True to its African location, Cape Town is home to a smorgasbord of wildlife – many of which are indigenous to the area, having roamed the natural landscape freely, well before the city of Cape Town and surrounding towns were established.
Today, the city centre and neighbouring areas are privileged to live in a harmonious balance with the land’s natural inhabitants, and many areas are protected in the form of national parks and/or nature reserves to ensure the continued conservation of nature and wildlife species.
While the Kruger National Park, which is located in the north of the country, remains South Africa’s most famous wildlife-experience, Cape Town has many options for viewing the country’s wildlife, both in their natural, free habitats, and through a number of well-managed rescue and rehabilitation centres. We’ve listed a few that are worth a visit:
1) Boulders Beach Penguin Colony, Simon’s Town
One of the only, natural land-based colonies of African Penguins in the Southern Hemisphere, Boulders Beach Penguin Colony in Simon’s Town is a protected, natural sanctuary for these birds. Completely free in their natural habitat, with no human interaction allowed, the colony can be viewed from a raised boardwalk alongside the beach. Part of and managed by the Table Mountain National Park, guests are required to pay an entry fee which is used to continue the protection and conservation of the species and their natural home. Adjacent to the colony is Boulders Beach which is open to the public for sunbathing and swimming, and it isn’t uncommon to spot a penguin or two exploring the neighbouring beach.
2) Butterfly World, Klapmuts
Conveniently located just off the N1 national highway, just outside of the Mother City, Butterfly World is a haven for rescued, rehabilitated and exotic wildlife. For a small entry fee, stroll through the centre’s large enclosure which is home to free roaming butterflies, parrots and cockatiels. There are also separate enclosures for snakes, spiders and reptiles, as well as other animals such as hedgehogs, meerkats and guinea pigs.
3) Cape Point Nature Reserve, Simon’s Town
Part of the Table Mountain National Park, the Cape Point Nature Reserve is the most southern point of the Cape Peninsula. The area is home to a number of indigenous animals, such as eland, bontebok, Chacma Baboons, grysbok, klipspringer, ostrich, Cape Clawless Otters and a myriad of birdlife and smaller mammals. This natural sanctuary for wildlife allows visitors to explore the area by car or by foot on a number of leisurely walks. Be careful not to get too close to any of the animals, and take note that feeding of the baboons is strictly prohibited.
4) LeBonheur Crocodile Farm, Francschoek
A short drive into wine country will lead you to this thrilling experience. The LeBonheur Crocodile Farm in Franschoek offers visitors the chance to view over 1000 crocodiles – and even get up close and personal with Africa’s fiercest predator in a cage dive experience. Visitors can witness live feeds during summer and are also able to have a photograph taken while holding a baby crocodile.
5) Giraffe House, Stellenbosch
Situated just outside of the city on the way into Stellebosch, Giraffe House is a centre for rescued and rehabilitated wildlife. At the sanctuary, visitors can experience a close encounter with various African wildlife, from zebras, eland, the Cape Fox, meerkats and wild cats such as caracals and servals, to snakes, spiders, and last, but not least, Gerry – the sanctuary’s famous hand-reared giraffe. Many of the sanctuary’s wildlife are rescued after a physical injury or displacement from their natural homes. Some of the animals are rehabilitated to be released back into their natural environment, while others are cared for permanently at the facility.
6) Monkey Town, Somerset West
From chimpanzees to white-handed gibbons, vervet monkeys, apes and lemurs – Monkey Town is located off the N2 highway in Somerset West, just outside of Cape Town. Another sanctuary for rescued, rehabilitated and displaced primates, a small entrance fee is required for the upkeep of the facility. Visitors can take a stroll through countless paths and watch over 28 different species of primates going about their daily monkey-business.
7) Two Oceans Aquarium, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town
One of the better known wildlife establishments within the city, the Two Oceans Aquarium is home to an array of ocean wildlife – from predator exhibits to kelp forests, sting rays and many other species that call the ocean home. Visitors are able to witness feeding times, participate in various educational programmes and even experience supervised tank dives and penguin encounters.
8) World of Birds, Hout Bay
This is the largest bird park in Africa, with over 3000 birds and animals on the property, including falcons, eagles, pelicans and secretary birds to snakes, foxes, monkeys and racoons, to name but a few. Stop for a casual lunch at the facility’s café or book a spot for the guided tour of the squirrel monkey enclosure and enjoy direct contact with these inquisitive creatures – just be sure to hide your jewellery from their quick fingers.
Stuck for time and can’t visit them all? Ask our friendly concierge team, available 24/7, should you need any assistance in arranging your wildlife-guided itinerary.