Port Elizabeth is famous for a few things – friendly people, gorgeous beaches, excellent hotels, massive sand dunes, and a (very generous and consistent) breeze. But, few people realise that Port Elizabeth is also teeming with wildlife. And, not just wildlife that you have to go on a game drive to see (although it has that wildlife too) – but also animals that you can feed, touch and photograph from up close.
Places to See and Touch Animals in Port Elizabeth
This animal petting farm is a favourite for families with little ones, but is also popular for anyone that loves the feel of a warm muzzle as they chomp treats out of your hands. Holmeleigh Farm is just 20 minutes from the centre of PE’s city, but takes you to a world of fur, fuzz and feathers.
Visitors can buy bowls of feed to share with the horses, donkeys, goats, bunnies, ostriches, cows, ducks and geese. Head into the goat enclosure to watch the silly antics of these playful animals, or sit with the bunnies for the warmest cuddles. Queenie the cow can be milked by her visitors, giving them the awesome opportunity to taste the freshest milk ever, right from your hands.
The are tractor and pony rides around the farm, as well as an old double-decker bus that gives little ones hours of fun and excitement as they pretend to take it on adventures. There is also a scarecrow, play equipment, a jumping castle, and boat.
Parents can relax at the tea garden and savour delicious freshly-baked scones or farm-style breakfasts.
It’s hard to believe that some of Africa’s most spectacular wildlife – including rhinoceros and cheetah – can be found in the outlying suburbs of PE. The self-driven game drives are really rewarding here too, because the animals are relaxed enough to get really close to the car. So, you have the opportunity to take incredible photos. There are guided game drives available too. The park is also home to giraffe, nyala, lechwe, buffalo, zebra and bontebok.
The cheetah encounters allow visitors the unique opportunity to sit with one of these majestic predators, to feel his soft fur, and to hear the deep rumble of his purrs. For the photograph of a lifetime, pose with this elegant cat. These encounters take place hourly from 10h00 to 15h00 every day.
There is a restaurant, the Bush Café, with a large outdoor area. It overlooks the indigenous vegetation and some of the birds that call this home. The curio shop is small but well-stocked with gifts and keepsakes.
This park allows you the opportunity to watch as the lions are fed, or to get close (very close) to the enclosures that are home to the lions and tigers. With only a secure fence between you and these mighty predators, you will feel the humbling magic that is a big cat.
Although visitors cannot touch or feed the animals (which is understandable, considering that they are mighty predators), there are plenty of opportunities to get up close to them. More than big cats, there are also caracals, giraffes, monkeys, and zebras. They may amble close to your car, or eye you from a distance.
The restaurant is perched right on the hill, offering stunning views over the ocean or the greenery of the game park. Light meals and refreshments are available here, as well as a few souvenirs.
Although this is really for the rehabilitation of all kinds of marine birds that have been caught in oil, entangled in nets, or harmed by pollution, the major highlight here are the penguins. These quirky, tuxedoed birds take full advantage of the baths, delicious food, and rehab programme made available. And they seem to enjoy putting on a show for their visitors too.
What makes it even more special is that visitors are invited to be part of the scheduled rescue missions to find and capture penguins and other birds that need help, and the releases of the healthy penguins. Watching them waddle back to the ocean to live a life of freedom is something very memorable for the whole family.
The aquarium and snake park here, right on the bustling beachfront of PE, are both fantastic outings for anyone with a passion for animals. Watch the clever seals put on an impressive show, stand at the aquarium window and catch a glimpse of the sharks and fish swimming by, see the elegance of the turtles, and enjoy the vibrant colours of the anemones and urchins.
The snake park here is home to loads of exciting snake species – from very small ones to massive constrictors. There are also terrapins, tortoises, lizards, and monitors. If you’re lucky, you may have the chance to touch the soft, cool skin of a massive snake.
Just outside PE, on the way to Jeffrey’s Bay, is this magnificent sanctuary. It is home to a number of rescued species that aren’t cut out to return to their natural habitat. There are also rehab programmes to help those that can be returned to the wild.
Massive aviaries are home to numerous bird species – from vultures to loeries, macaws to pelicans, flamingos to chickens… In some of the enclosures, they can fly freely. Visitors can interact with the parrots, who love nibbling on your finger or getting a head scratch. But, the sanctuary is also home to other species – like snakes, cheetah, crocodile, caracal, porcupine, monkeys, serval, and even the Tammar wallaby.
There is a small curio shop with some small mementoes, as well as a restaurant that offers cold drinks, toasted sandwiches, and so on.
So, for a really wild experience in the Eastern Cape, Port Elizabeth is a fantastic choice. Not only is it home to many different animal sanctuaries and parks, but there is also plenty of accommodation that includes apartments on the beach, homely B & B’s, and luxurious guesthouses.