This past weekend saw us, accompanied by good friends and close family, heading to our local Rietvlei Nature Reserve to celebrate Joubert’s tenth birthday. The highlight of the day for Joubert and his mates was a tour to Rietvlei’s lions, with the birthday boy getting the seat of honour next to the very knowledgeable ranger-guide.
It is the Heritage Day long weekend in South Africa, and yesterday we packed the Duster with picnic baskets and grandparents and set out for a most enjoyable morning at our local Rietvlei Nature Reserve. Large sections of the reserve have recently received management burns to clear moribund grass cover (fire being an essential component of Africa’s grassland and savanna landscapes), and the first spring rains have spurred the growth of new grass, attracting a wide range of birds and animals to these areas.
Yesterday we celebrated Joubert’s ninth birthday at our local Rietvlei Nature Reserve, just a few kilometers from home. Combining family and friends, wildlife, photography, a picnic and birthday cake just seems like the best way to celebrate the special day, don’t you agree?
Rietvlei is home to a small pride of lions housed in a 150-hectare enclosure in a corner of the reserve. Normally we wouldn’t support any “reserves” in which lions are kept in confined quarters nor any that offer “cub petting” as an attraction due to the very real possibility that these establishments are involved to a greater or lesser extent in the breeding of lions for the canned hunting and bone exporting business, despite their claims of “conservation” and “education”. Rietvlei’s lions however were rescued from exactly such circumstances, cannot be introduced to the wild and will live out their lives here. It was a special birthday treat for Joubert and his friends to visit Tau, Jarvis, Bassie and Tawane at their home.
Just as we were starting to experience withdrawal symptoms after spending almost a month exploring eight of our country’s beautiful national parks we were saved from the agony by a good friend who organised his birthday party at our local Rietvlei Nature Reserve yesterday.
Our local Rietvlei Nature Reserve is often just what the doctor ordered when I need a quick nature fix. Located just 13km from our home, with a very fair rate of admission (R50 for adults currently, roughly $3.50), decent facilities, an extensive road network and an amazing diversity of wildlife, Rietvlei never fails to recharge the batteries! A week or so ago, in serious need of getting my head cleared following a few health worries, that’s exactly where I headed for a solo trip.
In all the years we’ve been visiting Rietvlei the reserve’s cheetahs have always eluded us – these large spotted cats are experts at hiding! I therefore felt extremely pleased when at long last I encountered a female with her three cubs, just after they had their fill of a freshly caught blesbok. I returned to the site several times later during the day, hoping that the family might still be in the vicinity, only to find the remains of the carcass variously attended by nervous black-backed jackals and pied crows squabbling over the left overs.
At one of the bird-viewing hides I had another encounter that will live in my memory forever. A reedbuck ewe hid her young lamb in a dense stand of reeds nearby, which is quite normal behaviour for the species. The curious (or should that be naughty?) youngster however did not want to stay put where his mom told him to, and quite unafraid approached me where I was sitting flat on the ground taking photos of him from a distance. Eventually he got so close that I had to get up and walk away, afraid that if he was to rub up against me his mother might catch my scent on him and abandon him. If I was pleased after the earlier cheetah sighting this experience really had me feeling utterly blessed!
Winter is getting a firm hold on South Africa’s Highveld now and early morning at Rietvlei is a pleasure to behold as mist rises from the waterways and the rising sun starts to thaw the frost covering the grass and trees.
For a reserve almost entirely surrounded by urban sprawl and industries, Rietvlei harbours an impressive collection of large and easily visible mammalian inhabitants. My sightings included black wildebeest, blesbok, buffalo, eland, meerkat, plains zebra, hartebeest, springbok, waterbuck, white rhinos and yellow mongoose (as well as the already mentioned cheetahs, jackals and reedbuck).
I also managed to identify 55 different kinds of birds in the few hours I spent at Rietvlei!
All in all a very pleasant day’s outing; one that certainly got my head back in the right place!
This past weekend allowed us our first brief escape from city life of the new season. Our day at Rietvlei Nature Reserve was blessed with the first, and very welcome, rainfall of Spring, although accompanied by a terribly windy cold front which put an early end to our plans for a nice picnic next to the dam. Happily the reserve’s wildlife came out to greet us in their numbers, despite the inclement weather.
Our end-of-year 2015 holidays were absolutely packed to the brim. Apart from our ten-day visit to the Kruger National Park (read more about our time at Lower Sabie, Olifants and Shingwedzi in December), we also made day trips to five other reserves, and will be sharing photos from those (except Suikerbosrand, which we introduced in a post all of its own) daily through the month of February, in a series we call “a month of monochrome memories”.