It’s been a while since I wrote a pop-up travel post — a post about a place that I traveled to a long time ago, nearly forgot, then remembered and decided to write about.

Today’s pop-up travel post features the Dullstroom Bird of Prey & Rehabilitation Centre, a rehabilitation centre for raptors that I visited during last year’s #MeetSouthAfrica small-town road trip. I can’t believe I waited so long to write about this visit as it was actually one of my favorite travel experiences of 2015.

Kestrel-closeupNorman, a five-year-old greater kestrel at the Dullstroom Bird of Prey & Rehabilitation Centre.

The Bird of Prey Centre’s primary mission is to rescue and rehabilitate birds of prey — usually birds who have been injured or improperly handled by humans — and reintroduce them to the wild, if possible. (The centre releases about 200 birds every year.) Some birds can never be released for one reason or another; those birds receive a permanent home at the centre.

The centre is open to the public (with a small entry fee) and conducts daily flight displays at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The main purpose of the flight displays is to provide exercise and training for the birds, but they also provide an eye-popping, educational experience for visitors.

I visited the Bird of Prey Centre with blogger friends Anje and Di (read Anje’s post about the Bird of Prey Centre) and our driver Jimmy. We arrived just in time for the 2:30 flight display, settling ourselves on a bench with a view of Mpumalanga’s rolling hills. Soon we were joined by Magdali, the director of the centre, and her assistants Ryan and Adian. The staff brought the birds down to the display area one at a time. The birds rested on a wooden perch in front of us and then launched themselves into the sky, flying around the centre in huge, graceful arcs.

Tawny-eagle-flying
The first bird we saw was this stunning tawny eagle whose name I forgot to write down, probably because I was so starstruck by the bird.

Cape-eagle-owlMojo the cape eagle owl. Owls are my favorite.

Kestrel and MagdaliNorman the kestrel, with Magdali. Norman is grasping a dead baby chicken.

KestrelNorman flying and chewing a piece of the dead baby chicken.

Kestrel-and-cloudsI couldn’t get enough of Norman.

At the end of the display we had the chance to interact with one of the birds.

Jackal-buzzard-and-DiDi with JB, a 12-year-old jackal buzzard.

Jackal-buzzard-and-Heather
Me and my buddy JB. (Photo by Anje)

Jackal-buzzard-and-Heather2Despite the expression on my face, this moment was incredibly awesome. (Photo by Anje)

Jimmy-and-JBJimmy wasn’t too sure about the idea of holding JB. But I think he was glad he did it.

After the flight display, we took our time walking through the enclosures and reading about the different birds and other animals.

Anje-and-goatAnje shares a special moment with the resident goat.

We spent a long time watching two cape eagle owls in their enclosure.

Owl-singleThis young owl was holding the dead mouse when we arrived, and at one one point we thought he was going to share it with the other owl in the enclosure (presumably one of his parents). Then he suddenly leaned back and tossed the whole mouse down his own gullet. Unfortunately I didn’t capture that moment on camera — I was too busy exclaiming to Anje and Di, “Oh my god! He just swallowed the who fu*%ing thing!”.

Owls2

I could have watched them forever.

I loved my visit to the Bird of Prey Centre and I will definitely go back again the next time I’m in Dullstroom. To learn more about the centre or to make a donation to their amazing rehabilitation program, visit www.birdsofprey.co.za.

My visit to the Bird of Prey Centre was sponsored by South African Tourism. Opinions expressed are my own.

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