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Close Encounters with Animals in Africa

When you decide to head off on your African Adventure Safari, you are not always sure how much or what kind of wildlife you will be able to spot. So here is a guide to some places in Africa where you can get close-up to some amazing animals and have experiences that you will never forget.

Jessica the Hippo, Hoedspruit, Limpopo

Jessica the hippo was rescued from the Limpopo river when she still had her umbilical cord attached. She was raised by retired game warden Tonie Joubert and is now 10 years old. Hippos are notoriously known to be very dangerous, so being able to have a close encounter with one is truly special. Freelance travel writer Lucy Corne had the lucky opportunity to meet Jessica and said that it was “one of the most exceptional, bizarre and wonderful animal encounters anywhere”. Jessica used to sleep in the Joubert’s bed, but as you can imagine, she became too large for this! However, she still plays with the family’s dogs and happily poses for photographers who travel to Hoedspruit, on the edge of the Kruger National Park.

For a nominal donation, visitors can feed Jessica with litres of herbal tea and treat her to her favourite addiction – coffee!

Jessica the Hippo (Image)

Ostriches in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape

These flightless birds are a great attraction for the whole family and the Safari Ostrich Show Farm is a great place to have close encounters with these animals. Their guides will take you on an informative tour of the farm informing you about the breeding and rearing of these amusing-looking birds.

Have the opportunity to stand on un-hatched ostrich eggs or pose for a photograph while sitting on one of these birds, feeling their soft feathers all around you. A tractor ride is now included in their tours where you can view 18 of their Zimbabwe blue ostriches.



Swim with the Penguins, Simonstown, Cape Town

These cute little clumsy creatures are fun to watch on land, but even more so when they do their acrobatics in the water. At Boulders Beach in Simonstown the white sandy beaches are pebbled with penguins and you can either pack a picnic basket and watch them as they bask in the sun, or you can jump into the water (warning: you might need a wetsuit!) and see how close you can get. Just keep your fingers and toes at bay because these little flightless birds can bite!

Spend a few hours with Mountain Gorillas, Uganda

The wonderful thing about visiting these majestic animals is that each encounter is different and deeply personal for every traveller. It seems that each visitor has a unique experience and you never know what the gorillas are going to do. Your guide will tell you what you can and cannot do and they know exactly where to take you to see them. Make sure you take a good camera or binoculars with so that you can get even closer and see their beautiful big brown eyes and their silver-grey coats.

Track Cheetahs in Otjiwarongo, Namibia

The Africat Foundation in Namibia rescues cheetahs captured by farmers who kill the animals in order to save their livestock. They care for the animals before releasing them back into the wild. These cheetahs live in extensive enclosures, which vary in size, depending upon the state of their rehabilitation. Due to the radio collars that are used to monitor them, it is easy for them to find the cheetahs and take you to see them. Cheetahs are generally quite difficult to see in the wild, so this gives you a great opportunity to see them up close. If you are lucky you will get to see them devour a kill or follow them on foot as they track impala through the bush.

Watch Meerkats awake just before sunrise, in the Meerkat Magic Valley Reserve, Oudtshoorn

Photographs of Meerkats are always charming and they have antics and habits that we as humans find very amusing, so imagine getting a few metres away from them and seeing them pop up from their burrows with sleepy eyes just before dawn to forage for food. Grant Mcilrath (the Meerkat Man) will take you to see them in this 10km wide conservation area.


Grant Mcilrath – The Meerkat Man (Image)

Spend time with Chimpanzees, Jane Goodall Chimp Eden, Nelspruit

These primates have been rescued from poachers for the bush meat and exotic pet trades. Jane Goodall began her rescue work in the 1960s at Gombe in Tanzania and has now successfully established the Umhloti Nature Reserve just outside of Nelspruit.

Chimp Eden is a wonderful opportunity to see the Chimps in semi-wild surroundings and far easier than paying hundreds of dollars and trekking into the forests of Congo and Tanzania. Viewing platforms allow you to overlook the forest and the Chimps daily activities. Chimps are always active and entertaining to watch, so spending time with them is guaranteed to lift your spirits and your awareness of these animals in helping to conserve these rare species.



About Bronwyn Paxton

Article by: Bronwyn Paxton
on April 7, 2014
Filed under  Africa Blog • South Africa 
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