A worthwhile day trip

A worthwhile day trip

It’s late in the year and as such we decided that we would look for a day trip that was close to Johannesburg. As such looked around and explored various options. Pilansberg game reserve was just too far and meant that we would have to overnight.

Eventually, we settled on the Rietvlei Nature Reserve near Centurion. After an early start ( 0600 ) we headed north and stopped for coffee and a snack at the well-known Engen garage. 

The trip was easy as we were going against the traffic and we arrived before 0700. Payment was made at the main office and we were also given a map. The map is purely an orientation reference as the routes are well signposted and include the 6 bird hides around the reserve.

Bird life is prolific but I regret not having taken a bird guide. It was also interesting to see the large Barbel  (catfish)in the water feeding at each stop.

Rietvlei belongs to the City of Tshwane and started in 1929 when it became a conservation area. Its original purpose was to supply water to what was then Pretoria.

It is hemmed in by the main arterial routes but is a large reserve( around 4,000 hectares ) in an urban environment.

It’s amazing when you travel around, well maintained with a strong presence of Tshwane council staff who look after the infrastructure. Roads, both tar and dirt are in good condition and drivers are very respectful of one another all allowing opportunities to pass.

The system is stated to be critically endangered but it looks after water systems, and endangered fauna and flora. Expect to see numerous grasslands and veld which abound as well as streams which flow through the reserve.

Whilst it is claimed to be rich in animal life I later found out that the best time to visit is in the afternoons when animals such as the hippos come out to feed.

There are eland, buffalo, rhino hartebeest, wildebeest and if you are lucky you will see cheetahs as well. We saw plenty of game on the plains but in our case, it was mainly ostrich and zebra. We were however lucky to catch a sighting of a white Rhino with her calf. She crossed the road in front of us. There are numerous reptiles but they are not easy to see.

Visiting hours between summer and winter are from  0530  to 1900 in summer and 0600 to 1800 in winter when the gates close.

It is worthwhile checking the hours though as the reserve does occasionally close for maintenance and opens later in the day.

It’s best to get there early in the morning or later in the afternoon as they cap traffic to 100 vehicles.

Be conscious of the wildlife on the roads it is their habitat and they should enjoy the right of way.

Even though we were there on a weekday there were numerous visitors which was great to see. There is a fine if you do not meet the closing time and all payments have to be made by card.

The speed limit is 30 km/hour and it was apparent that all vehicles respected this.

You can pack a picnic and use one of the picnic spots but no alcohol is allowed.

In addition, drones and firearms are banned.

You can not leave your vehicle to take photos or drive off the designated roads no flora can be removed.

On the roads respect the no-entry signs where roads are blocked off, this may be for staff access or rehabilitation.

Game drives are available but need to be booked in advance, you will be accompanied by a qualified guide.

We eventually made our way to the Rietvlei Coffee shop which is well-run and offers a menu of standard fare. One can also book one of two lapas and a function room.

All in all, it was a worthwhile visit to experience this little gem in the heart of an urban environment. The heat was a problem and I burnt slightly even though I wore a cap, I neglected sunscreen which was also a problem.

But it was a great visit and after about 3.5 hours we made our way back to Jozi stopping at a local Rugby club for a quick burger and a chat. They were setting up for the final of the Rugby World Cup and were fully booked for Saturday night even though it was a late game.

And our boys did us proud to become the world champs again.

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