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More than just Penguins: Top 5 Ways to Explore Cape Town’s Diverse Wildlife

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Julie and Elephant/ Cape Town Green Map

When it comes to a city trip, few people think of seeing wildlife, especially when considering the amazing national parks all across South Africa, but Cape Town might just be the big exception with the amazing possibilities to watch African penguins, seals, and even sharks in their natural habitat on offer. There are also some fantastic wildlife centers all over the city where you can learn more about the various animals and how to protect them while supporting organizations that do the necessary work to preserve these animals.

Follow Julie, Cape Town's virtual traveller, as she heads out to five conservancies in Cape Town to indulge in her love for nature, wildlife and eco-tourism. 

Most conservation NGOs don’t just do the heroic work to save these animals, but also have fascinating and enriching educational programs, that are perfect for kids. But, even us adults have so much left to learn and discover – who of us wouldn’t swoon at some baby penguins?

Visiting a local wildlife center is a great way to spend a day out, learning more and interacting with animals, while also supporting these projects through your entrance fees, ultimately making sure that these animals get to enjoy this world – and we get to enjoy seeing them – for many years to come.

During the past few weeks, I've been checking out sights all across Cape Town as I travel around Cape Town (from abroad). As I love conservation and animals, this week's focus is on the five coolest conservation projects I found in Cape Town. Honestly just looking at the pictures got me wanting to go – these animals are just the cutest!

Two Oceans Aquarium

Dock Road, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town 8001; www.aquarium.co.za/

Two Oceans Aquarium

Source: https://www.aquarium.co.za/

It is only fitting to start with the Two Oceans Aquarium because they are actually celebrating ‘Sharktober’ to promote their collaboration with Save the Seas Foundation, so this month is the absolute perfect time to go! Both do great work in the conservation of sharks, so this collaboration is truly a great fit. Although we will still have to wait a bit until we can do some of their amazing diving activities again, the exhibitions are back open again for you to discover. There are several exhibitions including penguins, sharks – of course –, a kelp forest, and even a space to put your microscope skills back from school to test. Being located right in the city on the V&A Waterfront, you just can’t miss this one.

INFO: Open 7 days a week from 9.30-18.00 on weekdays and 9.00-18.00 on weekends and holidays. Tickets can be booked online. Prices are at R200 for adults, R150 for children from 14-17 years, R95 for children from 4-13 years old, and R150 for students and pensioners (with a card). Children under 4 get in for free.

Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds (SANCCOB)

22 Pentz Drive, Table View, Cape Town 7441; www.sanccob.co.za/

SANCOOB penguins

Source: https://sanccob.co.za/

SANCCOB has been around since the 1960s doing incredible work to save coastal birds, including penguins, through some fantastic projects. The South African population of African penguins has declined by 5,000 since 2012, so their work is really important in preserving these iconic inhabitants of Cape Town. Most people know that Boulder Beach is great for watching these penguins, but if you want to see conservation at work, I really recommend going here! You can also adopt a penguin egg to assist its incubation – how cool would it be to have played a part in a penguin’s hatching?!

INFO: Open 7 days a week, Pre-books are absolutely essentials, no walk-ins allowed due to the current pandemic, booking to be made via +27 (0)21 557 6155 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Entry fees are R60 for adults, R50 for children under 12, and R40 for senior citizens.

World of Birds Wildlife Sanctuary and Monkey Park

Valley Road 7806 Hout Bay; www.worldofbirds.co.za/

Monkey world

Source: https://worldofbirds.co.za/gallery

Over in Hout Bay, the largest bird park in Africa is located, so I couldn’t leave it off this list! There are 3000 birds all over the various ‘landscapes’ of this park and there is even a monkey jungle! As the monkeys live in an open enclosure, visitors get to walk through and interact with the monkeys for that ultimate close-to-nature experience. The sanctuary does lifesaving work, helping about 200 birds and animals every month to feel better again, so it is particularly crucial to support their work at the moment. You can also watch the various animals being fed at specific times of the day which is sure to be quite the spectacle. The feeding times are: Pelicans at 12.30, Penguins at 11.30 and 15.30, Birds of Prey at 16.15, and Cormorants at 13.30.

INFO: Open 7 days a week from 9.00-17.00 (last entry at 16.00). The Monkey Jungle opens from 11.00-13.00 and 14.00-15.30. Prices are R130 for adults, R50 for children (3-16), R85 for students and pensioners (with a card), and free for children under 3.

Butterfly World Animal Sanctuary

Route 44, Stellenbosch; www.animalsanctuary.co.za/

Butterflyworld

Source: https://animalsanctuary.co.za/

Although a bit further out in Stellenbosch, the Butterfly World Animal Sanctuary is another great spot for seeing some animals while supporting an organization that saves and takes care of numerous animals, not just butterflies. Visitors are advised though that currently there are no butterflies at the sanctuary due to Covid-19, but there are so many other adorable animals ranging from birds to mammals to reptiles, so it is well worth a visit! There are over 700 animals, that have all either been donated by their owners or confiscated by the local authorities. They are big on their motto ‘Appreciate, Don’t Keep’ to ensure that all animals receive the care they need. There is also a little restaurant to complete your day with the animals. Why not combine your trip to the Butterfly World with a visit to one of the many vineyards Stellenbosch is so famous for? Check out my last post for more information on green South African wine!

INFO: Open 7 days a week from 9.00-16.30. Prices are currently reduced due to Covid-19, R88 for adults, R49 for children, R79 for students and pensioners (with card), and R225 for families (Kids under 3 go in for free). Bookings should be made via +27 (021) 875 5628 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Cheetah Outreach

De Beers Avenue, Firgrove, Cape Town, 7110; www.cheetah.co.za/

Cheetah Outreach

Source: www.cheetah.co.za

As you might have noticed birds are on the primary attractions in Cape Town, but over in Somerset West, you can also see cheetahs at the Cheetah Outreach, an organization that promotes the survival of free-ranging cheetahs in South Africa. Cheetah numbers worldwide and especially in South Africa are dwindling rapidly. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were about 100,000 worldwide – nowadays we are down to 7,100 with 1,326 of them living in South Africa. To avoid their extinction, Cheetah Outreach has made it their mission to work against this, meaning they try to educate local communities about cheetahs, reduce human-wildlife conflict, and do significant research into the subject matter. It has just re-opened so why not pop by and find out more about these majestic animals through one of their many tours and activities – you can even meet a cheetah (although social distancing is just as important here!) and watch them feed. You can view their various tours on their website.

INFO: Open from 10.00-17.00 but tours are specific to certain times. Pre-booking is essential and can be done under This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or under 082 872 4007. Tickers are R20 for adults and R10 for children under 12. The general tour is part of the ticket prices, but special tours cost extra. Important: Tickets can only be paid in cash, so don’t forget to bring some!

While South Africa overall might be more famous for seeing the Big 5, Cape Town is full of possibilities for discovering other animals and learning more about them. Watching cute animals, learning about their habitat, while playing an important part in helping these organizations get back on their feet so that they can continue taking care of this world’s most vulnerable sounds like a pretty good day to me.

As always, I love hearing which places you think I should check out, so send me an email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or over the Cape Town Green Map social media channels with any suggestions. Can't wait to hear them!

Until next week, 

Julie 

Cape Town Green Map Virtual Intern