Around Joburg: An Outing to Rietvlei Nature Reserve

Hi there – I’m back from a little bit of a break and want to tell you about another great day trip destination near Johannesburg, Rietvlei Nature Reserve.

So it’s only fitting that I’m posting about a place where you can take a little bit of a break yourself. The thing I always found astounding about living in Johannesburg was the abundance of new places to discover, right under my nose for years but their existence unbeknownst to me. It was my going-away present from friends that sent me hiking in the Cradle Nature Reserve for the first time, and it was a lovely place. Just a 20 minute drive away, and I’d never even heard of it.

Today’s place is similar to that. Or at least I am thinking it’s similar to that, having never been there myself. It comes recommended, photos and all, by your fellow blog follower and wildlife aficionado Lorenda Beumont.

Rietvlei Nature Reserve has several things going for it. First off, it’s right next to Pretoria, so within easy reach for anyone living in Gauteng. Second, it’s got a dam, which for my American friends means lake. While motor boating is not allowed, Lorenda assures me you can windsurf on the dam, which is something I never would have thought to do on the Highveld. It’s kinda nice to know it’s there, in case you get tired of the artificial ski slope in Fourways. And third, due to the water, it’s a bird watcher’s paradise.

Don’t get me wrong, even the city of Johannesburg is not a bad place to watch birds. Which makes sense, given that it boasts the world’s largest man-made forest*.  I’m not a birder, but apparently Joburg offers quite the outings for people with binoculars around their neck and an Audubon Field Guide in hand. Or rather the South African equivalent of it. The Lone Hill Koppies, a stone’s throw from where we used to live, have been mentioned to me as a good birding spot.

But back to Rietvlei. Its almost 4000 ha area forms the habitat for many bird species. Just take a look at Lorenda’s beautiful pictures:







Rietvlei, which has been around since 1948 but flies somewhat under the radar like so many Joburg sights, is a great place to take your visitors or go for a family outing if you don’t have time or the resources to go on an actual safari. Aside form the birds there are plenty of zebra, buck, ostriches, wildebeest, some rhinos, hippos, jackals, and a herd of 70 buffalo. There is also a coffee shop (yay!) and a picnic area, all for just R50 per person.

There are even lions at Rietvlei, but they are in an enclosure in which you cannot drive yourself.  Tours on a game viewing vehicle are available for booking and cost somewhere around R75 per person. The lions seem to be well looked after and live in a large enclosure.

In the words of Lorenda: “Yes, it’s not Kruger or Pilanesberg or Madikwe, but is nevertheless a lovely place to visit if you want to commune with nature and listen to the birds. I find it incredibly relaxing.”

I hope you’ll check it out and let me know what you find.

Rietvlei Nature Reserve has a Facebook page with more information. In addition, there is also a Facebook Group where people post pictures of sightings. I just looked at it and couldn’t tear myself away!



*About that man-made forest: Is that actually true? I love repeating that claim but have never really researched it.

This article is part of Joburg Expat’s What to do in Joburg series. 

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