Rietvlei Nature Reserve – Attractions near Irene

9th January 2012 at 11:04 am

Rietvlei Nature Reserve – Attractions near Irene.

The Rietvlei Nature Reserve, as one of the worlds largest urban nature reserves (3800 hectares), is situated at near Irene in the south of Pretoria, close to the R21. It consists of open grassland with undulating hills.

Great game viewing and excellent angling are the main drawcards at the 3 800ha Rietvlei Nature Reserve that lies 18km from Tshwane and 38km from OR Tambo International Airport.

The reserve has its origins in the 1930s when the Rietvlei Dam was dug by hand. Today the dam is fed by the Sesmylspruit (Six Mile Stream), five fountains and five boreholes. Upstream lies Marais Dam that acts as a sludge dam for the Rietvlei.

Originally the dam was not open to the public, but in 1948, following the creation of a nature reserve and the introduction of endemic game species by the then Pretoria City Council, the Rietvlei Nature Reserve was proclaimed.

In addition to supplying Tshwane with 15% of its water requirements, the two dams have become popular yachting and angling spots, where catfish, yellowfish, carp and tilapia are caught.

The designated fishing section includes ablution and braai (barbecue) facilities, as well as a campsite and chalets for overnight guests. No canoes or baitboats are permitted.

About 60km of well-maintained tar and dirt roads allow for great game viewing. Look out for cheetah, rhino, leopard, buffalo, blesbok, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, Burchell’s zebra, waterbuck, reedbuck, springbok, mountain reedbuck, steenbok and grey duiker.

Guided night drives – rounded off with a braai under the stars – expose visitors to the delights of nocturnal species such as the brown hyena, black-backed jackal, ant bear, aardwolf, porcupine, springhare and bush pig.

Day walks of 10km (four hours), game viewing bus tours, horse trails and a 21km (two-day) overnight hike from Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, are also offered. Hiking facilities include two overnight huts with beds, mattresses, hot and cold water, some cooking utensils, and firewood. The hiking trail takes you past a group of historical British embankments used during the occupation of Pretoria.

Booking is essential for all activities.

The reserve enjoys a Highveld climate characterised by dry, frosty winters with temperatures rarely dropping below zero. There is an average 724mm rainfall during summer, when daytime temperatures reach up to 34°C.

Part of the Rietvlei Reserve is populated by endangered Bankenveld grassland, where undulating hills are dotted with clumps of indigenous trees. Exotic and invasive flora such as the Australian silver wattle tree is being systematically removed to restore the vegetation to its natural state.

Educational programmes presented by qualified guides allow you to learn more about the reserve’s environment.

Three distinct habitats – grassland, open-water and wetland – make Rietvlei excellent for bird watching and both dams feature bird hides.

Popular with visitors is the lovely picnic area at Marais Dam, an ideal location to while away an afternoon under the trees while watching water birds and hippos.

To see some amazing bird pictures taken here: Click here…

Operating hours

The reserve is open from 06h00 to 18h00 daily. Entrance is via the angling gate on Nellmapius Road.

Entry fee

Adults R20, children R10, toddlers R5 and pensioners R20.


On the R21 take the Irene/Rietvleidam off-ramp and turn in an easterly direction (towards Rietvleidam). At the first four-way stop turn right towards Olifantsfontein and the St George’s Hotel. Drive for 1.5km, crossing the Sesmylspruit. On the left is the signboard for the reserve. Turn left and follow the road up the hill to the main gate. Drive past the stone entrance until you get to the offices and entrance gate.