On our drive around South Africa, we were told by several people, local people, that (despite their touristy, tacky names) we should visit two places called Monkeyland and Birds of Eden. We took the advice and were not sorry. Both are large free-range enclosures, located just about side-by-side.

Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary is the world’s first free-roaming multi-species primate sanctuary and home to over 450 primates (in this case monkeys and lemurs). Even though the monkeys and lemurs are from many different regions, they all get along. All guests receive a one-hour guided tour.

Birds of Eden is the largest free-flight aviary in the world (50 metres high, covering 23 000 square meters of forest) and home to over 3500 birds, including just about 280 different species. The focus is on African species, but there are many from around the globe. You can choose either a guided tour or go self-guided on the 2km of boardwalks. Its a really nice walk with the relaxing sounds of the waterfall and all those birds!

The mission of both sanctuaries, (along with Jukani, a similar sanctuary nearby for large cats), is  for guests to leave “with a greater understanding of the world’s wildlife and the threats they are facing.” Many of the animals in the sanctuaries have either been injured in the wild and rescued or have come from environments where they were kept as pets. In many cases owners find out that wild animals don’t make good pets and want to relinquish the animals. The sanctuaries are a place where these animals can be nursed to health and given a degree of freedom that had been taken away. They now serve as ambassadors to the public, educating about the adverse effects of keeping wild animals as pets and to raising awareness about the human-caused decline in their natural home environments.