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.
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:
Last Sunday (following our relaxing picnic on Saturday), Chantelle and I rounded up the girls and headed off nice and early across the Boerewors Curtain to Hout Bay, where the plan was to meet up with Monty and Cheryl at the world renowned World of Birds sanctuary. As it turned out, neither of us quite made the 10:00 meeting time – we got stuck behind a sightseeing bus whilst they got stuck behind cyclists! (Not that one complains though – driving past Kirstenbosch and then on to Hout Bay is always a fantastic treat in terms of the scenery).
Anyway, in the end we arrived at the World of Birds at pretty much the same time, and first stop for the in-laws was a cup of coffee at the little Robin’s Nest restaurant. There it was a rather nice surprise to have Robert and new squeeze Tarryn join us for the day, and with everyone now awake, and Jess pretty restless, it was off to view the feathered fowls!
World of Birds bills itself as such:
“World of Birds is the largest bird park in Africa and one of the few large bird parks in the World. Over 3 000 birds (and small animals) of 400 different species are uniquely presented in more than 100 spacious landscaped walk through aviaries, allowing you the most intimate closeness with nature.
A tropical garden setting in the Hout Bay Valley is the environment in which the aviaries are spaced over 4 ha of land, framed by the back of Table Mountain, the Twelve Apostles, Constantiaberg, Chapman’s Peak and Little Lion’s Head. A paradise for nature lovers and photographers, the World of Birds is one of Cape Town’s premier tourist attractions which no visitor should miss.”
Yup, that’s a lot of ground to cover and a lot of birds to see, so it’s no wonder that we ended up wandering around the sanctuary for 3 hours or so! The variety of bird life (from literally right across the world!) is always astonishing, not to mention the fact that you literally walk alongside them in the enclosures it an absolute delight. In fact, it is best summed up as a proper treat of an outing!
(If I was a photographer with a proper camera I would be in seventh heaven thanks to all the feathered models I would have access to… but I’m not, which explains all the tiny, tiny birds on the photos taken with my phone!)
The weather was perfect, and apart from a little slip and slide that saw Jess soaked to the bone, boots and all, everything ran pretty smoothly, with the kids (and adults) thoroughly enjoying themselves.
As you can see, I was pretty busy with my camera phone as well:
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Having seen our fill of eagles, owls, storks and chickens, we ended our adventure in Hout Bay by joining the heavy traffic to the harbour, where our initial plan of enjoying some takeaway fish and chips fell through based entirely on just how busy the harbour was – i.e. it was packed!
In the end, we headed up the ramp to the nautically themed Mariner’s Wharf, where after a bit of a wait in the bar for a table, we sat down and enjoyed some particularly tasty (but expensive!) fish and chips.
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All in all, a fantastic day out for the family, and as always, a trip that I can highly recommend! :)
Related Link: http://www.worldofbirds.org.za/
Last Saturday was pretty awesome, what with Jessica and myself spending literally the whole day together, followed by an evening visit that saw Retha and Miguel (finally back from their teaching stint in Borneo) join us for homemade hamburgers and chips with a movie (This is 40 – which was actually pretty funny, even if it didn’t really go anywhere), the night being capped off with some fun FIFA battles between Miguel and myself that went on well into the early hours of Sunday morning, much to the detriment of poor Retha who couldn’t go to sleep thanks to our incessant cheering!
After a leisurely breakfast at the Garden Kitchen and saying goodbye to our friends, Chantelle, Jess and I took a snap decision to head out to the Eagle Encounters bird sanctuary at Spier (the weather was too poor to go for first choice World of Birds in Hout Bay), a tourist spot where believe it or not, neither of us had actually been to before!
Although it’s sad to see all the quite magnificent birds of prey cooped up (or in this case, tethered up), the sanctuary really does some incredible work, and all in all it really was amazing to see some of these majestic birds from so close up. We enjoyed an informative show (where Jessica completely surprised us by demanding that the owl come sit on her hand as well), and a demonstration or two (the secretary bird’s incredible kick accuracy is certainly something to behold, never mind the bounding porcupine who loves to play run), and by the time the rain finally decided to show up, we were quite happy with what we had seen on the day.
Definitely a sight worth visiting then in other words (though only if you pay that little extra to gain access to the shows), especially if you haven’t seen some of the bigger eagles in person ever before!