Vlei Route is supported by Friends of Rietvlei and is in excellent condition and offers a good view of the vlei. The hide on Main Road has views over almost the whole Rietvlei dam, but is normally the first hide visitors see and you can expect some traffic in and out as people come to see what the hides look like.
  • Picnic. The picnic area at Marais dam has clean toilets, braai areas, and running water. Bring a blanket, something to eat and drink and relax.
  • Sailing, +27 12 345-3576, +27 76 901-2690, . The Pretoria Sailing Club operated on Rietvlei dam. In order to sail you will have to become a temporary club member. Gypsies, Lasers and O9s are available for rent.
  • Day Hiking Trails, +27 12 345-2274. 4-hour guided hike. Groups of 10 to 15 people. R50 per person.
  • Overnight Hiking Trails, +27 12 345-2274. From Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. Groups of 6 to 8 people. Guided hike, 21 km through the reserve. Two basic rondavels (huts) with beds, mattrasses, hot and cold water, some limited cooking utensils and firewood is provided. The rondavels do not have electricity. R150 per person.
  • Day Horse Rides, +27 12 345-2274. Groups of 6 to 10 people. Horse, saddle and guide is included. R120 per person.
  • Overnight Horse Rides, +27 12 345-2274. 5PM on Friday to noon on Sunday. Groups of 6 to 8 people. Horse and equipment is included. Riders should have some horse riding experience. Router covers 36 km. Two basic rondavels (huts) with beds, mattrasses, hot and cold water, some limited cooking utensils and firewood is provided. The rondavels do not have electricity. R265 per person.
  • Night game drives. M-Sa 6PM to 10:30PM. 2-hour game drive using spotlights to locate the wildlife. A fire (and blankets in winter) will be waiting at Fish Eagle Lapa for a bring and braai (bring your own meat, salads, drinks, and have a barbecue) after the game drive. R135 per person.
  • Have a function at Fish Eagle Lapa. 6AM to midnight. Up to 30 people, firewood supplied. No loud music allowed and everyone must be out by midnight. R600. An additional R750 refundable deposit is required to cover any potential breakage. Bookings must be made in advance.
  • Have a large function. 6AM to midnight. Maximum 200 people. Firewood, power points, ice machine, stove, walk-in refrigerator and cushions are supplied. No loud music allowed and everyone must be out by midnight. R2200.


There is a shop in the reserve, the Rietvlei Coffee Shop. There is a Woolworths convenience shop just outside the reserve, at the Engen service station on the intersection of the M37 and M31. The Irene Village Mall is located at the offramp from the R21, about 4 km from the reserve.


There is the Rietvlei Coffee Shop in the reserve, and there is no restriction on what food you may take in for your own consumption.

Do not feed the animals.


Buy drinks in the reserve at the Coffee Shop. Municipal water on tap at most places where you may exit your vehicle is safe to drink.

Alcohol is allowed in the reserve, but anyone found intoxicated will be asked to leave.


Camping in the angling area
  • Camping, Located in the Angling area, +27 12 358-1819. Check-in: Between 6AM and 6PM. Basic, but clean ablution blocks. A maximum of 60 peopke per night are allowed on the camp site. R60 per person, R25 per vehicle.
  • Chalets, +27 12 358-1819. Check-in: Between 6AM and 6PM. R750 per chalet (max 6 people).

Stay safe[edit]

There are dangerous animals in the park. Only exit your vehicle at designated areas, such at the picnic spot, bird hides, lapas and camping sites.

No swimming is allowed in any of the dams as they are home to hippos and crocodiles.

Go next[edit]

There are a number of other small areas within Gauteng that has not yet been overrun by human expansion and development

  • Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, +27 11 957-0106, . 8AM to 3:45PM. Located in Krugersdorp, this park offers game drive, horse trails, an observatory, abseiling, swimming pool and braai and picnic areas. Wide range of animals. R70.
  • [dead link] Sterkfontein Caves (West along the N14 and look for the Cradle of Humankind signs), +27 11 956-6342. A tour guide will lead you through this extensive cave system where many early hominids and advanced ape fossils were discovered. It is a 2-km walk. You can also visit the museum to learn more about the evolution of man. There is also a restaurant and shop.
  • 1 Tswaing Meteorite Crater, Old Soutpan Rd (30 km north of Onderstepoort), +27 12 790-2302. A perfectly preserved meteor crater just north of Pretoria. Tswaing crater (Q1513620) on Wikidata Tswaing crater on Wikipedia
  • Some areas around Hartebeespoort is still undeveloped and offers country accommodation.
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