It is a source of water for the city but is also one of the best examples of a wildlife reserve situated within the borders of an urban area.
Within the 4000 hectare reserve in a day visitors can see rhino, buffalo, cheetah (three of the big five) with lion in a separate enclosure - and, if you are very lucky, brown hyena and leopard.
The reserve has abundant black wildebeest, zebra and various antelope species, and hippo in its dams.
Birders are spoiled with opportunities to see and photograph more than 400 bird species.
The Rietvlei Dam was built in 1930 because of the capital’s growing population and the associated need for drinking water.
The quarry in Cornwall Hill Estate was created to excavate building material in order to construct the dam wall with its foundation as well as for the water purification plant. An average of 65 million litres of water a day is supplied to the Council’s reservoirs from Rietvlei.
The reserve itself was originally created to protect the catchment area of the dam as well as its surrounding fountains.
It was later zoned and proclaimed a nature reserve.
The dam is available for anglers, canoeists and yachtsmen who want the opportunity to enjoy their activities in peace and quiet - no motorised boats are allowed.
A restaurant offers a variety of refreshments and there are braai and picnic facilities. Just remember to bring carrots for the donkeys in the paddock - a great treat for the kids. There are 14 rhinos, of which two calved recently and who are all dehorned as part of the efforts to prevent poaching. Sadly, rhino have been lost but the Friends of Rietvlei join officials on patrol as part of the effort to protect our city’s wildlife heritage for future generations.
The reserve is open seven days a week and visitors self-drive - with a tour booked from the restaurant to see the lions. There are seven bird hides (six of them built by the Friends of Rietvlei) where one can just sit and experience nature or capture the surrounding beauty on camera.
The reserve is owned and managed by the City Council of Tshwane.
The Friends of Rietvlei is a non-profit organisation with about 600 members and falls under the auspices of Wessa (Wildlife & Environmental Society of South Africa). They help co-ordinate hikes in the reserve, led by qualified rangers who are not only knowledgeable about the wildlife, but also the trees, plants and the birds. They also co-ordinate other groups’ involvement, such as EWT (Environmental Wildlife Trust, ERP (Elephants Rhinos and People), the Hunters’ Association, Pretoria radio flyers, the yacht club and the canoe club. For details, visit www.friendsofrietvlei.org.