The Purr of a Cheetah

Leanne and Michael petting the cheetahs

Leanne and Michael petting the cheetahs

We have just had one of those perfect days that included the surreal experience of making cheetahs purr with affection while petting them, wandering through a forest with lemurs, apes and other monkeys, and sharing a lunch with beautiful and overly friendly birds. To top it off we checked into a stunning secluded treetop lodge with beautiful views of the wilderness, our own private pool, and a wood burning fireplace Leanne roasted marshmallows on.

We left Cape Town for the long drive up the Garden Route, stopping in Mossel Bay to watch the surfers while having seafood for lunch. We spent the night at a contemporary masterpiece of a boutique hotel. It was created by one of South Africa’s most famous interior designers. We were the only guests, probably because the pricing on the Internet was eight times (a currency conversion issue) what it was supposed to be. I contacted the hotel directly because I didn’t believe it and was rewarded for doing so. For dinner that evening we walked a mere 200 meters to a neighbouring restaurant but we were drenched along the way. A light rain turned to a torrential flooding downpour halfway through our walk. We were wet and cold when we ate and happy to return to the hotel to enjoy the tub in our room.

The following morning the sun was out and the sky was blue. We had a wonderful breakfast set out just for us and ate outside while enjoying the weather. We left to visit a monkey reserve. It is a massive forested area where monkeys and apes that have been recovered from all over the world roam free. They are beautiful and entertaining creatures. It was my chance to see Lemurs up close since I missed going to Madagascar on this trip. We agreed that we would heed Canada’s travel warnings and avoid any country deemed too dangerous to visit, and Madagascar was still on that list due to a coup of the government this year and the resulting political turmoil and lawlessness that followed.

After spending time with the monkeys we visited the world’s largest free-flight aviary. It is a massive and attractive park filled with all kinds of brightly coloured birds. We loved our walk through here and stopped midway at a little restaurant for lunch. Despite having an abundance of food to eat elsewhere many of the birds seem to delight in the human attention. If you let them they will land on you and try to share your food, even pecking it from your mouth. While we didn’t let them stay on us, others did and one fellow behind us had a bird on his head and a couple on his shoulders and was feeding them from his mouth. The lunch was highly entertaining, and a bit gross.

In the afternoon we went to a rehabilitation centre for wild cats. Most animals need a fear of humans to survive so you don’t spend time with those that can recover, but you get to visit those that had been bred in captivity and rescued from zoos. These cats are remarkably happy. We watched a leopard on a cat post interacting with one of the staff, and visited large wild cats that look just like domestic ones on steroids. The incredible highlight though was getting to interact with them. To have a full grown cheetah come to you to be pet is something special. We spent a lot of time interacting with two adults and separately with two cubs. To hear and feel a cheetah purr so loudly under your own touch is really amazing. It was a special afternoon for us and something we will always remember.

Leanne in our amazing villa treehouse

Leanne in our amazing villa treehouse

After our high from being with the cheetahs we drove to a tree-top lodge where we are spending a couple nights. This place is absolutely incredible. Each guest stays in a secluded villa reached by platforms through the tree canopies and perched high up in the forest on stilts. We have two patios, a living area with a wood burning fireplace, a large bedroom with gorgeous views of untouched wilderness, a reading room, and massive bathroom and even a private infinity pool suspended high in the air. Incredible! Dinner was equally impressive and amongst my courses I had the best lamb tajine I’ve ever tasted. After dessert we returned to the room to find the fire going, hot chocolate waiting for us and marshmallows on a stick. Leanne roasted marshmallows and then we put on our robes and laid in the chaise lounge in front of the fire. The whole day combined was absolutely brilliant

More photos will be posted to the South Africa album when we get a decent Internet connection.

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