Tenikwa – Spots and stripes
One of those difficult to spot species in the bush is the cats, or to be more specific, those ever elusive leopard and cheetah. So paying a visit to the Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre, just outside Plettenberg Bay is a privilege to which I am looking forward.
Having been relieved of my handbag (one can only carry cameras into the enclosures), we embarked upon our one-hour tour at 09h30, with our two little boys in hand. The centre is open from 09h00 and tours depart every half hour to 16h30. Our first stop appeared to be the good old domestic cat, only on a far grander scale, and can weigh up to 6.5kg. The African Wild cat is seldom seen and is the ancestor of our domestic cats. They were domesticated some 10,000 years ago, although others believe the Egyptians domesticated them around 4000 years ago, and are often depicted in Egyptian art.
This cat however, did not provide enough excitement for two young boys, so it was onto the leopard enclosure, where we were advised to pick up our boys, who might have made easy prey for ZweLakhe! The leopard was not keen to stick around and quickly retreated into the undergrowth, but we certainly had an opportunity to witness his unique rosette-shaped ‘spots’.
The boys were able to be lowered in the serval enclosure; a cat I had never seen and which had a wonderful combination of spots and stripes. It is somewhat smaller than the leopard but larger than the African wild cat, with ears that to me almost resembled a bat-eared fox. These protuberances make for an excellent sense of hearing and the serval can reach a speed of up to 80km per hour.
The caracal, a relative of the serval, was of a similar size, with characteristic ear tufts. These members of the cat family are often hunted because of their livestock predation, being capable according to our guide, to kill up to ten sheep in one night! Clearly they hunt for sport rather than food alone.
Our last stop was the home of two frisky young cheetahs, whom our guide certainly did not trust, urging us to once again carry the boys. However the cheetahs were in a docile mood and allowed us up close, although the male certainly kept a beady eye on my youngest! Both children remarked on how evident the “black stripe under each eye” was, courtesy of our Beautiful Creatures cds!
Tenikwa Wildlife Centre is run by Len and Mandy Freeman, who began running the Tenikwa Rehabilitation Centre in 2003. Since 2007, the income from the Wildlife Centre has served to fund the Rehabilitation Centre. Although I did not meet Len and Mandy, their commitment and purpose are evident through the way in which the centre is run, and the knowledge and professionalism of the staff. Tenikwa also runs a Transport for Awareness programme, which sees members of the local community transported to the centre, so that they can learn about wildlife and the environment.
Aside from the one hour guided tour, there are also sunrise and sunset cheetah walks available at 07h30 and 16h30 respectively, which may be combined with the one hour tour.
Contact & Other Details:
Address: Forest Hall Road, The Crags, Plettenberg Bay, Garden Route.
Telephone: +27 (0)44 534-8170
Opening hours: Daily. Tours depart every half an hour from 09h00, with the last tour leaving at 16h30.