The only nature reserve in Cape Town home to hippos

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The only nature reserve in Cape Town home to hippos

You can bird watch, fish, picnic and camp at Rondevlei Nature Reserve

Last updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2023

Rondevlei Nature Reserve is a wetland wilderness found in Grassy Park, known for its impressive birdlife. It’s also the only place in Cape Town where you can see a population of hippos. There are two viewing towers with spectacular scenery and several bird hides, allowing birdwatchers to sit in secrecy and observe the comings and goings of life in the wetlands.

Rondevlei forms part of the larger False Bay Nature Reserve. Image: @madrap83


Rondevlei was established in 1952 to protect the natural wetlands of the Cape Flats. The nature reserve is an important wetland for birds in South Africa, with over 200 bird species and five bird hides to watch and photograph birds. There’s also a variety of small mammals and reptiles like caracal, porcupine, cape fox, grysbuck, steenbuck and mongoose. 

The two viewing towers provide an elevated view of the reserve and nearby sea. You might spot  ducks, herons, gannets, pelicans, egrets and other feathered-friends. Rondevlei is an interesting reserve to take the kids or for those who’ve never been birdwatching before. There’s also a designated picnic area.

On an average day in summer 70 bird species may be seen, with 40 in winter when the summer migrants have departed. Image:


The reserve is home to a small population of Hippopotamus, and is the only place in Cape Town where you can see Africa’s deadliest large mammal up close. They’re most active at night, but some visitors have been able to see a hippo or two from the viewing towers. 

They’re usually found on the far south, but their footprints can be seen in the mud around the bird hides. They feed around the water, along with the pelicans, herons, and cormorants who are usually seen from the water banks.

The vlei has between six to eight Hippopotamus amphibius, with the male hippos being “extremely territorial”. Image: @momsen_wild


Imbuvu Nature Tours is a community-based tourism company situated at Rondevlei that organises chartered boat tours to see the diverse wildlife from the water. Each tour accommodates up to 8 people and lasts up to an hour. Visitors can choose between a sunset cruise with sundowners or sunrise cruise with a tea stop on the southern bank.

On a daily basis, the company offers guided nature walks that take you through Rondevlei’s ‘medicine cabinet’ of indigenous vegetation along with fishing services and tackle that can be hired for overnight fishing or on an hourly/daily basis. You could opt for staying overnight at the reserve as well, on an island bush camp with self-catering or fully-catered options.

There is a permanent wetland with Cape Flats Sand Fynbos to the north, and seasonal wetlands and Cape Flats Dune Strandveld in the south. Image: @travel.vlogger.diary


Rondevlei Nature Reserve is open: Daily, 7.30am to 5pm
Find it: Perth Road & Fishermans Walk, Pelikan Park, Zeekoevlei
Cost: Free entry
Contact on: 021 706 2404

By Khadeeja Adams



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