If you still can’t get enough of Africa’s beautiful wild life after visiting Kruger National Park, pay a visit to Tenikwa Wild Cat & Wildlife Sanctuary in Plettenberg Bay. Plettenberg Bay is located on the Garden Route and makes a lovely half-a-day trip from Knyzna.
Founded in 2002, Tenikwa is now one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation centres in the Western Cape accepting both terrestrial and marine species. To fund the rehabilitation work, the sanctuary offers various, small group programs during the day. By joining these tours, guests learn about the indigenous wild cats of South Africa and why their species are endangered.
Wild Cats Experience
We joined the Wild Cat Experience tour which was one of the best tours in a non-safari environment I had. The guides supply you with an immense amount of information about the South African wild cats and answer all your questions. You will walk through the different areas of the Tenikwa sanctuary and will see all types of wild cats including servals, caracals and cheetahs. There is also a beautiful leopard which you can see in close proximity (see photo below).
But don’t be fooled, he just pretends to be that nice! When we approached the fence of the leopards enclosure he appeared to be super relaxed and sleeping. But then we started to walk back again on the little path that leads along the fence, he waited for the opportunity for our group to split and suddenly jumped up and sprinted towards the fence where a little girl was just running after her mummy. The leopard literally attacked the fence to reach the girl!
This all happened in 3 seconds and right in front of me. Of course the girl started crying immediately and I lifted her up and brought her to her mummy. The poor little one was still shocked at the end of the tour.
Lesson learnt: Leopards no good for cuddling! haha
If you do want to come close to wild cats without the fence in between you and the cats, hang out with the cheetahs. As opposed to leopards, cheetahs can be tamed (to a certain degree). Part of the Wild Cat Experience tour is to enter the cheetah enclosure. But these cats were really chilled out. They were sleeping right in front of us. You can also book a separate tour that lets you spend more time with the cheetahs.
Don’t leave the group…
But an actually important lesson I learnt during this tour and during the safari is to NEVER leave the group and never appear smaller than the rest (don’t pick sth up from the ground for instance!). Cats are waiting to get a chance to attack the weakest/smallest of the group. That’s why kids were not allowed in the cheetah enclosure and were also not allowed to join the safari walking tour. And that’s also was caused the cutie leopard to have a go at the little girl.
And apart from all the wild cats, there are also monkeys and lots more animals to explore. So, a tour to the Tenikwa Wild Cat & Wildlife Sanctuary is definitely a great day out for kids, too. Just don’t let the little ones venture off by themselves!
To visit the Tenikwa Sanctuary, click here to get to their website.