3 of the city’s best captive wildlife experiences

When you think of a city, a ragged-tooth shark or an African rock python probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. But then you might not be thinking of Cape Town, where you can get up close to wildlife right in the city at animal parks and sanctuaries. Don’t miss these wildife encounters.

1. The Two Oceans Aquarium: Situated in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront precinct, the Two Oceans Aquarium gives a glimpse of what you might see should you go diving in one of the nearby oceans. In addition to an exhibit of sea creatures from each of Cape Town’s oceans — the warm Indian (east coast) and chilly Atlantic (west coast) — the aquarium also features a predators exhibit, a penguin exhibit, a lush kelp forest and a touch pool for the kids. Time your visit so that you can witness the frenzy of activity at feeding time. Or take the opportunity to go diving in the predator tank with the sharks — no cages, just you, a dive instructor and a few ragged-tooth sharks.

2. World of Birds: In Hout Bay, only 20-kilometres from Cape Town’s city centre, you will find the largest bird park in Africa. The aviaries here house more than 3 000 birds of 400 different species, including falcons, pelicans, goshawks, herons, kites, owls, vultures, eagles, flamingos, swans and ibises.

More than just a bird sanctuary, the World of Birds is also home to a motley collection of mammals, including baboons, meerkats, mongooses, porcupines, foxes, marmosets and racoons. The Monkey Jungle, a large walkthrough enclosure that houses 38 squirrel monkeys, allows you to be in direct contact with these inquisitive little primates.

3. Imhoff Snake Park: Roughly 40-kilometres from Cape Town’s city centre, in Kommetjie, you will find the Imhoff Snake Park. A reptile sanctuary and rehabilitation centre, the park is home to a variety of local and exotic reptiles. In addition to crocodiles and alligators, you’ll get to see a 3.5-metre-long yellow anaconda, a rattle-snake-eating Californian king snake, a Mozambican spitting cobra and an African rock python. Kids — and their curious parents — can interact with some of the less dangerous snakes.