Saving Rietvlei for a Summer’s Day

Johannesburg is a city with limited entertainment resources. This densely populated hub leaves one to choose between malls and public parks for any form of amusement – especially for children. While a coastal destination would make an ideal alternative, a drive to the Rietvlei Zoo Farm easily ignites the excitement in anticipation of warmer Summer days.

September 1 marked the beginning of Spring and our enthusiasm as mothers led us to pack our babies and picnic baskets into our cars and spend the day in the outdoors- to Rietvlei Farm, the perfect place for family picnics, provides vast space for chairs, tables, gazebos and picnic blankets.

Situated in the south of Johannesburg on Swartkoppies Road, the farm offers boundless recreation. It receives an influx of visitors during the hottest months of Summer when the grass is beautifully green, the flowers have blossomed and the trees are renewed. The first day of Spring came with great disappointment as the farm was not ready yet to host visitors. The wind was harsh sending dry and flaky grass into our neatly packed baskets. Trees were still dull and the rest of the farm looked arid and barren. It seemed we were too eager for the warmth of Spring.

Nonetheless we salvaged what we could and made the most of the day. The tail end chills of Winter prompted us to steal an unoccupied lapa that became the best solution to keeping the children warm.

“The farm is beautiful mid-Summer,” says one of the patrol guards, “children run around playing with the animals and spraying each other with water.”

Regardless of the unfavourable weather, screams of children echoed throughout the farm, some were playing in the jumping castles and swings, some were running away from ducks waddling around and others were chasing after peacocks. A trip on a tractor cart, on a warm day, provides an opportunity to view the entire farm. Other activities include a 9-hole putt-putt course, carnival fun rides and pony rides. Visitors are also encouraged to bring their bicycles and comfortable walking shoes to explore the farm’s fun biking or walking trails.

Children are treated to face paintings and kiddies parties. They can enjoy the fun in feeding the farmyard animals or discovering new bird species at the aviary. This multi-purpose venue also offers a vast number of activities for adults interested in pursuing a skill in art and crafts or getting into shape through the adventure bootcamp, a fitness programme offered at Rietvlei.

A full experience of the farm would have been lovely if the weather was favourable. However, our visit was restricted to the confinements of a lapa that sheltered us from the howling wind. A future trip to the farm should include, among many of its activities, a view of the tea garden as well as the nursery.

An entrance fee of R25 for adults, R15 for children over 12 years and a vehicle entry fee of R30 gave us access into one of Johannesburg unpopular recreational areas. The tranquil setting surrounded by natural wetlands, large willow and oak trees and beautiful green gardens on a perfect Summer’s day would definitely allow us the freedom to relax as our children enjoy the sunshine.

* All pictures by Axel Bührmann

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