South Africa has unequalled natural beauty. One of the main reasons for many tourists to plan a trip to South Africa is to see the legendary Big 5, Lion, Buffalo, Leopard, Elephant and Rhinoceros. However, with the development of many Conservation Centers in South Africa, the opportunity is there to get up close and personal with some truly amazing animals, indigenous and exotic. South Africa is one of the leaders in Captive Breeding Programs for endangered animal species.
Most of these Conservation Centers will charge an entrance fee to the facility which will include a guided tour giving you the opportunity to take photographs from as little as a few feet away. Some of these facilities will then also offer you the once in a lifetime opportunity of a one- on- one encounter, at an additional fee. You should enquire as to whether a photograph is included in the fee or if you should take your own camera with. The staff is always willing to take pictures of you with the animals.
Please also enquire with the respective facilities ahead of time whether they permit children to have the close encounters as some of them don’t. It will not help you to argue the staff concerning children and animal encounters as these decisions are always made with children’s safety in mind. There will be a greater chance of your youngsters being able to interact with animals when the animals are still very young.
There is a great concentration of Wildlife Conservation Centers and animal interaction activities along the Garden Route area of South Africa. This would be a great starting point.
Places worth a visit:
The Cango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn has, depending on the time of the year, Bengal Tigers, Lions, Cheetah, Lorikeets and a variety of non venomous snakes to interact with. Also on offer is Croc Cage Diving, which is a first world wide.
Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary and Bird Park is situated outside Plettenberg Bay. The park is integrated into natural forest and you walk freely among the many primate species they rehabilitate and breed. The Bird Park is a separate area but similar in appearance.
The Knysna Elephant Park offers the visitor the awe inspiring experience to get up close to these gentle giants. The Knysna Elephant is an endangered species and here they live in a controlled free environment.
Just outside of Plettenberg Bay, on the way to Jeffereys Bay, you will fine the Knysna Wolf Sanctuary. This sanctuary rescues Wolves from the pet and dog fighting trade and gives them a safe environment. Night tours are available by booking only. No encounters are offered but the experience of being in such close proximity to these magnificent animals is well worth it.
For those seeking a real adrenalin rush, there is always the option of Shark Cage Diving and getting really close to the Great White Sharks on the South African coast. The man to contact for this would be Andre Hartman of Gansbaai. Renowned Shark lover and conservationist, he will ensure you have an experience of a lifetime.
With this type of holidaying it is important to remember that you are privileged to come in close contact with such magnificent animals, it is not your right. Show respect toward the animals and those who dedicate their lives to working with these creatures. And most importantly, make sure that you always have an extra set f fully charged batteries and a free memory stick for your camera!