• Stockholm Stockholm
    5 year resident, to guide around the local wonders
  • French Polynesia French Polynesia
    6 islands in the South Seas
  • some image Tokyo Tour
    1-day walk around the best spots
  • Japanese Wedding Japanese Wedding
    The dark side of the rising sun
  • Skyline Hong Kong
    Skylines, bar streets, markets & islands
  • some image Fashion shopping in Tokyo
    The best souvenir of Japan is not omiyage
  • Sydney Opera Australia
    Sydney's NYE, Gold Coast & Great Barrier Reef
  • Gecko Hawaii
    Aloha nature wonders
  • Yakushima Yakushima
    Hiking the Princess Mononoke Forest
  • Ishigaki Lighthouse Ishigaki
    Okinawa's shades of blue
  • Yuki Matsuri Hokkaido
    Powder Snow Festival
  • Daikanyama Daikanyama
    Tokyo's SoHo
  • Cosplayer Comiket
    The Biggest Cosplay Event
  • Cherry Tree Blossom Hanami (花見)
    Sakura by the skyscrapers
  • Hiroshima bomb time Hiroshima
    The Bomb & Miyajima
  • top of mount fuji guide to climb Japan
    Top of Mt.Fuji
  • Kyoto & Nara Nara & Kyoto
    Ciervos nadando en lagos de roca
  • Formentera House Formentera
    Mediterranean Sun


Top 10 Wildlife Encounters in South Africa

cheetah close-up

South Africa offers a unique opportunity for first hand wildlife interaction. Most of the game parks have interaction activities where you can pet cheetahs, lions, tigers, hyenas, elephants, ostriches, jiraffes, while having a unique opportunity to learn more about their behavior, society, treats and challenges. In addition, you have the National Parks, beaches and dives, where you get to observe the big 5 as well as some cool marine fauna (penguins, seals and white sharks) in their natural environment.

Therefore, it strikes me how few of the people in my circle decide to visit South Africa, as a majority favour the pack Tanzania and Zanzibar. Sure, it might be an awesome place but when one of the most seasoned travellers I ever met chose SA as safari destination, it got me thinking... Maybe is it just that SA remains like a hidden pearl? 

To raise some awareness, here comes our summary of the top wildlife encounters in South Africa. The list combines experiences from Enrique, who has spent so far a total of 5 months in Joburg and my own during the 2 week Easter visit.

Detailed posts on each one, to be linked from the list when ready.

1. Ukutula Lion Research Center [WEB]
WHERE: 90min away from Johannesburg
WHY GO: Interaction with baby lions, tigers, hyenas, cheetah; walk with lions and learn about the park's research focused on finding vaccines against bovine tuberculosis that kills wild lions.
WHAT: Possible to visit as a day trip from Johannesburg. 3 hours for the package including park visit, cub interaction and walk with lions. Book in advance. Small children may not be allowed to interact with cubs because if the kid is too small, the 3-5 month old feline could take it as prey and attack.
baby tiger in Ukutula

Find out more about Ukutula visit here, interaction and walk with the lions videos here.

2. Lion Park [WEB]
WHERE: 30min away from Johannesburg
WHY GO: Interaction with cheetah, ostrich, jiraffe and lion cubs. Game park tour, either guided or with your car. Watch lion's feeding time for some scary memories. This is the park where a Game of Thrones editor was mauled to death by a lioness.
WHAT: Possible to visit as a day trip from Johannesburg. Cheetah interaction is at 9AM, lion feeding time tour is Sunday at 12, so you can interact with the rest in between.
lion cub in Lion Park, Johannesburg

Find out more about Lion Park visit and videos here.

3. Boulders Beach [WEB]
WHERE: 60 min away from Cape Town.
WHY GO: Ultra close views of an African Penguin colony since they settled in 1982. Watch them walk, walk; watch them nae nae, breed and fight predators (like seagulls)
WHAT: Bring comfortable attire, you may have to climb a bit. Combine this with Hout Bay and Cape of Good hope in one day. SELFIE STICKS ARE FORBIDDEN as they stress the penguins.
Penguins at Boulders Beach in Cape Town
Find out more about Boulders Beach visit and videos here.

4. Duiker Island (boat from Hout Bay) [WEB]
WHERE: 60 min away from Cape Town.
WHY GO: Tiny island (77 x 95 m) where a Cape Fur Seal colony lives, so you can observe these rare animals in their natural environment.
WHAT: Tour 40-60min. Boats leave on morning time, but there is a risk of the tour being cancelled if the sea is rough that day... Which was actually our case.

5. Pilanesberg [WEB]
WHERE: 2 hours away from Johannesburg
WHY GO: Malaria free National Game Reserve, expect sightings of the big 5 in this unique landscape - the park is kind of round and surrounded by mountains, it started as a volcano 1200 years ago
WHAT: Possible to visit as a day trip from Johannesburg. Explore the park with your car in the morning and join the sunset guided tour. Bring warm clothing. Book in advance.
zebra eating grass at Pilanesberg safari

Find out more about Pilanesberg visit here.

6. Kruger [WEB]
WHERE: 8h by car from Johannesburg, short flight from all main cities in South Africa (safer and more convenient if you can afford it)
WHY GO: The largest game reserve in South Africa
WHAT: Budget a weekend for this, bring warm clothing as it gets chilly at dawn and sunset, when tours are scheduled. Mosquito repellent and Malarone might be needed, as park is not Malaria-free. DO NOT APPROACH AN ELEPHANT WITH BABIES
Guided safari at Kruger

Find out more about Kruger visit and videos here.

7. Ostrich farm [WEB]
WHERE: Middle of nowhere*
WHY GO: Ostrich interaction, guided tour to the farm and opportunity to ride one.
WHAT: *Enrique visited Highgate as it was on the road from Johannesburg to Cape Town, but this location is not convenient for anyone not driving down that road.
ostrich ride at highgate farm

Find out more about Highgate Ostrich Farm visit and videos here.

8. Elephant sanctuary [WEB]
WHERE: 3 locations, close to Johannesburg, Kruger or along the Garden Route (Western Cape).
WHY GO: Elephant interaction and guided tour.
WHAT: Open 7 days a week, 2 tour with interactions start at 8, 10 and 14. Book in advance.
elephant interaction at elephant sanctuary

Find out more about Elephant Sanctuary visit here.

9. White shark dive [WEB]
WHERE: Cape Town
WHY GO: Caged dive with white sharks right in front of you
WHAT: Careful with scams - some of the top results in google will steal your money - and consider that in some cases sharks might not show up - Enrique tried twice with no success due to these issues.

10. The rest
WHERE: Anywhere
WHY GO: South Africa is a wild country with more than you think to offer...
WHAT: Jackals and rabbits in the golf court around the apartments where we stayed, dassies in Table Mountain, tortoises and cows along the road
tortoise in a side road in South Africa

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