As the Newlands Station Manager for the Volunteer Wildfire Services, this brave ...
Petting Zoos, Farms & Wildlife Parks in Cape Town
Lions and crocs and penguins, oh my!
We braved the depths of shark-infested waters, posed for pictures with those birds in tuxedos, rode creatures taller than a horse and pet cats that run faster than the Cape Town speed limit to proudly, and without injury, share with you our pick of places to visit animals in Cape Town and surrounds.
Saxenburg Wine Farm
Just a 30-minute drive from Cape Town’s city centre you’ll find ostriches, wildebeest and zebra on the picturesque Saxenburg Wine Farm. The Kuils River-based estate boasts a 40-hectare reserve where, in summer, guests can watch the animals while indulging in the winery’s famous reds and whites. From a lapa (gazebo), the Saxenburg animal guides will speak to you about the wildlife while the wine team leads a guided sampling session. Although the experience isn’t on offer in winter, do pop by the fence’s perimeter for some photos of the rare wild animals, like the fallow deer, before having a wine tasting.
Price: Free to view from outside the fencing. Wine tasting and safari (running from September – April) is R170 per five people.
Opening times: Monday – Friday: 9am – 5pm; Saturday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm.
Polkadraai Road | Kuils River | Cape Town | +27 (0)21 903 6113
Aquila Private Game Reserve
Sprawled out over 7500 hectares in the malaria-free Klein Karoo, this private game lodge has the distinction of being one of the only parks within a two-hour drive of Cape Town that offers visitors the chance to view all of the Big 5 animals. In short, you can visit Aquila in the morning and afternoon and get back into town in time for a sundowner. Aquila claims spectacular views of the Cape wilderness, and its guided safari drives in open 4x4s are a great way of seeing the Big 5 (including the king himself, the lion), hippos, giraffes and over 170 various bird species. Aside from these traditional game drives led by experienced and quirky rangers, the game park boasts additional viewing options via quad bike or by horseback. The reserve offers day trips from Cape Town (transfers included) that are perfect for those pressed for time, but those keen to put up their feet and spend the night will find a beautiful lodge complete with a glistening swimming pool, cosy bar and kiddies entertainment zone.
Price: Prices range from R1295p/p to R2495p/p for a day trip, including a game drive and one buffet meal. Overnight prices are more expensive.
Opening times: Monday – Sunday. Phone to confirm a time for a guided tour.
Touwsrivier | Ceres | Western Cape | +27 (0)21 430 7260
Fairy Glen Game Reserve
Just one hour away from the Mother City, Fairy Glen is the closest Big 5 malaria-free safari park to Cape Town and it has a giant portfolio of animals: buffalo, lions, blue wildebeest, eland, the endangered bontebok, zebras, lynx, oryx and many more. The reserve offers guided tours in open 4x4 vehicles, and the knowledgeable rangers that lead the excursions will teach you noteworthy titbits, like the fact that Fairy Glen has two rhinos that have survived being poached and de-horned. It’s also possible to do safari by horseback and go on a nature walk that includes views of a 50-m waterfall that gushes in winter. If you’d like to add some culture to your animal encounters, there is a Khoisan rock art heritage site where you can see paintings that were made nearly 6000 years ago. You could extend the stay at this postcard-perfect estate and stay over in one of the cosy chalets.
Price: Prices start at R1450p/p (it’s half-price for children between 5 and 12). Staying overnight is R1850p/p and includes a nature walk, the animal viewing, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Opening times: Morning tours start at 8am and afternoon tours start at 1pm.
Brandwacht Road | Worcester |+27 (0)21 424 9173
Eagle Encounters at Spier
For avian enthusiasts, there are few better places to visit than the Eagles Encounter raptor rehabilitation centre, which is based at the historic Spier wine farm in Stellenbosch. The wildlife conservation venue offers a home to injured, poisoned and hand-reared birds of prey, with the aim of rehabilitating and releasing as many of them as possible. It’s therefore a prime spot to view anything from dancing barn owls, American black vultures and martial eagles to yellow-billed kites, peregrine falcons, blue cranes and jackal buzzards (some of the winged creatures are even out in the open for guests to touch). There are a few non-feathered animals around too, including bearded dragons, a two metre-long boa constrictor, leopard tortoises and an African crested porcupine. Visitors can simply stroll around or they can take in one of four daily interactive shows that demonstrate the hunting, flying and learning abilities of these powerful predators.
Price: Entry to the rehab centre costs R70p/p for adults, R60p/p for children and R65p/p for students and pensioners (shows included). Holding a black eagle or a Wahlberg’s eagle costs and additional R50p/p or R25p/p respectively.
Opening times: Monday – Sunday: 9:30am – 5pm (interactive shows and experiences are a 11am, 11:30am, 2pm, 3pm, 3:15pm and 4pm)
Spier Wine Farm | R310 | Stellenbosch | +27 (0)21 858 1826
Snorkelling with Seals in Hout Bay
Those sick and tired of ogling animals from behind a fence or from atop a four-wheeler can find some happiness in Animal Ocean’s Seal Snorkelling tour. The incredible and completely immersive marine life experience gives anyone from the age of six the chance to swim with the adorably curious Cape fur seals in the clear waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The intimate three-hour adventure takes place just off the coast of Hout Bay’s Duiker Island, which is home to thousands of the elegant sea creatures, and guarantees wildlife sightings – the animals are even known to come within an arm’s length. Other than being able to swim, no additional experience is necessary to participate; though, kids between the ages of 6 and 16 do need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Price: Seal Snorkelling with Animal Ocean rings in at R650p/p; the price includes all equipment.
Opening times: The tour usually commences at 10am at the National Sea and Rescue Institute (NSRI) in Hout Bay Harbour, but other departure times may be arranged.
+27 (0)72 296 9132 | firstname.lastname@example.org
This indoor tropical garden is where you can have a gentle animal experience and see the smaller creatures that Cape Town has to offer. Although named Butterfly World, this haven is where you can find various reptiles, tarantulas, birds, marmoset monkeys (those cute small ones), meerkats and more. So take your kids or a would-be date, make the 45-minute drive and go experience a dreamlike and somewhat romantic mass fluttering of butterflies (the establishment imports 300 pupae per week). Although more ideal on a clear day (parts of the enclosure don’t have a roof), on a rainy day you can still get the animal experience and get up close to the butterflies to admire their markings (note: the butterflies don’t fly as much when it rains). Tip: make a day of it and have a meal at the on-site restaurant, Jungle Leaf Café.
Price: It costs R58p/p for adults, R33p/p for children and R149 for a group booking for two adults and two children.
Opening times: Monday – Sunday: 9am – 5pm
Route 44 | Klapmuts | Western Cape | +27 (0)21 875 5628
Two Oceans Aquarium
A great all-age, any-weather place to see animals in town is the Two Oceans Aquarium. At this underwater wonderland you’ll find over 3000 living sea creatures, and if you time your visit right, you can even watch some of the critters, like those adorable penguins, being fed. If that doesn’t get your blood flowing, and you have a diving certificate, you can jump in with the sharks and see things from their perspective. Your little ones will love the interactive touch pool and the kiddies play centre, which comes complete with puppetry shows, and there’s also a dockside café that serves delicious food sourced from sustainable enterprises. A few tips: 1. Buy an annual ticket if you plan on visiting the aquarium more than twice this year – it’ll save you some money. 2. You can leave the aquarium to roam the V&A Waterfront and come back at no extra cost. 3. Buy your tickets online to save some money.
Price: Children under four get in for free. Prices range from R60p/p to R125p/p depending on age.
Opening times: Monday – Sunday: 9:30am – 6pm (including public holidays).
V & A Waterfront | City Centre | Cape Town |+27 (0) 21 418 3823
Le Bonheur Crocodile farm
With more than 1000 crocodiles on its sunny-weather-geared farm, the Paarl-based Bonheur treats youngsters to a close encounter of the reptile kind. The family-run venture conducts guided tours of its teeming ponds every 45 minutes and even gives visitors a chance to hold or pet a baby crocodile! And while the main attraction is certainly the scaly cold-blooded creatures, Le Bonheur also offer catch-and-release bass fishing (rent or bring your own rod) and claims a jungle gym and eatery. So after visiting the crocs, you can relax in the café or enjoy a pre-ordered picnic on the lawn, which overlooks a dam with chirping bird life. Although open in the winter time, do bring a waterproof jacket for the areas that aren’t sheltered from the rain.
Price: Entry costs are R48p/p for adults and R28 for anyone under 18.
Opening times: Monday – Sunday: 9am – 5pm.
Babylonstoren Road | R45 | Simondium | Franschhoek | +27 (0)21 863 1142
Cape Town Ostrich Ranch
If you want to have a hands-on animal experience, then make the 20-minute drive with your kids or partner to Cape Town Ostrich Ranch, where you’ll find an abundance of things related to this giant non-flying bird. You can take a guided tour of the ostrich farm through the breeding enclosures, where you’ll stand the chance of seeing newly hatched chicks and a male ostrich doing a majestic mating dance. And if you and your child are brave enough, you can even sit on one of the big guys! When you’re done with your walkabout, you can check out the ostrich ranch’s curio shop for a souvenir or have a look at the farm’s other animals, like the emus, the mountain tortoise and crocodiles. Rather go in the summer, as most of the tour is not rain-protected. Fun fact: This petting farm claims a feathered friend that won the Guinness World Record for being the smallest living fully-grown ostrich.
Price: Entry costs R21 for two- to six-year-olds, R55 for 7- to 16-year-olds and R70 for adults.
Opening times: Monday to Sunday: 9am – 5pm.
Van Schoorsdrif Road | Philadelphia | Western Cape | +27 (0)21 972 1955
For a special experience perfect for animal enthusiasts of all ages, visit one of the few African penguin colonies in the world at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town. Part of the Table Mountain National Park, the area, which comprises three beautiful rock-laded beaches and three meandering boardwalks, is home to over 2000 of these adorable feathered friends. Also known as ‘jackass penguins’ for their donkey-like bray, these vulnerable creatures are on the endangered species list and are monogamous, meaning they take partners for life. It’s possible to view the penguins from the boardwalks or, better yet, from the white sand of the lovely swimming beaches. Just be sure to bring a towel in the summertime and an umbrella in the winter. Tip: Look but don’t touch; penguins are small but have a lot of power in their sharp beaks.
Price: Entry costs R55p/p for adults and R25p/p for children under 12.
Opening times: Open daily. April – September: 8am-5pm, December – January: 7am-7:30pm, February – March: 8am - 6:30pm, October – November: 8am – 6:30pm.
Boulders Beach | Simon’s Town | +27 (0)21 786 2329
The Cheetah Outreach is a programme on a farm in Somerset West that uses hand-reared cheetahs as ambassadors to increase awareness, educate people and raise funds for this endangered species. Seeing a cheetah, the planet’s fastest land-based mammal, up close is special at any age, and Cheetah Outreach allows visitors to tailor their experience to their bravery. You can view these magnificent cats, listen to a talk, watch the predators at full sprint and then, if you have the gumption, pet the cheetahs’ soft fur via one of the animal encounters! And when available, this animal sanctuary lets you stroke the fluffy cheetah cubs. You can also have an encounter with the sanctuary’s meerkats and bat-eared foxes. After these very special animal viewings, you can grab a coffee and a bite at the on-site deli. If a day visit isn’t enough for your giving heart, then you can volunteer for more cheetah rearing time. As the outreach says, “The more you put in, the better experience you get out”. SIDE NOTE: It is possible to pay just the gate fee and view the cheetahs without shelling out for the more costly animal encounters.
Price: Entry to the general park costs R10p/p during the week and R5p/p on public holidays and weekends. Engaging with the adult cheetahs: adults pay R130p/p and children (under 14) pay R80p/p. Engaging with a cub (when available): R220p/p for both adults and children.
Opening times: Monday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm; encounters take place between 10am and 1pm and again from 2pm to 5pm.
Paardevlei |Somerset West | Western Cape | +27 (0) 21 851 6850
This large and dynamic Kommetjie-based animal farm has something for all ages. You can spend hours having a fun petting zoo experience at Higgeldy Piggeldy Farmyard, where your little ones can pet goats, pigs, sheep, ducks, geese, chickens, rabbits, guinea pigs and ponies. And for the braver youngsters, there are snake encounters that let reptile enthusiasts hold the cold-blooded, slither-y creatures for a memorable photo moment. Attracting the older crowd too, Imhoff Farm offers movie-like horse-riding outings on the beach (you can even stay over at their postcard-perfect cottage after a sunset ride). Let’s not forget the venue’s camel rides! You or your child can experience a 5- or 45-minute trot atop the humps of these desert-loving animals. There’s also a café and a seafood restaurant, which is aptly named The Pickled Fish, both of which are as perfect in summer as they are in winter – they both have fireplaces.
Price: A five- to eight-minute camel ride costs R60p/p (R40p/p for children under 12), a 45-minute scenic camel ride costs R200p/p, a horse ride costs R400p/p and a snake encounter costs R40p/p.
Opening times: Tuesday – Sunday: Camel rides are available from 12pm to 4pm and snake encounters are available from 9am to 5pm. Monday – Sunday: Horse rides leave at 8am, 12pm and 4pm.
Kommetjie Road | Kommetjie | +27 (0)21 783 4545
The Giraffe House, just outside of Stellenbosch, is where your kids can have an educational petting zoo experience in the animals’ peaceful natural environment. Don’t be fooled by the name; this well-maintained farm has a long list of four-legged friends to accompany Gerry, the 6-m tall hand-reared giraffe : you can see the Cape fox, the bat-eared fox, warthog, caracul, prairie dogs, ostrich and even zebra and springbok! Ask the team at Giraffe House for a couple of feeding buckets, and you can give Suzie the cow, the goats or the chickens a nice oaty snack. Reptile-lovers can watch an interactive show and can even hold a slithering snake. Side note: These are famous giraffes. Louis Vuitton used some of the giraffes here in an advertising campaign.
Price: Adults pay R45p/p, children (2 – 15) pay R25p/p and seniors pay R30p/p.
Opening times: Open daily: 9am – 5pm. Reptile show is at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.
Cnr R304 & R101 | Stellenbosch | +27 (0)21 884 4506
World of Birds
As Africa’s largest aviary, World of Birds in Hout Bay has over 3000 animals and over 400 different species, like monkeys, marmosets, foxes, squirrels, guinea pigs, ducks, lovebirds, eagles and swans. This is probably the closest you’ll get to wild birds, like owls, and the staff at World of Birds confidently says that no two visits are the same. You can watch the penguins, pelicans or birds of prey being fed, an experience that certainly makes for a fun and educational time. You can also step into the monkeys’ enclosure for a special encounter. And yes, in winter the monkeys will try to snuggle into your warm jacket! Afterwards you can enjoy lunch or a picnic next to the flamingos. Side note: This sanctuary is located on the hop-on hop-off bus blue route.
Price: Adults pay R85p/p, children pay R40p/p and pensioners and students (with a card) pay R55p/p.
Opening times: Open daily: 9am-5pm; birds (like penguins and pelicans) are fed from 11:30am to 1pm and 2pm to 3:30pm, and birds of prey are fed at 4:15pm
Valley Road | Hout Bay | +27 (0)21 790 2730
Shark, whales and birds in Gansbaai
If you would like more of an extreme animal encounter and you are over 12 years old, then shark cage diving is for you! You can hire a shuttle to fetch you from Cape Town (from as early as 4am) and drive you to the shark-infested waters of Gansbaai, which is just over three hours away. You’ll be lowered into a cage in the water, and the great white sharks will be circling just beyond, arms-length away. If that doesn’t appeal to you, it’s also possible to watch these majestic animals from the boat. Additionally, the quaint town of Gansbaai offers viewings of penguins and the southern right whale from June to December. And finally, you can take a boat ride to Dyer Island, which has a large marine bird population that includes jackass penguins, bank cormorants, kelp gulls, rare African black oyster catchers and many more.
Cost and times: Depend on tour operator
Gansbaai Tourism | Kapokblom Street | Gansbaai | +27 (0)28 384 1439
Whale-watching in Hermanus
The beach and mountain town of Hermanus, which is less than a two-hour drive from Cape Town, is where you can go to see the giant of the ocean, the whale! You can make a day trip with family or friends to this happy town or plan a weekend at the seaside and see southern right whales, humpback or bryde’s whales. There are various ways to watch the whales, so adjust your viewing method according to your need for adrenaline and your age group. Whale-watching from a boat is fun and wet, at a cost a helicopter allows you see the entire body of a whale and viewing from land lets you have lunch while you admire a whale (they get within 20m of land). The best time to go is between May and November.
Cost and times: Costs depend on your type of whale viewing, and the best time to go is between the months of May and November.
Hermanus Tourism | Hermanus | +27 (0)28 313 0928
by Ondine Mond
Use our events section for an up-to-date overview of happenings in Cape Town. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter and if you have a smartphone, add m.capetownmagazine.com to your home screen for quick access on the go!
Follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, join our Google+ circle, connect with us on LinkedIn, check out our photos on Instagram and follow our Pinterest boards for updates on what’s happening in and around the Mother City!