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Best Places To See Animals Up Close In South Africa

Lion and Safari Park, Gauteng, South Africa
Lion and Safari Park [Image Shandor Larenty/YouTube]
South Africa is rightfully renowned for its wonderful national parks and game reserves, full of wonderful animals. However, for those on a brief vacation in the country, with no time for a full-blown safari, these locations offer the best ways to see animals and birds up close and personal. First, there is the Lion and Safari Park, located between Johannesburg and Pretoria. Next in line is the beautiful Umgeni River Bird Park, full of many colorful species. Finally, for those with strong nerves, we visit the Great White Sharks in Gansbaai, on the Cape Whale Coast of South Africa.

Lion and Safari Park, Gauteng, South Africa

Lion and Safari Park in Gauteng, South Africa
Lion and Safari Park [Image @lionandsafaripark/Instagram]
This first option allows visitors to not only see lions up close but also a wide selection of other indigenous species. The park offers the chance to see lions, leopards, cheetahs, hyenas, wild dogs, sable antelope and kudu.

Meanwhile, the Lion and Safari Park offers guided tours, led by trained guides, including Night Tours (watching predators eating), a Mini Safari or 3-Hour Safari, or the Lion and Wild Dog Tour.

Meanwhile, the Alex Tour with animal trainer Alex Larenty offers drinks and snacks on the banks of the Crocodile River while he interacts with fully grown lions. Moreover, self-drive tours are available through the various animal enclosures, seeing more species, such as gemsbok, giraffe, kudu, nyala, sable and warthog. Find out more here.

Umgeni River Bird Park, Durban North

Umgeni River Bird Park - Toucan
Toucan [Image by Susanne Jutzeler, Schweiz 🇨🇭 suju-foto from Pixabay]
Located a short distance from the gorgeous beaches of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, Umgeni River Bird Park is a magical place to visit. The park hosts more than 800 birds, of some 200 species, all living in tropical and lush landscaping. As you explore, bird song reverberates around the trees and bushes in the park.

Blue and yellow macau at Umgeni River Bird Park
Blue and yellow Macau [Image Umgeni River Bird Park/Facebook]
Here, you can see Blue and Yellow Macau, Lesser Palm Cockatoo, Eastern Black-capped Lory and the fascinating King Vulture. Meanwhile, several crane and stork species are in the park, as well as common peafowl.

Meanwhile, during a visit, you can enjoy a refreshing drink and snack at the outdoor café, where you are likely to be joined by a friendly Macau or two, hoping for a treat.

Gansbaai and the Great White Sharks, South Africa

Gansbaai Great White Shark
Gansbaai Great White Shark [Image bellamy.andrew/Flickr]
And now for something completely different in Gansbaai, on the Cape Whale Coast of South Africa. This small coastal town has many attractions. However, it is famous as the best shark cage diving location in the world. Due to the rich sea life in the area, as well as the Cape Fur Seals living in “Shark Alley,” the area between Geyser Rock and Dyer Island is the place to be.

Great White Shark Cage Diving
Great White Shark Cage Diving, Gansbaai [Image GRID-Arendal/Flickr]
Meanwhile, visitors can be lowered into the water in a cage to see the famous Great White Sharks face to face. Meanwhile, Dyer Island is known as a bird sanctuary, hosting many rare species. Here you can see African Black Oystercatchers, the African Penguin, Cape Cormorant and Hartlaub’s Gull. For those too nervous to get into the cage, the visit is still worthwhile.

Meet animals and birds close up and personal, or spot the Great White Shark in South Africa this year. You will find the experiences very worthwhile.


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