Home to eagles, owls, vultures and just about every other raptor that you can think of, Eagle Encounters is a long running wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism centre based at the historic Spier wine farm in Stellenbosch. Easily one of Jessica’s favourite animal attractions to visit, Eagle Encounters is the place to go if you want to have a closer look at some remarkable South African birds of prey.
Founded as a non-profit organization by Hank and Tracy Chalmers back in 2001, the self-funded Eagle Encounters is home to a large contingent of raptors, most of which are either injured or were hand-raised, thus making it impossible to be safely returned to the wild.
Visiting their site is something I always return with slightly mixed feelings about, primarily because I am not a particularly huge fan of aviaries (unless they are massive free flight operations of course), but it should be noted that the excellent team continuously evaluate and update their facilities to keep in step with the latest global conservation practices, meaning that just about every time I visit they’re doing something in a slightly new (better) way.
While there is an impressively large collection of birds of prey to make your way through, it is always the interactive attractions which the girls love most, like getting up close to the diminutive Scops owls, touching and talking to the pretty Barn and Wood owls, and holding up the big Spotted Eagle owls.
The touching and handling of various snakes, lizards and dragons is always a hit, the woolly sheep and his grumpy goat partner that guard the small kids play area always entertain, and the snake striking hunt of the secretary bird always catches the eye.
Then there are the playful cape foxes to observe, buzzards, falcons, hawks, vultures and eagles to admire from up close, and of course the brilliantly entertaining (and educational) flying displays to marvel at.
With three flight displays throughout the day, the enthusiastic team of bird handlers show off their charges’ flying, hunting and other behavioural quirks, all while doing their bit in educating visitors all about these majestic birds of prey.
It’s a brilliantly educational visit for both young and old alike, and one always comes back having learned more than just a thing or two about these remarkable birds that we share our open spaces with.
And as an added bonus (just in case all of the above wasn’t enough), your are of course on the beautiful, tourist friendly, art filled, historic beauty that is Spier wine estate. So no real reason not to visit then, is there?