Garden Route: Ostriches, Monkeys, Big Cats

September 13, 2008

Last Saturday began the Garden Route tour with AIFS.

We left at 5:30 AM and drove to our first stop in Oudtshoorn.  I started out at the Cango Ostrich Farm.  I wasn’t a huge fan of the concept or the tour.  We got some information about ostrich farming, basically that it was very lucrative in the early 1900s because feathers were in style in Europe.  But WWI pretty much stopped that trade and ostrich farmers went out of business or diversified.  Today, they make about 40% from feathers and leather and 60% from the meat.  Mostly, they breed ostriches and then take the eggs, incubate, and give chicks who make it to foster parents.

By taking the eggs, a mating pair will produce more eggs each season.

After the info, a couple members of our group rode an ostrich.  It didn’t even resemble something fun, ha.  They had to put a bag over their heads to catch them (because they’re so dumb that if they can’t see you they don’t know you’re there, apparently) and they did not seem happy with the process.  A couple of us were actually a little concerned that many aspects of the tour bordered on animal abuse.

After the ostriches, we went to Cango Caves.  I did the “adventure tour” but it wasn’t even half as cool as the caving in Budapest last summer.  The caves themselves were more active, though. 

Beautiful, eh?  The second picture looks like it’s under the sea, I think.  Very cool.  These caves started forming 20 million years ago but the stalactites and stalagmites were made 3 million years ago when the water in the caves drained.  Bushmen lived in the front of the caves 80,000 years ago but never traveled inside, due to “superstitions”, according to our guide. In this case I think superstitions is a misnomer- I’d call it “a desire to survive”. The caves were completely and totally dark, wet and cold, and impassable due to huge boulders and strange, dripping arrow shapes hanging from the ceiling. I don’t really blame them for staying in the warm, dry, well lit part. The inner caves were discovered in the 1780s by Dutch colonists.

That night we went to our first accommodation, Ingwe Forest Adventures in The Crags.

They do team building things with young people on a regular basis.  I really liked their philosophy and the way they run their camp.  They cut down the invasive tree species and used that wood to build the cabins.  He later noted that the camp was built in an American summer camp style.  That explained why my first thought was, “Girl Scout Camp!!!”.  They also collect rainwater to run the kitchen.  Although not an official national park, they have a couple hundred acres of fenced in indigenous forest with some wildlife, including wild boars, springbok and leopards.

The following morning I had planned on going whale watching, but it’s been storming a lot recently so they didn’t go out.  Instead I stayed at Ingwe and read for a little while.  It was so peaceful, I sat on the porch watching these beautiful bright orange bugs “play”, breated fresh air, and kept hearing horses neigh (there were horses in the next lot over).  After lunch we headed into Plettenburg.  We wanted to do a bit of shopping but we forgot it was Sunday, so instead we had some ice cream (which is not very good here, by the way…) and walked down to the beach.

(My new friend Sam.)

After the beach, we went to Monkeyland.

It’s a primate sanctuary aimed at rehabilitating monkeys, apes and lemurs that spent part of life as a pet, caged as a performance animal, or in an irresponsible zoo.  It’s free roaming, and all of the species live together fairly peacefully.  When a new monkey is introduced, it stays in a cage for a little while to adapt and then is let free.  Only a super tiny species, the Cottontop Tamarin, stay in cages because birds of prey could pick them off.  The look like gremlins, super creepy, but this one has two little babies.

We saw tons of Ringtailed Lemurs (don’t you want to get the belly?!  Except for the one on the right since there’s a baby there.)

And Black and White Ruffed Lemurs

The monkeys we saw most often were squirrel monkeys…

(This one is named Mrs. Bean.)

… and brown capuchins…

Because they are easy to train and are commonly the monkeys used in street performances.  Many come in severely malnourished because people feed them the wrong types of foods.  People abandon pet monkeys because they become too much of a hassle.  They’re also really smart, so you teach them to bring you a beer and open it for you and you think it’s adorable.  But then you come home and the contents of your fridge are scattered all over the house and it’s not so cute anymore.

There are also lots of tortoises, most with broken shells or missing limbs.

After Monkeyland was Tenikwa.  Sounds ambiguous, yes… but it is a wildcat sanctuary.

In case that doesn’t make it clear…

CHEETAHS LIVE THERE!

Among other cute wild kitties.

They had some servals, endangered because people hunt them for sport and native people want them for medicinal purposes.  I think they look like bunny-cats, which is super cute.

There were also two breeds of little cats that are the most immediate relatives of domesticated house cats.

The black footed cat is very shy and nocturnal.  They are extremely endangered due to habitat loss and secondary poisoning from jackals and small rodents they hunt.  The farmers poison the animals who eat their crops or animals, then the kitties hunt the poisoned animals.  They just looked like a regular house kitty.

The other isan African Wild Cat, which was also like a house cat.  It has pretty great camouflage and just reminded me of Cali Bean.

My favorite new kitty was the caracal.  They’re actually doing pretty well in the wild.  Their main problem is habitat loss, which leads them to hunt livestock and therefore farmers to hunt them.

That’s obviously not my picture but look at that pretty face!

Ginja, a caracal teenager.

We went to see the cheetahs next, but it was close to sundown and they were in play mode.  So… I didn’t get the pet them.  I almost cried, I really did, I had to walk away. Their names are Chester and Zimbali.

Chester

Zimbali

The good news is, there were two cheetah cubs, Zulu and Duma

Zulu

Duma

Thus, my life is now complete.

After Tenikwa we went to dinner at a really fancy pizza place and acted like proper adults.

=)

So that’s the first two days, I’ll continue writing shortly.

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6 Responses to “Garden Route: Ostriches, Monkeys, Big Cats”

  1. Mom Says:

    FINALLY!! Been waiting forever for an update. And finally, you got to pet a cheetah belly!! Cali will never talk to you again! Didn’t like seeing the cats in fences, tho, or were they there for your petting pleasure?

    Is the look of disgust on your face at the pizza place because you had to act like an adult, or due to what you were drinking? Which was…

  2. jessicakania Says:

    They weren’t there for my petting pleasure, actually. Except for the cheetahs, but you have to sign an indemnity form (I believe I signed my life away four times last week) to enter. (I got to touch the caracal because our guide happened to be very close with that particular cub and he was used to being picked up. But they have to be in fences… it’s a reservation, they can’t just roam around or they’d get into trouble, and I don’t think the different species are necessarily the best of friends.

    And the look was because it was a series of about 10 pictures feature all kinds of faces. And I was drinking lemon water, I think… the only free option, thank you very much.

  3. Kathy Says:

    Awesome— did you actually touch a kitty BELLY???
    Can’t wait to hear more…. keep ’em coming!

  4. aunt mary anne Says:

    And the adventure continues! I never knew that there were sooo many kinds of cats. I like the pointy eared ones best.. They look like Spock from Star Trec.
    Do you make up the names of the cities? lots of d’s b’s s’s and a vowel or two for fun cause you know we can’t check your spelling?
    Your mom said you went bungie jumping and loved it. I hope we get to hear about that..now that its over

    Also, I’d like to hear about your classes.

    Love ya!

  5. Latasha Webb Says:

    I think this was the best part of your trip so far (to me of course). Nice pics.

  6. Kathy Says:

    Where is the bunging jumping story? And the zip lining story? Patiently waiting…

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