Tag Archives: crocodile

Stroking Leather at Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm in Paarl (2017-12-23) Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 07 JUL 2018

The Cape Winelands is home to a surprisingly large number of animal-based attractions, in other words great news for tourists and dads with kids to entertain like myself. Situated on Babylonstoren Road in Simondium, an area centrally situated between Paarl, Franschoek and Stellenbosch is Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm, a CITES registered breeder and tanner of the African Nile crocodile.

Basically, if you want a close up view of teeth on legs all wrapped up in a thick leather hide, Le Bonheur is the place to go.

So, obviously the main crocodile pond tour takes front and center in terms of activities for any day visitor, with eleven such tours taking place on a daily basis.

The tour starts off with a brief introduction to the species in the briefing room, before you are led out onto the ramps that walk you above the open dams and Le Bonheur’s approximately 300 crocodiles who are mostly lazing about beneath you. You will learn more about these animals from an experienced guide, maybe witness a feeding session (primarily during the Summer months), and definitely get to touch/hold a baby croc.

While not particularly exciting as such (crocodiles tend not to move very much unless they really have to), the tour is very informative and certainly worth it if you have never seen a crocodile in real life before.

Then there is the crocodile cage dive, a close encounter experience offered by African Croc Dive that sees you dipping into a pool full of crocodiles with only a steel cage between you and their rather plentiful teeth. (For those of you who don’t relish the prospect of getting wet, an underwater, dry viewing box experience is also on offer).

That said, it isn’t all crocodile on the menu at Le Bonheur. In the main building the team have setup an interesting little self-guided snake centre exhibit filled with both indigenous and exotic snakes, and also on offer is an interactive snake show that includes both an informative talk and touch session with some of their slithery stars.

Then there is the small onsite restaurant/pizzeria that produces a selection of good pizzas, pies, and other light lunch options (like their famous crocodile meat pies). Well priced and a good way to round off a croc viewing experience on a hot summer’s day. You can also pre-book a picnic basket to be enjoyed on their luscious lawn out by the dam, or book the braai facilities if you want to take charge of your own menu for the day.

The dam behind the main building is open for catch and release fishing (you can hire fishing rods from Le Bonheur if needed), and the small kids play area around the back is great for the little ones to run out any left over energy while you laze on the grass under the shade of their big trees.

Finally there is the small gift shop full of Nile Crocodile leather products, and just in case you didn’t feel like making the drive home, Le Bonheur also has self catering/bed and breakfast facilities available.

Oh, and they host kids parties, cater to weddings (their hall can accommodate anything from 160 to 200 guests), and offer conference facilities.

So pretty much everything then.

Anyway, the girls and I found ourselves spending a Saturday there back in December last year (the second time that we had paid Le Bonheur a visit), and as you might imagine, crocodiles were observed, croc skin touching was had, pizzas devoured, and lots of photos taken. So a good day out then.

(Footnote: Obviously the horrible accident at the start of the year was an absolute tragedy for all involved, but given all the employment that this attraction provides in what is a relatively economically depressed area, I’m really pleased to see the Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm still operating and attracting as many visitors as what it does. Tourism still remains the best key to unlocking the biggest opportunities in rural communities at this stage.)

Related Link: Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm | Paarl

Feathers from the Cape Town Ostrich Ranch in Philadelphia (2017-01-29) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 15 OCT 2017

In case you were wondering who holds the current Guinness World Record for being the smallest ostrich in the world, the answer is Tom Thumb, the 127 cm tall, fully grown, adult male African ostrich that finds itself living in Philadelphia, or more accurately on the premises of the Cape Town Ostrich Ranch in Philadelphia (the Western Cape one, not the Rocky Balboa USA one).

As for the Cape Town Ostrich Ranch (which truthfully is in fact around 20 minutes from Cape Town), it has been on the Cape Town tourist map for many years now, with this show ranch offering a great ostrich-centered experience that includes guided tours, a simple ostrich museum/information center, ostrich item shop, and of course a restaurant with a menu that naturally includes ostrich on it.

In addition to the expected information overload, the tour has all the ostrich essentials packed in, like hand feeding, baby watching, ostrich egg standing, Tom Thumb petting, feather scouting, and for the smaller ones among us, ostrich sitting.

I took the girls for their first ever visit to the Cape Town Ostrich Ranch in January, and pleasingly they rather enjoyed themselves (though that could have just been because of ostrich feathers our guide insisted on giving to the girls).

Actually, I rather enjoyed myself too. There was a lot of space, the restaurant food was pretty good, and more importantly, the onsite craft beer producer Gijima Brewery has some rather fine brews.

(Oh, and it was a surprise to spot a couple of cheetahs from our own local Cheetah Outreach Somerset West sanctuary chilling on the grounds as well.)

Also, the ostriches seemed to take quite a liking to Jessica for some or other reason. Lots of feather flashing, courting dances were performed!

As a family outing option, this is a bit on the expensive side, but it does make for a good day out, so no complaints from me there.

So, if for some or other reason you haven’t come across an ostrich before, this tourist friendly spot definitely won’t let you down.

Related Link: Cape Town Ostrich Ranch

Giraffe House and Wild Clover (2015-08-08) Photo Gallery 13 AUG 2015

Taking advantage of the stretch of good weather we had been enjoying for the last big, Saturday saw me abandon Chantelle with her work and the need to sort out the baking/braai room, and head out with the girls to the middle of nowhere, corner of the R304 and R101 to be precise.

This is of course the location of The Giraffe House wildlife awareness centre, and where we happened to be meeting up with Michelle and little Logan for a fun day out looking, touching and feeding the animals!

IMG_20150808_115800 michelle oosthuizen at the giraffe house wildlife awareness centre

(Naturally, the moment Michelle arrived I pretty much lost Jessica, with her absolutely refusing to let go of Michelle’s hand for more than 30 seconds at any point in time!)

Thanks to the earlier spell of wet weather, everything was pretty slushy and muddy, but regardless (or perhaps because) of this, the kids thoroughly enjoyed a day out in the sun, seeing the various animals (Gerry the giraffe was, as expected, a big hit), feeding the farmyard goats and ponies, taking in the entertaining reptile show, and of course clambering all over the central jungle gym!

IMG_20150808_105049 jessica lotter at the giraffe house wildlife awareness centre

(Pleasingly, unlike the last time I found myself there, I walked away without having a tarantula clamber all over my face!)

In case you aren’t familiar with The Giraffe House, I grabbed this off from their website:

“At The Giraffe House Wildlife Awareness centre we provide easy access to some of Africa’s wonderful wildlife and bird species. Focusing on African wildlife, Giraffe House aims to provide a place for people to enjoy the outdoors, whilst experiencing and learning about animals and why they are special.

Most of the animals at Giraffe House form part of our wildlife education program. The giraffe, for instance, is the tallest land animal on earth, eland is the biggest antelope, the blue duiker the smallest antelope and ostrich the biggest bird. We are also proudly South African by having our national animal, the springbok and national bird, the blue crane bird forming part of our team.”

It certainly is a varied selection of animals housed, that’s for sure. Jackals, servals, flamingos, snakes, bat-eared foxes, goats, ponies, chickens, crocodiles, warthogs, springbok, zebra, blue cranes, eland, giraffe, duikers, ostriches, monkeys… well, you get the picture.

IMG_20150808_110449 emily lotter at the giraffe house wildlife awareness centre

In other words, more than enough going on to keep the little ones entertained! :)

(Oh, a nice touch that I forgot to mention. On entry each child gets handed a bucket full of food to feed the farmyard animals with – which Emily usually promptly trips with and spills half out all over the floor. Judging from the amount of feed lying all over the place, this is a relatively common occurrence though…)

At the end of what was a good outing, we opted to head down the road to Wild Clover, in order to meet up with Damen who had just finished his archery session at their field.

This was the first time I’ve ever been to the wine farm / brewery / restaurant / archery field / model aircraft flying strip / farmyard animals / accommodation establishment that is Wild Clover – and I have to say, I was seriously impressed.

Extremely kid friendly in terms of a great outside play area, the restaurant features both a great indoor and outdoor space, and quite frankly, it really has everything that makes for a ‘lekker kuierplek’.

(In other words, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back again!)

(I ordered a pizza to share with the girls. Happily, they turned out not to want much, meaning that I ate most of it. Oh, and it was quite a treat to watch a couple of guys flying their model aircraft about. One sometimes forgets just how big they actually are!)

Related Link: The Giraffe House | Wild Clover

Birds Paradise in Robertson (2015-07-08) Photo Gallery 19 JUL 2015

With Montagu our home for a week, every day was an adventure out and about in the Robertson, Ashton, Barrydaly, Montagu area. Our first real outing was to Birds Paradise, an exotic bird breeding operation in Robertson, one which does so well that they’ve even opened quite an impressive visitors centre, featuring a restaurant, kids play area, crocodile pit, and views of quite a large number of different animal and bird species!

IMG_20150708_121449 craig lotter and jessica at birds paradise exotic bird breeder in robertson

We headed out nice and early, arriving in time for a nice breakfast (on the premises) before grabbing our entrance tickets and heading in to see the birds.

And birds they have by the dozens.

Exotic birds from literally all over the world can be found here, and it is a absolute explosion of colour and squawks. However, these guys are bird breeders, meaning that birds are kept in breeding pairs in relatively small cages, bare to allow for easier capturing of the birds.

Honestly, it is not something that I could really enjoy at all, seeing as I am very much against the keeping of birds as pets in the first place. (Plus, I’ve been to the fantastic dome aviary that is Birds of Eden before – once you’ve been there, you can never really look at birds in cages ever again!)

IMG_20150708_115349 green bird at birds paradise exotic bird breeder in robertson

Still, the girls were entertained by all the colours on display, the tame owl in the curio shop was a hit, there was a massive variety of animals and birds to see, and Jessica was particularly excited to take her very first photo – using my phone, and pictured below:

IMG_20150708_115118 jessica lotter's very first photo

And of course, the play area was a great way for them to burn off all the energy following our stroll amongst all the birds.

IMG_20150708_125907 emily lotter on trampoline

Needless to say, such a large variety of things to see made for quite a bit of photos on the morning!

Related Link: Route 62 Birds Paradise

Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm (2015-01-17) Photo Gallery 29 JAN 2015

The Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm is a CITES registered breeder and tanner of the African Nile crocodile, a crocodile that is a resident reptile in many of South Africa’s game reserves but which no longer roams free in the country – meaning that this is a great spot to see them in real life if you haven’t done so before!

In addition to its primary crocodile farming activities, Le Bonheur (which means “happiness”) also just happens to be a beautiful estate in Simondium, offers catch-and-release fishing, has wedding and conference facilities, and also caters as a children’s party venue.

Oh, and it is one of the few places in Cape Town that you can of course get a delicious crocodile pie.

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Always on the lookout for things to go see with the girls, Chantelle and I decided to head out towards Simondium/Paarl one recent gorgeous Saturday afternoon after hearing about this Le Bonheur crocodile farm. It’s a great drive out there if you’re coming from our Gordon’s Bay side of the world, though the last stretch to actually reach the estate itself is a quite a bit of a bumpy gravel experience!

The Le Bonheur setup is such that you can spend the day at the estate without ever visiting the crocodile dams (which is a paid for experience), though if you haven’t yet seen the crocodiles before then of course this would be a rather silly thing to do.

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The crocodile ‘tour’ happens every 45 minutes throughout the day, and after paying your money, things are kicked off with a short introductory information session before everyone heads out to the walled crocodile pens.

There you’ll have a bit of an interactive session with some baby crocodiles (we handled six month old crocs, and I have to say, it’s certainly the first time I’ve ever held a crocodile!), before being set free to stroll along the walkway that stretches between the various dams, all containing a multitude of different aged crocodiles.

(Though you won’t find anything much older than three years in there – that’s pretty much the best age for harvesting the leather off the crocodile in terms of it still being relatively easy to do. Anything older and it becomes a major mission because of the thickness of the hide!)

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Because this is a working farm, there are a lot of crocodile leather items on display and for sale – but be warned though – a full crocodile hide will set you back R20,000! (After all, this is a luxury leather in great demand over in Italy and some other parts of Europe.)

The crocodile pens aren’t particular large and you’ll breeze through it pretty quickly, but again, if you haven’t seen crocodiles in real life before then this is certainly a good way to go about it.

Needless to say, apart from the nosebleed that kind of spoiled this part of the outing somewhat, Jess did enjoy seeing all these beasts up fairly close – though not enough that she’d actually touch one of course! :)

Outside of the crocodile pens is then the estate itself, and it has a cozy dining area with a kitchen that serves all manner of foods – though if you are first timers like we were then the crocodile pie is definitely recommended.

Chantelle turned out to be not so much of a fan of the crocodile meat, but I have to say that I did actually enjoy it. Very much like chicken in terms of texture and taste, but with a definite, strong venison flavour teasing your palate throughout.

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On the bottom level, next to the fishing dam, is a kids’ play area, plus a few scattered eating/picnic spots under the abundant trees, all of which opens up to a lovely grass bank which is perfect to laze about on whilst you watch the eager beavers hire some rods and attempt to catch some fish.

A really relaxing and beautiful venue then in other words.

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Jess, Emily, Chantelle and I had a thoroughly marvelous day at Le Bonheur in the end, and if you haven’t been there before then it is definitely worth the recommend – again, especially if you haven’t seen crocodiles in real life before!

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Photo Gallery: Honeymoon Road Trip – Kwena Crocodile Farm Chalets (Sun City) (2009-11-14) My Life | Photo Gallery 14 NOV 2009

Sun City was at one time South Africa’s premier holiday destination, and to be honest, is still very well worth the visit, especially if you have never been there before. As part of our big honeymoon road trip, we opted to stay in the beautiful Kwena Crocodile Farm Chalets at Sun City, where we enjoyed taking in all the big sights like the Lost City and the surrounding grounds of the Cascades, also jumping at the chance to partake in an awesome spin around the Sun City complex on some rather rugged Segways!

As for the crocodile farm, it was pretty cool to be able to eat your breakfast whilst watching all the crocs wake up to a new day, and of course the guided trips through the farm were quite the highlight, especially when some of the bigger fellows made their almighty appearance! :)