A love for animals is a beautiful quality and one that should be encouraged and nurtured in children. Cape Town can offer several animal encounters where kids can learn more about all the different animal species in our country and in the world. Have interactive and educational fun and nurture your kids’ understanding, respect and appreciation of animals at the following spots:
Kids will love a visit to these fluffy cousins of the llama. At the Alpaca Loom in Paarl, there is much to learn and see. Interact with the alpacas in the on-site petting zoo or enjoy a decadent treat and a cup of freshly brewed coffee at the coffee shop. There is also a jungle gym for the kids to use up all their pent-up energy.
Alpacas are known for their soft fribrous fur which is often used in a range of products. At the Alpaca Loom, visitors can watch weavers use their ancient craft to make a variety of woven scarves, shawls ponchos and blankets. These items are also on sale in a beautiful range of natural colours grown by the resident alpacas.
Learn more about these unique animals when you go on the Alpaca Barn Tour. Meet the resident alpaca herd while on this guided walk and explore the farm and surroundings. The whole family will enjoy this insightful look into the fascinating world of alpacas.
- Location: Suid-Agter-Paarl Rd, Southern Paarl, 7624
- Website: alpacas.co.za
The Cheetah Outreach in Somerset West is a group of passionate conservationists whose primary goal is to promote the survival of the free ranging, South African cheetah. There are about 1 326 cheetahs in South Africa of which approximately 500 free ranging cheetahs live on unprotected farm lands in the northern part of the country. This population is the focus of their work. The Cheetah Outreach Trust working with the communities in these areas have developed initiatives that reduce the human-wildlife conflict. In addition, they have a well regarded educational program for learners in the Cape Town area, public awareness at their facilities, and research projects.
They offer a range of encounters for visitors. The basic Cheetah Encounter gives you the opportunity to be in close proximity to one of their cheetahs and to have a photo taken of you with the big cat. Their top-rated activity is the Special Cheetah Experience, where visitors can spend some quality time in their recreation enclosure with one of the ambassador male cheetahs. For about 20 to 30 minutes, the adult cheetah will be off lead at times for a unique photo opportunity. Or the VIP Private Cheetah Encounter can also offer a far more exclusive and intimate experience. Spend quality time with an adult male cheetah for the best part of 30 minutes and go on a private tour of the facility where they explain their conservation programme and introduce all their animals, including a bat-eared fox or caracal. All encounters are done unders supervision of experienced handlers.
They also have a feeding tour that offers visitors the opportunity to watch the small animals being fed their afternoon meal. A guide provides information about each animal. Often the meal is used as an enrichment activity that encourages natural behavior such as jumping and climbing.
Most of the animal encounters must be arranged and booked in advance; send an email or phone the facility manager at 082 872 4007.
- Location: De Beers Ave, Firgrove, Cape Town, 7110
- Website: cheetah.co.za
Eagle Encounters at Spier
Enjoy personal encounters and spectacular interactive flying shows at Eagle Encounters, a wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism centre based at historic Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch. This insightful activity is great fun for the whole family.
Daily shows include:
- Stars in Training at 11am. Watch in awe as the experienced handlers put their majestic raptors through their paces utilising ancient falconry practices.
- Interactive Falconry Display at 2pm. Spectate and participate as they fly a selection of owls, kites, buzzards, hawks and falcons around and to you.
- Out to Lunch with the Secretary at 3pm. Meet this long-legged lady and learn about the keen raptor with a very pretty face.
- Built for the Kill at 4pm. They set the stage and provide the props for the amazing raptors to display their spectacularly distinctive natural talents and speed.
Linger a while and enjoy the many offerings available at Spier Wine Farm, such as a meal at one of the eateries, a wine tasting or wine pairing, a picnic on the lawns, a Segway adventure through the vineyards, or a self-guided walk.
- Location: Spier Wine Farm, R310 Baden Powell Drive, Lynedoch, Stellenbosch, 7603
- Website: eagle-encounters.co.za
Exotic Animal World
What was once known as Butterfly World has now evolved into Exotic Animal World. Exotic Animal World is a sanctuary for a variety of exotic animals, such as spiders, snakes, monkeys, meerkats, scorpions, many species of bird and much more. Most of the 700 amazing creatures at the sanctuary were either donated by their previous owners, or were confiscated by local authorities and given into the sanctuary’s care.
Kids will love the specially designed enclosed tropical garden at the sanctuary. Walk freely amongst tropical birds, lemurs and iguanas in the spacious enclosure which will allow special ‘no-barrers’ interactions between visitors and animals. The enclosure is also covered so rainy weather will not be a bother.
Besides the tropical garden, Exotic Animal World also has other animal encounters. A walk-in aviary will have you surrounded by birds above and guinea pigs below. The reptile bay is home to baby tortoises and beautiful boas. The aquarium holds fish as well as other exotic creatures, and the creepy crawly house will find visitors face-to-face with big eight-legged friends (for those who feel brave). Cross the small river outside the sanctuary and say hi to the cute and cuddly meerkats and Nigerian pygmy goats, as well as a whole crowd of other residents.
Make your visit insightful by joining a live talk. The trained and knowledgeable keepers hold demonstrations of some of the animals on weekends and public holidays. These session, held at 10am, 12pm and 2pm, give you an even closer look at some of the residents, and the chance to learn a little more about them.
Sit down for a breakfast or lunch at the on-site restaurant, Café Lemur. Exotic Animal World allows visitors to enjoy your Café Lemur takeaway meal anywhere in their one-and-a-half acre gardens, as long as you don’t feed any of the animals.
- Location: R44, Stellenbosch, 7600
- Website: exoticanimalworld.co.za
This historical Cape farmstead offers something special for for the whole family to enjoy. Located in Kommetjie, on the busy tourist route to Cape Point, Imhoff Farm has an array of restaurants, retail shops, artisan and family adventures, including a small petting zoo. It’s old world, yet original and beautifully situated and guarantees a wholesome family outing.
Higgeldy Piggeldy Farm Yard is an authentic farm experience for children of all ages. Conveniently located in sight of Blue Water Café, the little ones are encouraged to visit the safe farmyard for outdoor and educational entertainment. Children will have the opportunity to interact with the friendly farmyard animals: feed, touch and get to know domestic farm animals including pones, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, emus, rabbits and a variety of feathery friends.
Another fun activity of the family is the Milkwood Maze, an interactive 3D maze experience. Explorers can take a tour of Southern Africa, travelling to the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, with each destination represented by a flag. Look out for different animals and learn all about African animal conservation along the way.
Imhoff Farm also houses three eateris to satisfy guests’ cravings. The Umami sushi restaurant offers top quality sushi at affordable prices, while the Blue Water Café serves casual new Cape style food and wood fired pizzas, including vegan and gluten-free options. Or opt for a snack-on-the-go as you explore the farm by buying freshly baked goods or a selection of freshly squeezed juices, smoothies, breakfasts and light meals at the Free Range Coffee Shop and Deli.
- Location: Kommetjie Rd, Kommetjie, Cape Town, 7975
- Website: imhofffarm.co.za
Le Bonheur Reptiles and Adventures
At Le Bonheur Reptiles and Adventures in Paarl, visitors can get up close and personal with a range of different kinds of reptiles while enjoying a fun day on this idyllic farm. Have a reptile adventure unlike any other you’ve experienced before with their crocodile pond tour and snake exhibit. The clearly-signposted snake exhibition offers loads of information about our scaly friends, and on weekends an experienced snake handler puts on an interactive snake show where guests can learn to appreciate these misunderstood animals. Children will have the opportunity to touch an ambassador snake under supervision of a well-trained guide. For the brave-hearted visitors, try a cage dive with a crocodile or rent a rowboat.
The Lakeview Restaurant offers wood-fired pizzas as well as a variety of classic light meals for hungry guests. The kids are welcome to roam and play at the spacious kids’ play area, or take them to the tranquil catch-and-release dam for some fishing. Le Bonheur can even hosts bigger family outings at their waterside braai area. They can provide a braai grid, cutlery, crockery and glassware so you only have to worry about food and drink and your own wood, charcoal and firelighters.
- Location: Simondium, Suider Paarl
- Website: lebonheuradventures.co.za
Two Oceans Aquarium
Animal encounters in Cape Town can’t be complete without a visit to the iconic Two Oceans Aquarium, the ideal place to learn more about the incredible diversity of marine life found off our coast. Split into two levels, the aquarium showcases several exhibits and informative stations, including an outdoor seal platform, a penguin exhibit, a touch pool, a kelp forest exhibit, and a Save Our Seas Foundation shark exhibit.
Kids can also have an entertaining and educational experience at the new I&J Children’s Play Centre. The I&J Children’s Play Centre is a safe space where little ones can enjoy puppet shows, and age-appropriate arts and crafts with a marine theme. The play centre’s aim is to fill the hearts and minds of children with love and joy for the ocean – and to give parents a few minutes to rest during their Two Oceans Aquarium Visit.
No outside food and drinks are allowed, but a Bootlegger Coffee Company is on-site for any cravings
- Location: Dock Rd, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Cape Town, 8002
- Website: aquarium.co.za
World of Birds
World of Birds in Hout Bay is the largest bird park in Africa and the home to over 3 000 birds (and small animals) of 400 different species. They offer more than 100 spacious landscaped walk-through aviaries, allowing bird lovers the most intimate closeness with these feathery beauties. They also have 38 attractive, agile and highly inquisitive New World monkeys in their monkey jungle, through which visitors can walk. These monkeys are extremely mischievous and quick, so make sure all your belongings are safely packed away in a securely shut bag. There are many different species of tortoises, blue-tongued skinks and other mammals living at the World of Birds, too.
The on-site restaurant, the Hornbill Café, serves light meals so grab the family and head to World of Birds to have yourself a hoot of a time.
- Location: Valley Rd, Hout Bay, Cape Town, 7806
- Website: worldofbirds.co.za
This is a developing list; more exciting suggestions to follow.
Picture: Le Bonheur Reptile Adventures / Facebook