Leave the markets and the shops for today and venture outdoors and explore the animals of the Cape Winelands. The region isn’t only home to award-winning wine estates, but also to numerous animal sanctuaries, wildlife reserves and parks.
Butterfly world is an exciting place where butterflies flutter above your head and monkeys suddenly decide to hitch a ride on your shoulder. The butterflies come in a wash of colours ranging from emerald green, magenta and yellow. A learning centre invites curious young minds to learn and understand the habitat and behaviour of spiders and snakes, while adults can unwind at the Schmetterling tea garden. Their doors are open daily from 9am to 5pm and are found on the Route 44 turnoff near Klapmuts.
Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm
Le Bonheur is a beautiful winelands estate that offers catch and release fishing, scenic tours through the Cape vegetation as well as crocodile viewing. As an established animal sanctuary, guides offer visitors an educational and interactive experience through holding baby crocodiles and experiencing the adults’ feeding time. Le Bonheur is situated in Babylonstoren in Simondium which is located outside Stellenbosch. They’re open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm and on Saturdays, Sundays and Public holidays from 10am to 4pm.
Eagle Encounters at Spier
Eagle encounters is situated within the well-known Spier wine estate in Stellenbosch. This estate is a bird sanctuary where abandoned or injured birds are brought in from the wild and rehabilitated back to health. Some birds of prey however, are hand-reared in the sanctuary and are held for educational purposes. Once there, do not pass the opportunity to hold an owl! They’re open every day from 10am to 5pm.
Vredenheim Big Cats Park
If you have a soft spot for wild cats visit the Vredenheim Big Cats Park where you’ll be fortunate to spot a rare white lion, a Cape leopard, cheetahs and tigers. Find this lovely park on the R310 in Vlottenburg. They’re open daily from 9 am to 4pm.
Fairview is mostly known for their melt-in-your-mouth cheeses, but these days the goats are stealing the spotlight. Not only do tourists visit the premises for their full-bodies aromatic wines, but to pat and take photos of the white goats that live there. If you take the back roads of Paarl (known as suide-agter Paarl) around Paarl Rock you’re bound to find Fairview. They’re open daily from 9am to 5pm.
Giraffe House is home to many bushveld animals such as eland, ostrich, zebra, meerkat, springbok and our National bird the Blue Crane. The Giraffe House serves mainly as a sanctuary facilitating awareness around the cause of wildlife conservation in the Cape. Visitors are encouraged to ask questions about the different animals and learn from their experience in the park. They’re open daily from 9am to 5pm except on Christmas Day when they are closed. Find them along the R101 towards Paarl.
Drakenstein Lion Park
The Drakenstein Lion Park is a safe home for lions that have been rescued from circuses or individuals selling them in the pet trade. Paul Hart and his team have made it their purpose to take these lions away from the horrendous maltreatment they endured and create a better life for them in the Winelands. Support their cause and visit the centre and educate yourself on these big cats. For a spectacular show, make sure to be there on feeding time which is Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 4pm. Find them on the Old Paarl road between Paarl and Stellenbosch.
Die Vonds Snake Centre
Come up close and personal with snakes, lizards, and tortoises at this cold-blooded centre on the R44 between Paarl and Wellington. Die Vonds Snake Centre pride themselves on rescuing snakes from urbanised areas and relocating them back in to the wild. For those not squeamish, the Brazilian Anaconda exhibition is an eye opener.
The Wiesenhof Wildlife Park is a private reserve that is open to the public for picnics, game viewing and guided walking tours where wild animals are an arm’s stretch away. With the beautiful setting of the Simondium Mountains, taking a stroll around the reserve is a peaceful escape from the everyday rush. For families wishing to spend a quality day outdoors together there is a grassy picnic area with braai facilities, and activities include bird-watching, swimming and fishing. They’re open daily from 8am to 6pm and are located near Klapmuts outside Stellenbosch.
Villiera Wildlife Sanctuary
Villiera is another wildlife reserve where game drives and guided foot tours are among the popular activities. Keep a look out for various wild animals such as gemsbok, eland, bontebok, zebra, ostrich and many more. One a clear day, the reserve offers breath taking panoramic views of the Stellenbosch Mountains, a definite photo worthy moment. They’re open to the public from Monday to Fridays at 9am to 5pm, Saturdays from 9am to 3pm and on public holidays 9am to 5pm.