Day 140: Looking Back on Women’s Day: Cango Wildlife Ranch

At the beginning of the year, when the Coronavirus was still only in China, I set a list of goals (as opposed to New Year’s Resolutions) – one of which was to have a getaway at least once a quarter. Lockdown totally messed with quarter one and two, but as soon as whatever-minister-is-in-charge-of-tourism announced that intra-provincial travel was allowed, I was online to find things to do and places to stay like white on rice.

860 m above seal level. Downhill into Oudtshoorn in the Klein Karoo.

I found an amazing special to visit the Cango Wildlife Ranch. R200 paid for a guided tour of the ranch, a meal (from a selection of items), a non-alcoholic drink, and an interaction with one of the animals. I twisted Elizabeth’s arm to go with me and as always, we had a ball. We got there in the freezing cold, signed in, had our temperature taken, and stepped into a bath of animal-friendly sanitizer. We moseyed through the snake park while waiting for the guided tour to start. Elizabeth is terrified of them slitherers, but made it all the way through. Most of the snakes were still curled up, except the black mamba who was quite alert and curious. It rose up in a striking pose, but then lowered again, preferring to have a staring contest with me. By this time, Elizabeth had bolted. She faced her fear and for that I salute her.

I tried talking to it, but it didn’t respond. Clearly I’m not a Parselmouth 😦
Isn’t it a beauty though? I stood for quite a while hoping it would open its mouth, but alas.

The guided tour took us through various sections. We saw bats, Malawian cichlid (fish), pygmy hippos, porcupines, crocodiles, flamingos, lemurs, an otter, vultures, a Maribou stork, and various big cats, including cheetah and lions.

Our guide, Ronaldo, was very knowledgeable, patient, and had a great sense of humour. He spoke to us about various conservation initiatives, breeding programs that the Cango Wildlife Ranch is involved in, and adoption of an animal at the park.

Ronaldo explained to us that the bats have very large wingspans and that, contrary to the adage ‘as blind as a bat’, they can see 200 times better than a human being.

After the tour Elizabeth and I were hungry. We sat down at Turtles Restaurant and both ordered a cappuccino to warm us up. Elizabeth had a chicken burger and I opted for a crocodile one. Last time I ate crocodile was November when I visited Victoria Falls. The other food selections included bobotie, soup, a breakfast, and pie. Again, all hygiene protocols were in place. We were asked to sanitize our hands upon entering the eatery and kept our masks on until our food and drinks arrived.

Next we ventured into Karanga Forest, the enclosure where the lorikeets are. We bought some nectar to feed the birds who were clearly happy to see people again. I don’t think we realize how important human interaction with each other, or animals, is.

For some reason, a lorikeet always sits on my head… and yes, I am praying that it doesn’t shit, because I didn’t have a spare mask in my bag.
I’m getting better at the selfie thing, although it wasn’t easy with a bird on each arm (or would that be bird in the hand?)

After that we saw the wallabies and then went to the designated area for our animal interaction.

There is a choice of interactions – serval, cheetah, snake, tegu lizard, and lemurs. We both decided on the lemur experience because while you get to touch them (like you do with the other animals), they may even decide to sit on your lap.

Our friend for the day was Jolie, a black and white ruffed lemur. This species of lemur is endangered so conservation places like the Cango Wildlife Ranch create much-needed awareness about them and other animals that may become extinct. Her ring-tailed friends were close by, but not in the mood for people. The guides that were with us for the experience, Savannah and Leandra (I hope I remembered correctly!) explained to us that the animals at the ranch are never encouraged to do something they don’t want to; natural behaviour is encouraged throughout.

Jolie is quite a character – she showed off quite a bit before coming to her rock to interact with myself and other patrons. Her little feet were quite cold and her fur is super soft!

It’s not my first visit to the Cango Wildlife Ranch, nor will it be my last. I want to go back in the summer and do the crocodile cage diving. It is a great place to visit, for both adults and kids, and while you often see the same animals, there is always something new and refreshing. The staff clearly love what they do and are committed to conserving the species for generations to come.

All the crocs are in hibernation now. In this camp there is only one male. Happy guy, I reckon!

So, if you’re ever in or around Oudtshoorn, do yourself a favour and put an outing at Cango Wildlife Ranch on your itinerary. You won’t be sorry!

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