Game Reserves in Western CapeRietvlei Wetland Reserve
There is a large freshwater wetland on the floodplain of the Diep River where it flows into the Milnerton Lagoon and, subsequently, into Table Bay.
The R27 West Coast Road hugs the western edge of Rietvlei just north of Sunset Beach. It is a constant hive of activity taking traffic to and from this north-west end of Cape Town to the city and southern suburbs, and up the West Coast. On the wetland's eastern flank lie a series of refineries.
Despite its being sandwiched within a very busy residential area, Rietvlei is a birders paradise. There are over 180 different bird species, including ducks, flamingos and pelicans and the 560 hectare reserve is home to 220 different plant species, specifically rich in Cape fynbos.
The lake is permanently freshwater. It is made up of a series of shallow pans, reedbeds, a tidal lagoon and a true riverine habitat. During spring the reserve is a riot of noise as the migrant waders arrive. As many as 10 000 birds can congregate at this time of year, which is why it is an Important Bird Area (IBA).
Between 1974 and 1976 the north-western section was dredged and, as part of the process, the pans were pumped full of seawater. The results for the ecology were both serious and irreversible.
Over and above this, the development of Century City on what was once a vlei known as Bouvlei, has also impacted negatively on the wetland. Bouvlei used to support a large heronry of some 12 different species. Many of them would fly across to Rietvlei adding their numbers to the birds already at the wetland.
Rietvlei includes a network of pathways around the wetland, and a bird hide seating up to 20 people, whilst sand dunes on the seaside of the reserve (on the other side of the R27) gives a good vantage point for sighting whales.
There are picnic spots for braaing and ablutions, but not terribly many trees. Water enthusiasts enjoy the vlei for windsurfing and sailing. Best of all are the views across to Table Bay.
The wetland is only a 15 minute drive from the centre of Cape Town. It forms part of the Table Bay Nature Reserve but there are plans to make it a nature reserve in its own right.