Donkeys are amongst the gentlest creatures on earth. They are also extremely strong, hard-working and hardy. This combination has, sadly, made them the victims of extreme abuse and neglect. In response to their ongoing challenges, Dr Johan and Annemarie van Zijl opened the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary in 2007, with the purposes of restoring health and dignity to these animals.
Situated in the pretty area of McGregor, this sanctuary offers the donkeys a second chance at living a life of peace, love and care. What began as a response to a request to foster two badly neglected donkeys from the SPCA has now grown into a fully fledged initiative, which translates into a restful home for these animals, many of whom have reached a ripe old age.
Some of the donkeys that arrive at the Donkey Sanctuary need to be treated for wounds, sores and illnesses; others are just hungry, tired and / or old. No matter what the circumstances, these animals are given refuge here.
Visitors are encouraged to come to the sanctuary, see their initiatives and support them. However, it must be noted that these donkeys are here to give them a break from the harsh realities they once endured. Therefore, it is not a petting zoo or a party spot. Tranquility is the order of the day. This has proved to be really successful, not only for the rehabilitation of the donkeys, but also for the hearts and minds of the humans that visit them.
The Donkey Shop, located at the sanctuary, sells notelets and bookmarks with paintings of donkeys, made especially for Eseltjiesrus. They can be ordered via the website or at the sanctuary, and the proceeds go towards the care and treatment of the animals.
Being surrounded by exquisite vineyards means that the sanctuary really is an idyllic haven for those that love the outdoors. Breathe in the fresh air of the Western Cape, listen carefully as a plethora of birds sing and call around you and keep your eyes open for them soaring overhead. The surrounding mountains, valleys and rivers immerse visitors into the splendour of South Africa.
The sanctuary is open to visitors from Thursdays to Sundays, 11h00 until 16h00. There is no formal entry fee, but donations are gladly and gratefully accepted. Usually, a guide is available on Saturdays and Sundays between 11h00 and 14h00. However, if you definitely want this guide to be available, phone beforehand and confirm that he or she will be there to avoid disappointment. The number is 023 625 1593.
On weekends, visitors are often allowed into the paddocks with the donkeys. However, this depends entirely on the donkeys and will be at the discretion of the guide.
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