Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem. ― A.A. Milne
Interacting with animals naturally appeals to humans. Petting a puppy is irresistible; a wild bird getting unusually close to us is fascinating. Their soulful gaze, elegant physiques and innocent acceptance of uninvited human guests is always deeply moving to me.
We recently spent a night in Oudtshoorn and visiting the Cango Wildlife Ranch was at the very top of my list of things I absolutely had to do there. Actually, if I’m entirely honest, it was the only thing on my list. I’d been there years ago as a little girl and couldn’t wait to enjoy the experience more fully as an adult. Bonus: this time, I was tall enough to go into the enclosures where animal interactions are on offer!
Much like a kid in a candy store, I couldn’t get to the Wildlife Ranch early enough. So, we arrived in time for one of the earlier morning tours. Our guide was friendly and knowledgeable about the animals, often trying his hand at some humour along the way.
We started at the enclosure with cute megabats (large flying foxes, to be exact), then moved onto the vultures, and then a playful otter that was definitely aware that she was entertaining us with her cool underwater moves. We went past the pygmy hippos that have to be kept apart because, despite being absolutely adorable to look at, they’ll fight to the death if they’re in one enclosure. A little dramatic.
We also went past the crocodile enclosure, which didn’t look particularly threatening with 20 or so prehistoric predators snoozing lazily in the sun. But, I wouldn’t venture waking one of them up. In summer, when they’re warmer and more active, visitors can dive with the crocs (protected in a cage, of course). I’m dying to go back so that I can experience them from under the water, where they’re a lot more graceful and comfortable moving around.
After a few more stunning live exhibits, we headed to the elevated walkways over the wild cat enclosures. We saw lions, leopards, tigers, servals and cheetahs. Being above the cats really helped with improving our visibility of them, because they can sometimes be well camouflaged in the vegetation. Like all cats, many of these were curious. The leopard and one of the tigers actually came toward the walkways to suss out their visitors, giving us the opportunity to see them more clearly, which was a real bonus.
After the guided tour, we could see some of the enclosures that didn’t require a guide. These include the snake tanks, where a collection of really stunning species can be seen with only a sheet of glass between you. Then, there was the porcupine den, and a walk-in aviary that is home to colourful parrots. These exotic birds get very friendly when they realise that you’re armed with a little cup of nectar for them. It was awesome to have them sit on our arms and lap and drink greedily from the cups. I also loved that they could choose to come to us or to enjoy their space further away.
Then, the real highlight. There are a few interactive experiences that visitors can share with animals. These are:
- Cage diving with crocodiles (in summer)
- Cuddling a cheetah cub
- Interacting with an adult cheetah
- Posing next to a giant tegu
- Sitting with a massive boa constrictor
- Letting the inquisitive lemurs jump all over you
- Getting better acquainted with a beautiful serval
I’ve played with a cheetah and been draped in a boa, so we opted for the lemurs. It was a really special moment when these Madagascan primates leapt onto our laps and shoulders and let us scratch their backs. The guide was knowledgeable about them and wanted us to enjoy as much time with them as possible, doing her best to keep them engaged with us. The photographer was also fantastic – taking dozens of photos for us to buy (or not).
From here, we went to the photo kiosk, where we could select our favourite shot(s) and have them printed as photos or on bags, T-shirts, mugs, and more. And what kind of tourists would we be if we didn’t have a couple’s lemur photo for our fridge?
About Cango Wildlife Ranch and Conservation Centre
This incredible centre is home to more than 90 different animal species from all over the world. The most exciting of these (for me, at least) include:
- Pygmy hippos
- A giant tegu
- A playful otter
But, this list is far from exhaustive. You really have to visit to experience the diversity. The facility is clean, well laid out, and full of added features and extras that make every tour fun for the whole family or tour group.
Cango Wildlife Ranch Facilities
There is a fantastic restaurant, where traditional favourites (like burgers and steaks) can be enjoyed, or more exotic dishes (like crocodile and ostrich kebabs) are on offer. The curio shop is full of awesome little gifts and keepsakes; ranging from gimmicks to clothes, from stationery to homeware, and loads in-between
Good to Know
The Cango Wildlife Ranch is pram- and wheelchair-friendly (but these are not available for visitors to hire).
The world-famous Cango Caves are only about 25 minutes’ drive from the ranch, while George (on the Garden Route) is a little over an hour away.
Staying in Oudtshoorn
SA-Venues.com has a wide range of accommodation in and around Oudtshoorn. These include quaint homes in the town centre, elegant lodges in the farmlands, and even luxurious tented suites in the heart of the Karoo. See Oudtshoorn accommodation to book your stay near the Cango Wildlife Ranch.
Contact Cango Wildlife Ranch
Phone: 044 272 5593 / 044 272 4167
Email (enquiries): firstname.lastname@example.org
Email (bookings): email@example.com
Physical address: Baron van Reede Street (on road to Cango Caves), Oudtshoorn