If you’re planning a visit to Montecasino, do make sure to set aside two or three hours to visit their Bird Gardens. R45 per person gains you entry into the park – pricey, but well worth it in my opinion, and if you’re looking for an entertaining day out for the kids, look no further.
Our day started off with a tasty breakfast under the trees at the Café Flamingo, watching other people’s kids play with the geese that had escaped their enclosure. We made sure to stay upwind from the flamingo pool while eating and laughing at the antics of the sparrows and weaver birds stealing crumbs and packets of sugar from the tables. We finished our meal just in time for the 11:00 show and made our way to the amphitheater, where bird tamers tried their best to coax exotic and indigenous birds onto the stage for the kids’ enjoyment and education.
After the show, we wandered around the gardens. There are walk-in cages where you can get close to bright little birds, called rainbow lorikeets, tame enough to come eat from your hands. Next stop was the reptile room. For someone with an acute fear of frogs, I managed to spend quite a bit of time in their stuffy little room, admiring the bright colours on Amazonian frogs and trying to spot hidden tree dwellers. Back outside in the fresh air, I admired South Africa’s beautiful national bird, the blue crane, and tried to get a group of lemurs to move it, move it.
My favourite part of the gardens however, are the parrot playpens. A dozen or so blue and red macaws, one white and pink cockatoo and two of the yellow-crested cockatoos are perched together in an open air area where visitors brave enough to come within reach of their huge beaks can interact with them. When we arrived, three of the blue macaws promptly climbed off their perch, waddled over to us and untied the laces on Gareth’s shoes. So cute!
Another fun attraction is the walk-in aviary, which houses over sixty species of birds, as well as cages containing large snakes, bats and smaller primates. Here, you not only have to watch where you step, but also where you stop, since the birds high up in the trees aren’t too particular what (or who) they poop on. While you can walk around on ground level, chasing red ibis or twitchy-looking guinea fowl, raised walkways lets you appreciate all the inhabitants from above.
Just outside the aviary, a glass enclosure is a home to a small meerkat colony, including one lookout sentry who takes his job very seriously.
As you make your way to the exit, you walk past more cages with such interesting inhabitants as three-toed sloths, kookaburras, tamarins and sleepy owls.
I thoroughly enjoyed our outing, so much so that we went back the next weekend as well. It’s a great way to escape city life for a few hours, learning about and interacting with local and exotic bird and animal species. Bring the kids and make a day of it.