Enjoy the Tranquility of Rondvlei Nature Reserve
Home to the only hippos in the Western Cape Province, and a spectacular bird watching destination, the Rondevlei Nature Reserve incorporates parts of Grassy Park, Lavenderhill and Zeekoevlei in Cape Town. Covering an area of about 290 hectares, the reserve is one of South Africa’s most important wetlands and is home to as many as 230 bird species, as well as small mammals and reptiles. The hippopotamus population was introduced into the area in 1981, to control an invasive South American grass species which was taking over the wetland. The name ‘Zeekoevlei’ is a reference to the resident hippos, ‘zeekoe’ being the Dutch name for hippopotamus.
With a permanent wetland to the north and seasonal wetlands to the south, the Rondevlei reserve boasts around 280 species of indigenous plants, many of which are endemic to the area. There are a number of walkways and bird hides, as well as two observation towers, where visitors can view the wildlife. Birds that are likely to be spotted include a number of duck species, ibis, herons, egrets, gannets, pelicans and weavers, to mention a few.
Community-based tourism company Imvubu Nature Tours offers interpretive walks where visitors will discover interesting facts about the sandplain fynbos vegetation – protea, erica and restio plant species – which has adapted to thrive in sandy soil environments and has significant medicinal and cultural value.
Between August and February boat trips operate daily, offering birding enthusiasts the opportunity for a close up view of resident breeding populations of weavers, ibis, herons, spoonbills, harriers and more. Visitors on sunset cruises will be able to view the resident hippos as the sun disappears beyond the majestic mountains. To really appreciate the natural beauty of Rondvlei, nature lovers can stay overnight on a small island in the vlei where they can fish and enjoy bird watching at leisure.
Other features of Rondvlei Nature Reserve include a terrarium, aquarium, environmental education centre and the Leonard Gill Museum, named in honor of Dr Leonard Gill who was the director of the South African Museum and the author of one of the first books on South African birds.