On a rainy public holiday we were looking for something to do, and having vaguely promised our child a visit to some animals we decided to go to the Cape Town Lion Park situated on Vredenheim wine estate. This is a wine farm I had never visited before, situated on the R310 near Stellenbosch. Tickets to the lion park are R50 for adults and R30 for children over three years. Tours are conducted at certain times (I remember 11:15 and 13:00 offhand).
Although I do not like the idea of zoos, I do appreciate that there are amazing zoos with very realistic habitats which play an important role in breeding programmes and helping ensure survival of endangered species. However, I am not really comfortable seeing lions and tigers in the Cape winelands. This is just my personal opinion. I also want to say that it could be much worse; they could be in circuses or kept by people who don’t genuinely care for them the way I could see the tour guide did. My daughter was overjoyed to see big cats up close, and especially the tigers, who were born and hand-reared in captivity, were extremely playful like oversized kittens. Besides the pair of young tigers, a cheetah and a cape leopard there are also a few lions, so the tour is relatively short. If your child has never had the opportunity to see big cats up close, and a wilderness safari is not exactly in your budget, then this is a good opportunity for them.
Vredenheim itself is a beautiful venue with extensive gardens. I spotted a gazebo in the gardens, perfect for weddings, and the restaurant is in fact a function venue which would be ideal for a smallish indoor wedding reception. If you opted for a marquee outside you could cater for a bigger wedding. The main Cape Dutch farmhouse was built in 1789 (I got this from their website, and it was in Afrikaans, so forgive me if I get the date wrong!) and is surrounded by fields with grazing zebra, gemsbok and other African wildlife.
We had lunch at Hudson’s restaurant. The prices were a little tourist-oriented to be honest, but we sat outside and enjoyed the food and the garden view while our child played on the jungle gym. I ordered a glass of rosé and it was one of the nicest I have ever tasted. When I enquired about it I learned it was in fact made by Vredenheim, so I took the opportunity to buy myself a bottle at the adjacent shop. If you see Vredenheim Rosé being sold anywhere, snap it up. It is delicious!
When we got back to our car we found the battery dead because somebody who shall remain nameless left the lights on. The farm was kind enough to send someone with jump cables to shock the car back into life. Vredenheim is well worth a visit. Go to www.vredenheim.co.za for more information, venue hire or directions.