Zeekoevlei Nature Reserve, Western Cape
Zeekoevlei is a huge freshwater lake in the middle of the Cape Flats. With the rather densely populated suburbs of Grassy Park, Lotus River and Pelican Park on its borders, Zeekoevlei is the largest urban natural inland body of water in Cape Town.
Jan Van Riebeek may have described the vlei as 'full of hippopotami' in 1656 but the hippos have long since gone from Zeekoevlei, which means 'hippo lake', escaping to the neighbouring Rondevlei Nature Reserve - Zeekoevlei and Rondevlei are separated by only a peninsula. Zeekoevlei was only proclaimed a nature reserve in 2000 and as such is one of the youngest conservation areas in the city and one of a kind because of its completely urban nature. Along its shores are roughly 136 homes. In essence it is shared with private home owners, rather a unique setting for a nature reserve. There are also two environmental education centres on its banks that educate roughly 6000 children a year.
The Zeekoevlei reserve protects the low coastal dunes and Cape Flats thicket, both endangered and poorly protected, as well as Cape lowland freshwater wetlands. All of this biodiversity is under threat because of urbanisation, no stranger to the shores of Zeekoevlei.
Nearby are the out of commission Strandfontein Sewage Works, now a system of pans connected by gravel roads where bird life during summer is rather incredible. Waders like cormorants, white pelicans, terns and lesser flamingos group here.
Collectively Zeekoevlei, Rondevlei, Pelican park, and the coastline combine to form the False Bay Nature Reserve, now one of seventeen sites identified by the City of Cape Town as those with unique and critical biodiversity in need of further protection. False Bay Nature Reserve is now called a Contract Nature Reserve, under the Protected Areas Act, which should step up the level of protection of Zeekoevlei.