The chacma baboons of the Cape Peninsula, when left to their own devices, are interesting creatures that survive on a diet of fruits, roots, bulbs, insects, scorpions and even shellfish. But be warned, these primates are notorious for their destructive behaviour.

Did you know?

Baboons communicate with facial expressions, touch, calls and body positions.

Baboon viewing in Cape Town can be very rewarding, but an important warning first: do not feed these animals because this leads to problem behaviour from these highly intelligent primates.

The chacma baboon troops on the Cape peninsula are the only protected population of the species in the world. They mostly subsist on fruits, roots, bulbs, honey, insects and scorpions. During the low tide they may even be seen roaming the beaches, feeding on sand hoppers and shellfish – very unique behaviour for primates.

The Cape Peninsula baboons consist of 11 troops, distributed from the Tokai Forest in the southern suburbs of Cape Town to the famous Cape of Good Hope, which is part of the popular Table Mountain National Park. The groups vary in size from just seven individuals to large gangs of over 100.

The population is under increasing pressure from habitat decline and fragmentation, as well as conflict between humans and baboons, which occurs often.

The baboons frequently get harassed by tourists or tour operators, who throw out food to increase the chance of viewing them, despite road signs warning them not to. Baboons can be dangerous and are, of course, attracted to an easy meal. Visitors should not feed or tease them, because primates that have been conditioned to receive food may have to be eliminated.

The Cape Peninsula Baboon Research Unit is a group of scientists focusing its research on baboons in the peninsula and surrounding areas. Many of the studies compare the Cape population to other baboon populations in the country, and study the relationship between the Peninsula baboons and their human neighbours.

Volunteers help the scientists in gathering information by following the troops on foot and collecting detailed behavioural data.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Table Mountain National Park
Tel: +27 (0)21 712 2337
Email: tablem@sanparks.org

Baboon Matters Trust
Jenni Trethowan
Tel: +27 (0)21 783 2630
Email: baboonmatters@cybersmart.co.za

How to get here

The Cape Peninsula baboons can be seen on any public road between the Tokai Forest in the southern suburbs of Cape Town and the famous Cape of Good Hope, which is part of the popular Table Mountain National Park to the south of the city.

Best time to visit

The baboons are resident on the Cape Peninsula and can be seen year-round.

Around the area

The unique flora of the Cape Peninsula should be explored, and includes the incomparable fynbos floral kingdom and avian endemics like the Cape sugarbird and orange-breasted sunbird.

Get around

The baboons are best viewed from the comfort of a vehicle. Remember to close the windows when parking close to a troop – Cape baboons have been known to raid food from unsuspecting travellers, especially after reckless tour operators have been feeding them to give their clients better photo opportunities.

What will it cost

You can see them for free, although there is a fee to visit the reserve on the southern tip of the peninsula. A visit to the baboons may cost you your food if you don't keep your windows closed.

Length of stay

The baboons can be seen in a brief encounter, but you can also choose to study them for a few hours while they are foraging along the road.

Where to stay

Cape Town offers excellent accommodation to suit all price ranges.