Travel with purpose: wildlife sanctuaries for young and old to learn about animal conservation efforts

Visiting a wildlife animal sanctuary can be a rewarding and educational experience for the whole family. Picture: Unsplash

Visiting a wildlife animal sanctuary can be a rewarding and educational experience for the whole family. Picture: Unsplash

Published Mar 19, 2024


Sustainable travel and eco-tourism is about protecting animals and nature for future generations to come. With the Easter holiday approaching, finding meaningful ways to travel with the family should be at the top of the agenda.

Visiting a wildlife animal sanctuary can be a rewarding and educational experience for the family as it allows environmentally-conscious travellers to learn about and interact with animals in a natural setting.

More so, you can also learn about conservation efforts and the work that non-profit organisations do in a bid to protect animals, while the fees and donations you pay can help fund the care and rehabilitation of the animals and the maintenance of the facility.

As a wildlife or safari destination, South Africa has many such causes and national parks that could benefit from your visit while also providing you with a fun experience, from walking tours to feeding animals and learning about mother nature in a fun way.

It’s a mutually beneficial relationship between nature and humans, which is what eco-tourism is all about. If you’re looking for such sanctuaries to visit, try these six places:

The Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre, North West

One of the majestic cheetahs at the Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre in Brits. Picture: Website

The Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre in the picturesque landscape of Brits, in the North West, has been a symbol of commitment to cheetah conservation since its establishment in 1971.

The sanctuary, focused on the preservation and protection of these cats, has accomplished the remarkable feat of breeding over 800 cheetah cubs, including the world-renowned King Cheetah, all within a safe and secure environment.

The conservation project relies on income generated from tours and its adoption programme, so by visiting the project, you're directly contributing to the preservation of these magnificent creatures.

The centre provides walking tours where you'll encounter cheetahs, wild dogs, caracals, African wild cats and various vulture species.

Informative guided tours afford guests the opportunity to accompany a guide on a drive through the sanctuary’s cheetah and wild dog enclosures in an open safari vehicle.

Prices are R485 per adult and R290 per child. No under 7s allowed.

The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance, Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape

The monkeys at Monkeyland are happily part of the world’s first free-roaming multi-species primate sanctuary. Picture: Instagram

The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA) consists of three sanctuaries: Monkeyland and Birds of Eden, in Ballito, and the Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary in Plettenberg Bay.

It strives to improve the lives of animals in captivity. The alliance’s mission is to educate and promote a greater understanding of primates, birds, apex cats and wild animals, in general, and the threats and challenges they are facing.

Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary is the world’s first free-roaming multi-species primate sanctuary and offers tours or monkey safaris where guests can view the 700+ resident primates in their forest home.

Birds of Eden is the world’s largest free-flight bird aviary and houses more than 3500 specimens of more than 280 species, with the focus being African birds.

Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary is home to mainly apex predators and has 74 animals in total consisting of 17 different species.

Visitors can take an 80-minute walk with a knowledgeable guide and take pictures.

A visit to one of the sanctuaries starts from R380 per person and it’s half-price for kids. You can also book for two sanctuaries at R610.

Elephant Sanctuary, Mpumalanga, Western Cape, Gauteng

A young child interacts with an elephant at the Elephant Sanctuary. Picture: Website

The Elephant Sanctuary offers hands-on educational elephant interactions with smaller groups of people in Hazyview, Hartbeespoort and Plettenberg Bay as this method provides guests with a far more intimate experience with the elephants.

According to the sanctuary, its staff is committed to the use of positive reinforcement elephant training methods and, as a result, they have relaxed elephants who enjoy interacting with guests.

Guests are guided in small groups on foot through the Elephant Sanctuary as guides provide in-depth information and insight into African elephants.

On this tour, you will be introduced to elephants in the forest area and here you will be able to touch and interact with them.

Guests learn about elephant anatomy and can feed them. A guided walk with the elephants starts from R695 a person.

LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, Free State

LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary – where tourism and animal welfare meet. Picture: Instagram

LIONSROCK is a unique combination of animal welfare and a tourism destination, offering a wide range of activities for its guests, including game drives, birdwatching and hiking trails, as well as trips to the nearby Golden Gate National Park, Clarens or Lesotho.

The property is home to animals rescued from around the world and provides a haven where they can live in peace and tranquillity.

Guests can also enjoy a restful night’s sleep in our comfortable stay at the lodge, informative walks and listening to the roar of the lions at the sanctuary at the end of the day.

You will go home knowing that the time and money you have spent will directly benefit the rescued animals and that you have made a significant contribution to their welfare.

For day visitors, an enrichment tour starts from R300 per person, while an exclusive sanctuary tour costs R800 per person.

Daniell Cheetah Project, Eastern Cape

At the Daniell Cheetah Project you can do a cheetah walk with a harness-trained cheetah. Picture: Instagram

The Daniell Cheetah Project provides a stress-free home for animals, and on a tour at the sanctuary, visitors will be able to meet and learn more about meerkats, cheetahs, servals, caracals, leopards, lions and hyenas.

The sanctuary opened its doors to the public to get funding to reach its goal of achieving the best possible environment for animals.

As a result, the sanctuary doesn’t allow day visitors to walk through the project unaccompanied and offers two types of guided tours: the predator tour and the cheetah walk.

They also do cheetah walks with harness-trained cheetahs in the African bush.

Daniell Cheetah Project started with just three cats in May 2001 and hopes to play a part in the conservation of the cheetah, the re-establishing of pure gene lines, as well as in educating the public about the importance of this amazing species.

Adults pay R90, while kids between the ages of 3 to 13 pay R60, and kids below two years old enter for free.