It’s no secret that I am a huge animal lover. Whenever I travel, I am always seeking out opportunities to interact with and photograph animals in an ethical environment. Preferably that means encountering the wildlife in their natural habitat or through a well researched sanctuary. There’s just something so special about seeing a species of animal that you may find exotic or that you’ve wanted to see for a very long time.
Cape Town in South Africa offered quite a few of these opportunities. The city is a beautiful destination with tons of old world charm and natural beauty. As a popular travel destination it is also a great jumping-off point to see some of Africa’s most beautiful creatures without necessarily going on Safari.
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During our visit to South Africa we chose to stay in Cape Town and venture to the surrounding areas on day trips. The main wildlife encounters that I wanted from South Africa was to see the penguins on Boulders Beach, the Great White Sharks near Kleinsbaai and to visit the Cheetahs in Somerset West.
African Penguin colony in Simon’s Town at Foxy beach
Just a short hour drive from Cape Town you will find yourself in Simon’s Town. Here, you can explore the area of Boulder’s Beach and Foxy Beach to encounter the African Penguins. Living in colonies along the coast and islands of South Africa these fun little birds are small, cute and always dressed to the nines!
Although the African Penguin is endangered, the colony at Foxy Beach is quite large, containing over 2,500 members.
Once you arrive at the location of the penguins you will find a pay for parking lot where you can leave your car for the duration of your stay. The walk to the entrance is just a short distance and once there you will pay the $10 fee per person to enter. Inside there is a restroom for visitors to use. There is no need to purchase tickets prior to your arrival.
A well kept boardwalk snakes its way from the entrance down to the water. The entire time you’re merely feet away from hundreds of penguins going about their very important penguin business.
This place is a must visit if you are an animal lover, these little guys are so fun to watch as they frolic in and out of the water. And, as always, don’t forget your camera because these fancy little birds always seem to be posing!
Tips for Visiting the Penguins at Boulders Beach
- The opening hours vary depending on the season so be sure to check online prior to your arrival.
- The current cost is about $10 per person, which is now double the cost from when I was there. These prices are current as of 2019.
Encounters with Cheetahs at Cheetah Outreach in Somerset West
About 45 minutes from Cape Town, Cheetah Outreach sits inconspicuously off the N2 highway. The journey from Cape Town to Somerset West gives you some beautiful views of the South African scenery.
The main purpose at Cheetah Outreach is the breeding and placement of Anatolian Sheppard dogs. The dogs are placed as puppies with livestock and grow to become very protective of their family.
They guard the herds and flocks from predators like cheetahs, and other wild cats, which in turn prevent farmers from trapping or killing the animals that may prey on their livestock.
The breeding program is a success; less farmers are killing endangered Cheetahs since it was implemented. The funding for the breeding and training of the dogs come from the public visiting and donating to the Cheetah Outreach and we felt good that we gave our money to a worthy cause.
Visitors, excluding young children, can visit early before the park opens and join the Cheetahs and their handlers on their morning walk. It is a very special thing to walk side by side with such a magnificent and powerful animal–a rare opportunity that should be embraced. Our walk lasted about 45 minutes and we pre-reserved the experience.
I joined two, rather large, 10 month old Cheetahs as they explored the grounds around their enclosures. Playing with each other and stretching their long legs before the park opens to the public.
Afterward, we saw a short film on the history and mission of the organization and then had an opportunity to interact with a number of beautiful animals in the enclosures there.
Visit Cheetah Outreach’s website for more information. They only accept cash for payment but there is an ATM located on site.
Tips for Visiting Cheetah Outreach
- Cheetah Outreach is open daily 9:30-17:00 with encounters beginning at 10:00. The Cheetah cub walks need to be reserved in advance and Cheetah outreach will coordinate meeting time after reservation is made.
- The entrance fee is R10 during the week & R5 on weekends. The cheetah encounter for an adult is R160 ($11 USD). These prices are current as of 2019.
- Encounter prices vary depending on which animal you’d like to interact with. Refer to the price list here.
Cage Diving with Great White Sharks near Kleinsbaai
Roughly two hours drive from Cape Town, Marine Dynamics offers an expedition to hopefully see Great White Sharks in the chilly waters between Dyer Island and Geyser Rock named Shark Alley. Shark Alley is so named for the amount of White Sharks that frequent the area drawn by the (apparently delicious) seal population on Dyer Island.
Shark Alley offers animal lovers a chance to catch a glimpse of perhaps the most infamous predator in the sea and our expedition with Marine Dynamics did not disappoint.
Upon arrival a friendly staff will greet you and give you some information about what to expect on your trip. We chose the afternoon trip, so our information was based on weather and the amount of sightings that morning. The cost of the trip does include a light lunch and snacks.
After a short safety and informational video, we walked down to the boat named Slash Fin (named for a locally famous shark) and we were off. We had exceptionally great weather. Blue, cloudless skies and virtually no wind ensured the waves were almost non-existent and visibility in the water was high.
Nearly as soon as we arrived at our destination, sharks began to curiously appear, drawn by the oily trail the staff on board scented the water with. We very quickly donned our wetsuits and took turns in the cage that hung, affixed to the side of the vessel. Sharks of various sizes investigated the waters around the boat for hours.
The views and photos from the two decks of Shark Fin were nearly as exciting as the experience of being in the cage itself.
Tips for Visiting the Great White Sharks with Marine Dynamics
- The best time for shark diving is between the months of April and August/September. Head on over to Marine Dynamics to book your trip now!
- Marine Dynamics is an eco-friendly company that always has a marine biologist on board.
- Safety is their top priority and they maintain excellent conditions of their boats and cages. They will also outfit you with a wetsuit to help stay warm while you’re in the water.
- The Cost is R2,250.00 ($155 USD) per adult and R1,280.00 ($89 USD) per child under 12 yrs. These prices are current as of 2019.