Category Archives: Nature and Animal Attractions

Nature Walk around Paardevlei in Somerset West (2019-04-06) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 17 OCT 2019

All the newly developed houses, apartment blocks and office spaces are now quickly springing up all around Paardevlei, but pleasingly the nature walk that takes you around the vlei is still open to the public – and if you know about it, then you have another great stretch your legs kind of place to add to the local list.

Seeing as this particularly shallow vlei relies almost entirely on rain and ground water for its supply, this year’s decently wet winter means that the vlei is again sparkling blue, and is once more brought back to life by the cacophony of bird life that has returned to its wetland charms.

With neither Chantelle nor the girls keen on joining me for a healthy walk on this particular day, I had the excuse to leisurely walk as far as what I wanted (for those who keep track of things like that, it is more or less 3 km of path if you go right around), to go as slow as what I wanted, and to stop and take as many photos as what I wanted.

Which I then did.

I also strolled about the business area a bit, taking in all the beautiful sculpture work on display. As one does in such pretty surroundings of course!

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Walking alongside Dogs at Radloff Park in Somerset West (2019-05-05) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 01 OCT 2019

Lying in the Helderberg Basin, surrounded by an amphitheatre of mountains, and squeezed in between the Cape Winelands and False Bay, Somerset West is naturally a beautiful space. A great way to get a taste of its natural splendour is by heading over to the green grass of Radloff Park and indulging in a lazy stroll along the banks of the Lourens River.

A number of sporting codes call this greenbelt home, including the local cricket, croquet, squash, and baseball clubs, and there is even a small skateboarding park for those less interested in playing with balls.

The park with its wide open space, grass fields, tree-shaded paths, and refreshing river water is an especially big hit with dog lovers – so much so that locally the site is pretty much exclusively referred to as the Radloff Dog Park. (Basically, go there expecting to come home with at least one big slobbery wet kiss and a butt sniff under your belt.)

Dogs and sporting code fields aside though, the area is green, tranquil, full of trees, teeming with bird life, and comes with amazing views combined with a lazy river walk to enjoy. In other words, impossible not to recommend!

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Sharks and Skates at The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town (2018-11-17) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 SEP 2019

I was fifteen years old when the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town first opened its doors to the public in November 1995. A world class aquarium showcasing the incredible diversity of marine life found in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans through awe-inspiring exhibits and interactive touch-points, with a vision and mission to encourage love and respect for our ocean, and in so doing, train up a generation of young people to understand the need for using marine and other natural resources in a much more sustainable manner.

It also just so happens to be a wonderfully entertaining activity for parents with young kids.

After all, there is quite a lot to see and take in! From the big I&J Ocean Exhibit, the eerily quiet Predator Exhibit, the serene Kelp Forest Exhibit (unfortunately closed for reforestation during this particular visit), the always cute (if a little smelly) Penguin Exhibit, the interesting Touch Pool & Microscope section, the educational Smart Living Challenge Zone (lots of interactive/digital games to play around with!), and the Diversity Gallery, there is more than enough to keep you busy for a decent amount of time!

Then there are the various feeding times (the penguins are always a treat, not to mention the diver entering the big tank with all the sharks and rays), and if you are feeling particularly brave and have a few extra bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you can head over for a diving experience that lets you scuba down into either the Predator, I&J Ocean or Kelp Forest exhibit!

Jellyfish, sharks, rays, crayfish, eels and sea horses, the girls were kept absolutely enthralled with everything they saw – even if they weren’t really all that sure about actually touching anything in the touch pools!

As always, a wonderful educational experience that I’m thrilled to have been able to share with my kids. Makes me wish all that much more that Cape Town still had a proper zoo to enjoy with them as well. Anyway, as expected, a lot of photos were taken on the day:

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Birding on Intaka Island in Century City, Cape Town (2018-11-04) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 23 JUL 2019

You will discover Intaka Island about 7 km out from the Cape Town CBD, tucked away behind the tall buildings of Century City and its Canal Walk shopping mall. Built by Century City developer Rabie following an initial project environmental impact assessment, Intaka Island is a 16 hectare large wetland conservation area.

As such, it serves as a crucial bird sanctuary for the area and the nature reserve itself is setup around this idea, filled with a well maintained walkway that features plenty of hides and viewing platforms that are perfect for local birders. It’s a great way to step into a little nature without having to go out on a full blown hike!

This particular visit saw me leave Chantelle and the girls behind and instead ring up my brother to join me for a stroll among the reeds. Pleasingly, he agreed – and didn’t even moan at all the pictures I kept stopping to take! ;)

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Owls, Kites and Vultures in Eagle Encounters at Spier, Stellenbosch (2017-09-16) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 19 MAR 2019

Eagles, owls, hawks, falcons, kites, buzzards, secretary birds and vultures – if birds of prey interest you then a visit to Eagle Encounters at Spier in Stellenbosch should probably very firmly be on your cards.

Founded in 2001, Eagle Encounters is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism center. It is home to numerous types of rescued raptors, has a number of interactive touch points, and their flying demonstrations are always both informative and entertaining.

The girls always love visiting there (touching and interacting with the owls is by far their favourite bit), and honestly, the institution always makes for an interesting outing. Easy to recommend really.

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Tracking Zebras and Warthogs in Addo Elephant Park (2017-07-06) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 16 MAR 2019

The Addo Elephant National Park is somewhat a story of people coming to their senses in the absolute nick of time. In the early centuries, great herds of wild animals roamed the Addo region, living alongside a handful of native clans. However by the late 1700s, most herds of elephants and other species had been all but decimated thanks to overzealous hunting activities. Fast forward to the 1800s and farmers being to colonize the area around the park, leading to even more flash points with the remaining elephants (due to competition over water and land). By 1919 this conflict had come to a head when the government agreed to help exterminate the problematic elephants, leading to the death of around 144 animals between 1919 and 1920.

Luckily though, public sentiment had finally begun to change, and in 1931 the Addo Elephant National Park was proclaimed, set up to protect the last remaining 11 Addo elephant!

Now the third largest South African National Park (after Kruger National Park and Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park), the Addo Elephant National Park has come a long way in terms of animal population, with it currently being home to around 600 elephants, 400 Cape buffalo, lions, spotted hyenas, leopard, Burchell’s zebra, and a LOT of warthogs. There are also plenty of antelope species roaming about, including red hartebeest, eland, kudu and bushbuck.

In addition to the mammals, given the excellent habitat contrasts between dense thickets of spekboom interspersed with open grassy areas and wooded kloofs, Addo also presents a fantastic opportunity for birding, with the park being home to an extensive number of bird species. (Consequently, there are thus a LOT of lizards, snakes and tortoises too to be found as well!)

And then of course there is Addo’s famous rare flightless dung beetle, who is recognized as the king of the local roads thanks to the plethora of road signs posted in the park reminding visitors that this super recycling machine has the right of way!

We travelled to Addo as part of our June holiday back in 2017, making our way from Oudtshoorn via a weirdly unsettling strip of concrete road past the blink and you’ll miss them towns of Willowmore and Steytlerville. We overnighted in the very comfortable SANParks’ accommodation (staying inside a park is always fun), and completely ignoring the kids moaning, Chantelle and I then proceeded to spend as much time as possible out on the tracks taking in the wildlife around us.

And while Addo isn’t necessarily my favourite park to visit, it is easily one of the best when it comes to elephant watching and we were blessed with some fantastic viewings (despite the region’s dryness) to go along with the great weather conditions.

Of course, given the fact that neither one of us is a photographer and thus there is not a single piece of decent camera equipment between us, you’ll just have to take our word (and slightly grainy cellphone footage) as proof of this!

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Indigo the Octopus at The Shark Lab in Mossel Bay (2018-03-17) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 04 FEB 2019

If you are looking to swim with sharks but without say the danger aspect, then The Shark Lab at The Point in Mossel Bay has the perfect solution for you – a swim in their pool with a couple of friendly smooth-hound sharks.

Situated directly atop the rock channel that runs below the St. Blaize Cave, the Shark Lab actually does a lot of important work with regards to researching, rescuing and protecting local sharks and marine life, in conjunction with their time spent educating both fisherman and the public at large about these big apex predators.

Their tiny space is also home to what they have dubbed a mini-aquarium, essentially a room or two with a few fish in tanks, a view into the pool containing the smooth hound sharks, and a shallow open air “rock pool” that contains a lot of starfish, anemone and quite often, a playful octopus clambering about.

Indigo the octopus is an absolute delight mind you. A clever girls that loves playing fetch with a ball and is a brilliant teaching aid to help the kids get a better understanding about these intelligent cephalopods. (Plus, which kid doesn’t love having a moist starfish plonked down into their hands?)

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The Shark Lab is easy to miss and if you aren’t going to swim with the sharks then you’ll probably complain about how small an experience it actually is. However, I enjoyed the intimacy of this mini-aquarium, and in particular, the friendliness and eager to inform nature of the staff on hand.

Now it is just a matter of the kids getting old enough so that I can toss them into the shark pool! :P

Related Link: The Shark Lab | Mossel Bay

Owls, Eagles and Squirrel Monkeys at The World of Birds in Hout Bay (2017-06-24) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 27 JAN 2019

Hout Bay’s impressive World of Birds avian-focused animal sanctuary and its exotic garden theme has been a staple of the Cape Town tourist scene for years now.

The birds, the greenery, the animals, the sheer size, everything combines to make for a fantastic family outing option (for both locals and tourists alike), and is certainly a visit that we’ve all enjoyed in the past.

So of course, the girls and I paid them a visit.

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And yes, as far as the girls were concerned, the interactive squirrel monkeys enclosure was by far the biggest hit of the day.

Related Link: World of Birds | Hout Bay | Cape Town

Animal Spotting at Giraffe House in Stellenbosch (2017-09-30) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 02 SEP 2018

The Giraffe House Wildlife Awareness Centre (better known as the Giraffe House) sits on the outskirts of Stellenbosch on your way to Paarl. Their focus is on providing easy access to some of Africa’s wonderful wildlife and bird species, a place for people to enjoy being outdoors whilst experiencing and learning all about the animals – but most important of all is the fact that they are home to Gerry the hand reared giraffe.

Actually that isn’t all that accurate any more. These days the Giraffe House is home to a handful of giraffes, joining the rest of the stable that includes the likes of monkeys, meerkats, eland, bontebok, grysbok, duikers, springbok, zebra, caracal, cape fox and a black backed jackal!

In addition to the wildlife, Giraffe House also has a couple of farmyard enclosures set up, filled with goats, sheep and geese, perfect recipients for kids eager to feed the animals. (Of course this does then mean with every kid wanting to feed an animal, a lot of kids walk away slightly disappointed when the now obviously not so hungry/quite full goats refuse to take even a nibble! :D)

The center also has a collection of snakes, Nile crocodiles and tortoises on site, with the bird complement being filled by the likes of ostriches, blue crane, storks, lovebirds, parrots, ducks and even a couple of starlings.

Given the open space, the venue also makes for a great locale for kids’ birthday parties, and they have a little snack vendor and small kids play area to ensure that the kids don’t moan too much once they tire of walking about watching the animals.

My favourite part of visiting Giraffe House is however the interactive reptile show with their extremely affable host, who is guaranteed to pretty much always pull a good coupe of laughs out from the crowd.

At least this time around I didn’t end up with a tarantula on my face!

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Pro-Tip: Avoid going in the middle of the day when it is too hot – there isn’t a lot of shade, it is a lot of open ground to cover, and quite frankly neither you, your kids or the animals aren’t going to be even bothered with one another if all are miserable and drenched in sweat.

Related Link: The Giraffe House | Stellenbosch