After we left Knysna, we headed straight inland for Cango Caves. Discovered by a farmer in the 18th century, they were explored and used as a concert venue that could hold up to 2000 people until the 1980s, when someone realized that having 2000 breathing people, plus an orchestra and an entire stage crew in a cave that hadn’t seen people for millions of years was slowly destroying it. We arrived just in time for the 11 0’clock tour, and our guide was . . . interesting to say the least. He took his job VERY seriously and actually said at one point “No one will interrupt my tour today!” Eek! Ok buddy, you lead, we’ll follow.
The caves are amazing and though we only saw about 1/3 of what is on offer, they were incredibly impressive. The first few chambers are the largest, and the most intricate in terms of the features the stalactites and stalagmites formed. Definitely check out the pictures for this one, as the caves are really hard to describe unless you’ve actually been there!
After the caves, we decided we needed a bit more wildlife in our lives. On the way to the caves we had passed Cango Wildlife Ranch, which, according to Lonely Planet, had a great collection of big and endangered cats which were in easily accessible enclosures. The Ranch also has a special cheetah breeding program, so basically always has young cheetahs running around. Again we arrived just in time for the tour, and headed around the Ranch to see the pigmy hippos, a sleeping lemur, some flamingos, a few turtles, some giant crocodiles and then the cheetahs, white lions and white Bengal tigers.
The cheetahs were ADORABLE. There were 9 three month old cheetahs, 5 five month old cheetahs, 3 nine month old cheetahs and one grown one. The little ones were just like little kitty cats, shy and scared of us at first as we walked by, but then curious and they came out to have a look at us looking at them. It was lunch time for the five month olds as we walked by, and they ran to their food all excited and practically jumping over each other for joy trying to get there first.
The while lions were absolutely beautiful. They were a mating pair, and their fur was a stunning creamy white. The male’s paws were humongous and even though they were sleeping peacefully in the shade under the walkway, you could tell that they both possessed an immense amount of power and grace. White lions exist only in captivity, and the Ranch is hoping to have a successful breeding program with them.
Finally we saw the white Bengal tigers. They were a bit farther away and also lying in the shade under a tree, but you could still clearly see their stripes. There is no difference in species between the orange and white Bengal tigers, but rather a recessive allele which prevents the colour in their fur. White tigers also exist mostly in captivity.
Before we went to the Ranch, we knew that petting cheetahs was an option. After our tour, we were both IN. We decided the frisky 5 five month olds were the best ones to visit, paid our money and took off our sunglasses (apparently they will attack ‘themselves’ if they see their own reflection). They were just the cutest things EVER. Still a bit fluffy from their baby fur, and skinny, as the cheetah is an incredibly lean animal. They were very curious about their new visitors, and came right over to us to see what we were about. We gently held out the back of our hands to them, and they actually started licking our hands and fingers! If your cat has ever done this, you will know that cat’s tongues are quite rough and a bit prickly and tickly. We posed for a few pictures with them (included in the price of the cheetah experience is a lovely glossy 8×10) and just petted them for a few minutes. Such a cool experience and well worth the R160.
By this time it was definitely lunch, and we headed into Outdshoorn where we found a small cafe that served the incredibly popular ostrich burger. The town is famous for having lots of ostrich farms around it, and you can even ride one if you feel so inclined. After lunch we headed back to the coast to Mossel Bay, and checked in at Mossel Bay Backpackers. The very nice hostel guy gave us a private room for the price of a dorm (with a light that turned off!!!!) and the modern conveniences (hot running water) were MUCH appreciated, as we still hadn’t showered since before heading to the beach the previous morning.
By this time I had emailed Mom and Dad, letting them know that I was seriously thinking of staying in Africa. We managed to talk on the phone, and their basic reply was: “Michelle, you fall in love with every place you visit. So stay a while, and you can do Southeast Asia later. We support you in whatever you want to do, so just be safe and have fun.” I seriously have the best parents ever!! “Oh, and we’re going to Tunisia in February with Uncle David and Auntie Maryanne.” << JEALOUS!! We’ll see how the rest of southern Africa goes . . . I may find myself in Tunisia in February!