Rietvlei Nature Reserve is home to four of The Big Five game animals and you can explore its 3800 hectares (9390 acres) at your own leisure from the comfort of your car in an easy day-trip. While the predators are confined within their own encampment, which you can visit on an escorted game drive, chances are you’ll encounter rhino, buffalo, black wildebeest, zebra, springbok and a variety of other antelope and smaller animals on your drive. Guided hiking and horse trails are also available upon request and there is a restaurant inside the park that serves delicious home-cooked meals when you need to get out and stretch your legs.
The game inside the Groenkloof Nature Reserve is so used to mountain bikers racing past, or hikers trudging along, that they hardly pay any attention to passersby, which provides a unique opportunity for animal lovers to see them close up. Keep an eye out for impala, kudu, blue wildebeest, ostrich, zebra, giraffe and red hartebeest, as well as a great array of local bird life. Although this makes a great morning out, it’s also possible to spend a night in the reserve if you book ahead.
The iconic Voortrekker Monument is situated on a hilltop within a 340-hectare (840-acre) nature reserve. The park is dotted with cycling, hiking, running and horseback riding trails, but the less active can also self-drive through the reserve to view its wide variety of indigenous flora and fauna. Animal sightings may include zebra, wildebeest and various species of antelope, as well as other small mammals, such as mongoose, hedgehogs and porcupines. The nature reserve is also connected to Freedom Park, where you can spend a few hours reflecting on South Africa’s past as you walk through its tranquil outdoor spaces.
Originally a dairy farm in the 1800s, the Moreleta Kloof Nature Reserve is a 100-hectare (247-acre) piece of land nestled between the suburbs of Pretoria East. The old farm buildings have been converted into a wedding chapel and a restaurant, while the rest of the area is now home to various small game species, including springbok, zebra, blesbok, impala and ostrich. The reserve is also a birdwatcher’s delight and walking routes catering to everyone, from Sunday strollers to avid hikers, are available.
The Faerie Glen Nature Reserve forms part of the popular eight-kilometre (five-mile) Moreleta Spruit Nature Trail that meanders through some of the eastern suburbs of Pretoria. A birdwatcher’s paradise, there are more than 150 species to look out for, including the European nightjar, African black duck, brown-backed honeybird, and European bee-eater. There are three hiking trails available and the chance to spot smaller mammals, such as mongoose, hedgehogs, hares, and bush babies. A tea garden is available at the entrance of the reserve.
If you want a spectacular view over Pretoria, then Klapperkop Nature Reserve is the place to be. Popular with cyclists and runners, and perfect for a scenic afternoon drive, the tarred road winds up towards Fort Klapperkop and through the reserve, where you can come eye-to-eye with zebra, blue wildebeest and red hartebeest, as well as some smaller mammals. It’s the perfect vantage point from which to appreciate the jacaranda trees in bloom.
The 200-hectare (495-acre) Wonderboom Nature Reserve is famous for a stunning specimen of Ficus salicifolia, a wild fig called the Wonderboom (wonder tree). The tree is more than one thousand years old and was once big enough to shade about one thousand people at once, although it is much smaller these days. The reserve offers hiking trails with scenic views and even boasts an Iron Age and a Stone Age site to explore. History buffs can also wander through the ruins of a 19th-century fort, while nature lovers can look out for a breeding pair of black eagles that nest on a rocky ledge nearby.
Wonderboom Nature Reserve, Wonderboom, Pretoria, South Africa, +27 12 440 8316
About 22 kilometres (13.6 miles) north of Pretoria, the Roodeplaat Dam inside the Roodeplaat Nature Reserve is a popular day-trip destination for anglers, birdwatchers, hikers and water sports. The southern part of the dam is great for game viewing, where you may see (along with the usual suspects of zebra, blue wildebeest and impala) more elusive kudu, warthogs and black-backed jackals. The northern part is great for canoeing, sailing and fishing, while bird lovers can look out for terns, warblers, kingfishers and African fish eagles.
Roodeplaat Nature Reserve, Roodeplaat, South Africa, +27 71 299 2677
Around 220,000 years ago, a meteorite the size of half a football field slammed into Earth at Tswaing, leaving behind a crater that is 1.4 kilometres (0.87 miles) in diameter and 200 metres (218 yards) deep. Now a saline lake, the crater is one of the best-preserved meteorite impact craters in the world and stands testimony to the implacable force of nature. Situated inside an extensive wetland system, there is also a large variety of plant and bird species to appreciate while there.
Tswaing Nature Reserve, Soutpan Rd, Soshanguve, Pretoria, South Africa, +27 073 661 5014
About 40 kilometres (24.8 miles) or so east of Pretoria lies the Bronkhorstspruit Dam Nature Reserve. There are over 200 bird species to view, including the rare pink-billed lark. The dam is also popular with anglers looking to catch bass, carp and yellowfish. Those interested in water sports can take a boat or jet ski out, while swimming pools and restaurants are also available. Popular with day-trippers, there are also camping facilities for longer stays.