Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre, The Craggs, Plettenberg Bay, RSA
It’s at tough life being a cheetah on conservation duty at Tenikwa. The clip above is Chester, who Alex took for a walk around the park when we were here eight years ago.
Big cats, little cats
Tenikwa is one of our favourite haunts on the Garden Route. We were last here in March 2009 and since then Tenikwa has expanded considerably. However, it still sticks to its original mission of rehabilitating injured or abandoned animals, and educating the public on conservation matters.
Although it has extended its universe beyond cats to include porcupines, tortoise, meerkats and birds – including a wonderful Rockhopper penguin and a couple of Marabou storks – cats form its core and remain central to its mission.
The centre runs a number of programmes for visitors. Family commitments left us a little short of time so we (including three young cousins and our American friend) opted for the Wild Cat Experience, a one hour guided tour centred on South Africa’s indigenous cats. These include servals, caracals and lions and a beautiful leopard. However, the stars are the two cheetahs, one of whom (Chester) is the same cheetah that our son took for a walk in 2009 – good to see him again looking fit and healthy if a little laid back.
Our guide was Patrick who was evidently incredibly proud, in a very humble way, of Tenikwa and its work. He was brilliant with the young cousins, engaging and encouraging them and responding to their questions in a clear and concise way. He was careful not to patronise, instead taking care to help them understand the challenges of being a wild animal in an increasingly crowded South Africa.
Whilst South Africans take a more relaxed attitude to health and safety than we do here in the UK basic common sense prevailed, more I suspect for the benefit of the wildlife than the visitors. A ‘No Touch’ policy applied to our tour and sensible precautions such as disallowing children under 1.5 metres tall from entering the cheetahs’ cage were enforced.
One of the very professionally run operations in the Cape, it is well worth visiting, and can be combined with Monkey Land and the amazing Birds of Eden tent, visible from the lion walk at Tenikwa.