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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!