I’m not massively fond of animals in captivity. However, there is most of the time a sound argument for this to be a thing (and necessary at that), so okay, I’ll go with it. Plus, when you have kids, nothing beats a trip to see some really interesting feathered/furry/scaly creatures – which is a lot easier when they are conveniently all in one place.
Now, if birds of prey is your thing and you find yourself in the Stellenbosch winelands, then you are definitely in luck, because Eagle Encounters, situated on land donated by the renowned Spier wine estate, is definitely worth a stop.
Founded in 2001, Eagle Encounters is a non-profit wildlife rehabilitation, conservation, education and eco-tourism centre.
Birds of prey, raptors are their speciality, and scattered all about their premises you will encounter a wide variety of eagles, hawks, falcons, kites, buzzards, vultures, owls and all other manner of feathered hunters.
With funding coming primarily from their eco-tourism slant, Eagle Encounters makes sure that there is enough on the go to keep visitors interested, with various interactive shows throughout the day, including falconry demonstrations, secretary bird stomp displays, and mock hunts for their varied selection of raptors.
The birds are for the most part out in the open, tethered to their perches, which is apparently the currently most accepted way of keeping these big birds safe and sound, as it helps in preventing them from injuring themselves whilst in captivity.
(Like I said, I’m not overly fond of animals in captivity, though birds have always been the worst for me. Nothing sadder than seeing a bird in a tiny cage. I honestly don’t know why anyone keeps birds as pets. Very maddening for me. Strangely enough though, fish are alright. I have no idea why I have such a lower opinion of the little swimming fellas out there..)
Anyway, the kids always seem to enjoy the outing – though I suspect that is almost entirely based on the fact that they are allowed to touch owls, and better still, coax them to come and sit on their arms.
Which so far has worked out pretty well for us.
In other words, I’m still waiting for the day one of the owls decides to make a sudden poo!
(Mind you, this particular visit of ours was pretty cool. I got to hold a Cape Vulture aloft – man, those birds are much lighter than what their size suggests! Sadly though, Chantelle didn’t get a photo of this. A lot better than the last time I was called up during an interactive show – the guys at Giraffe House put a tarantula on my face!)
Right. So in short, an interesting visit if you are into your birds of prey. Photo opportunities as with any bird sanctuary is a bit of a hit and miss – I know that I certainly never get anything good on my little old phone camera whenever we pop in for a visit to a place with creatures behind fencing/netting…
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Naturally, here’s a map if you want to go and touch some soft fluffy owls for yourself one day: