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Posts Tagged ‘The Elephant Sanctuary in Plettenberg Bay’

Monkeyland treetops

If you read Part 1 of my overview of the Knysna Trip we took, you’ll know this post details the second half of our Saturday in Plett, during our content teams Knysna Weekend with our partners.

Saturday Mid-Morning

We left Tenikwa with heavy hearts, but were conscious that we were already running slightly behind on our itinerary (and it made me half-wish we had an Effie there to propel us onward to stay on schedule). So we madly dashed to the cars, bidding the wonderful Tenikwa staff farewell, and shot up the road to get to Monkeyland, which is the largest free-roaming primate sanctuary in the world!!

Canopy Bridge

We drove towards the massive enclosure rising up and towering above us. As I walked to the doorway chatting excitedly about what we were about to view, we were greeted by a chorus of “Welcome to Monkeyland” given to us by the international volunteers. They smiled, opened the doors and led us through a stone courtyard that had a tinkling a water fountain, into the main shop and reception area. Vijver (who gave me a tour of a sister site, the New Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, later that day) met us at the interior reception and led us outside into Monkeyland, telling us that Hamedi, the Head Ranger would be with us shortly – he was a wonderful, informative, humours guide, and it’s easy to understand why he loved coming to work each day. Standing and looking around as we waited for our tour to begin, I can say the setting was incredibly beautiful, and being a lover of forests, I felt at home under the lush canopy of indigenous trees, which conveniently blocked most of light rain that drizzled down.

Cappuchin monkeys

You can read my full thoughts about our experience at the largest free roaming primate sanctuary, on my Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary post, with a second post about it due to appear on my work blog soon (I had so many facts from Hamedi and so many memorable moments, I couldn’t try and cram everything learnt into just the one blog post). Needless to say it was another amazing experience, as we got to learn about the New World and Old World monkeys who make up the sanctuary, and discover their differences, habitats, how they use their tails, and how the rehabilitation programme works.

Spectacled Langur

The Cappuchin monkeys were very memorable, but it was sighting of the Spectacled Langur that made our fascinating journey through Monkeyland magical. He’s rarely seen by visitors, so for him to walk along the longest canopy bridge in South Africa, past us heading to one of the numerous food tables was incredibly special. Again, we were loathe to leave this beautiful sanctuary, but we were running late once again and swiftly headed off to visit Monkeylands other sister-site, Birds of Eden.

Channel-billed Toucan at Birds of Eden

Saturday Afternoon

Birds of Eden is the largest free-flight aviary in the world, and we could fully appreciate it’s size as we drove to the parking area – seeing the ginormous netted aerial space it took up. Heading in, we were met by Lee Decker, the curator, who was quick to smile, and just as quick to sternly inform some nearby parents to not encourage their children to try and touch the rehabilitated birds (who had to first unlearn habits ingrained from years of being kept by humans). It was both a humours moment and a learning one to think that bird owners, though showering their pets with love and affection, are also being cruel in not letting them live their lives as nature intended them too, especially those who buy exotic birds taken from their parents as chicks, to be sold for a profit. At Birds of Eden (as at Tenikwa) the birds are meant to be free to choose if they wish to interact with the humans who visit their aviary or not – and majority of the time, it’s a not.

Birds of Eden waterfall walk

Lee was wonderful, and stayed by my side for the majority of our tour, answering my questions as I tried to quickly scribble down (in a legible fashion) her wealth of information garnered by years of experience. There were numerous feeding tables set up around the sanctuary, and this is due to the same reason there were numerous feeding tables at Monkeyland: different species will almost always live together in harmony if there’s enough food. However, the second the food becomes scarce, fighting will break out in an effort to ensure that each individual can keep themselves fed. The moral of the story is a well-fed primate of bird, is a far less aggressive one.

Birds of Eden flamigoes

Birds of Eden too was truly beautiful, with all kinds of species living together, a natural waterfall set amid the trails cascading through the sanctuary was breathtaking to behold. Sadly, at this point, most of our cameras had died, and since it was our first official work outing, none of us had considered bringing along the camera chargers (which we should have done as we dined at the Jakaranda Cafe and the cameras would have had ample time to charge! A lesson learnt for our next trip). Desiree did a full breakdown of our time spent here, which you can read at our work blog. It’s titled A Visit to Birds of Eden. I’ll also come back and update this post with my full experience at a later date (or do a separate post on it later in the year, don’t worry, I’ll also provide the link when it’s up ^_^).

Elephant sanctuary ellies

Saturday late Afternoon

The Elephant Sanctuary in Plettenberg Bay was another incredible experience (how can you walk alongside these beautiful gigantic mammals without being moved?! But yes, I do acknowledge I need to work on a better descriptive word, apart from “incredible”) We were greeted cheerfully by Pieter, the manager, signed our indemnity forms, and headed in to grab some warm green waterproof ponchos and some more hot coffee. The ponchos were very welcome as the rain had started coming down during our late lunch at Birds of Eden, and showed no sign of letting up. So though you may look at the photographs of our time here, and harbor a suspicious that our group looks like we’re in an eco-movement cult (which we’re not – though we’re avid supporters of conservation), the ponchos didn’t detract from our Elephant experience in any way.

Leading Thandi

The girls of the content team (Lauren, Desiree, and I) got to walk the three female elephants chosen for our experience. They were Maroela (who was the herd leader and eldest elephant at 19 years), Jabu (the name is short for Jabulani meaning happiness, was a teenage elephant) and Thandi (yes, another Thandi – the name is a Xhosa one and it means “loved one” which I certainly felt towards her). Desiree took the lead with Maroela, Lauren followed with Jabu, and I led Thandi at the back of our pack.

Thandi smiling

It  was thrilling getting to approach Thandi, look into her chocolate eyes fringed with very long eyelashes, before I was advised by guide (Robert? Rodney? Ray? … I feel awful I don’t remember his name as he was fantastic) to turn and let her trunk gently fold over my  out-stretched hand. It was as though I was enchanted, as I led her from her afternoon relaxation alongside the waterhole, and into the forest thicket, feeling no fear of her bulky body or large but-ever-so-careful feet. Her warm breath brought life back into my frozen fingers, and I had no qualms discovering that, when I withdrew my hand at the end of the walk, my palm was covered with a layer of caramel-red mud, remnants of the dust in her trunk mixing with her warmed air. The guides lined up alongside their chargers, and they showed us their natural training programme – whereby the elephants are taught to do certain natural movements that they would in nature, to a command issued from their guide. Maroela was up first, and at the command of the strapping lad beside her, she gently knelt on her front knees, as she would as if she was foraging along the forest floor (though in nature, she would use her tusks to dig up grubs and leaves). Jabu followed her lead, and at a command from her carer, she unfurled her trunk and gave a loud, deafening trumpet, which she would do as a warning to other animals entering her space. Elephants also trumpet to clear out any dust or dirt which enters into their trunk – their only air source, and fifth appendage. Thandi, the doe-eyed elephant I walked was last, and again, at the command of the wonderful guide who’s name I cannot remember, curved her trunk up to protect her left eye, and unfurled her ears to flap them. This is done in the wild to cool down (as the ears have large veins, so when the blood in that cools, it is pumped to the rest of the body to cool it down – amazing hey!) and also as a sign that’s she’s about to charge. So if an elephant ever does that to you in the wild, get out of dodge as fast as you can!

Hubby, Thandi Ellie and I

Dani, Peter’s wife, Peter, and Darryn got to lead the elephants back, after they first held tail to trunk and walked around the forest clearing, before being assigned to the eager hands of our companions. We got to go back and feed them apples, which was fun, as animals can also show they’re not shy to ask for seconds, or twelfths!

We were led into an enclosure to watch a presentation and do a quick Q&A with Lloyd, who was our official head guide. Read all about our full experience on Lauren’s post about it: Enjoy an Elephant Experience For Life.

With time getting away from us again, our group split as Lauren and Dylan, Des and Keegan decided to return to the cabins in Knysna to freshen up for their evening restaurant meals.

Dani, Peter, hubby and I instead headed through to Plett Puzzle Park for an overview of the facilities, while I got to experience my final animal encounter on the trip.

Grompie's mate and hobbit house

Very late Saturday Afternoon

The New Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary (actually, it’s still just Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, but since it was originally in Mossel Bay and they’ve moved, I’ve dubbed them new to differentiate the setting), is located within the Plett Puzzle Park, which my husband, Peter, and his wife Dani got to view, while I was privileged enough to be allowed into the newly populated park, which was not even open to the public yet!

Hyena sister

I was excited, nervous, but above all humble about the fact I was getting to meet some of the most amazing wildcats in the world, along with several other wildlife species, such as hyenas. Vijayer welcomed me (remember, I mentioned her in my Monkeyland post) alongside Rob and Steve, who were both movers of the wild cats to their new home, as well as guides, and go-to guys for the new Jukani. Vijayer’s friendly smile and caring attitude put me at ease, even after learning I’d be viewing the snake enclosure first (I actually don’t have a problem with snakes in the slightest, but snakes being moved, especially exotic and poisonous ones got my heart thumping quite loudly). Luckily, the enclosure was vacant of the cold-blooded reptiles, as it was still in the process of being completed, and as she deposited a handful of driftwood in the corner, which would be added to the various snake enclosures, I got to view the beautiful artwork already backing many of the new displays. We moved out and entered into the wild life area. Large expanses in each animal enclosure were populated with their natural flora, such as a wood at the back of the tiger enclosure, and an expansive plain with long grass dotted around it in the lion enclosure. There were strange little hobbit-styled hills in each animals habitat, and Robert explained that this was both a viewing point for the animals on the exterior, as well as a sound-proof shelter which they could enter to evade the elements, and stay in if they didn’t feel like seeing visitors.

Tsau the white lion

Impressed with the preperation and care taken with the wild cat habitats, we set of too meet the residents, still getting used to their new surroundings. Grompie was my first wildcat viewed here, though technically Kara, his mate was the one I spotted first. She was snoozing atop her new hillock home, but opened her eyes as she heard our approach. Grompie quickly came into view, and he was beautiful and rather subdued, due to the move. I quick gained a healthy respect for him came closer, and I got a good look at his sharp teeth as he puffed as he approached the fencing.

Angelo

Robert filled me in on the various Jukani residents, and their often sad-but-inspiring stories about their arrival, the resident that touched me most was Angelo, the blue-eyed White Siberian tiger, though Jukka the Bengal tiger and Tsau, the white lion also hold a special place in my heart. Read my full post about my Jukani experience at The New Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary, on my work blog. I’ll update this section further when I get a chance. After bidding the Jukani team farewell, I met up with the others exiting the Puzzle Park, and we raced back to our cabin to get ourselves ready for our dinner, at Sirocco (Dani and Peter) and Firefly Eating House (hubby and I).

The post on Firefly Eating House, Spice and Chai Bar on the TravelGround blog is already pretty lengthy, and I did an in depth overview of it already, so click on the link above to read the full post. It is a highly, highly recommended restaurant, with incredible food pairings, friendly service, and beautiful decor. I’m thinking of trying to make the Tom Kha soup at home some time, if I do, I’ll post the recipe and some pics.

On Sunday, we visited Sue, owner of the beautiful Belvidere Manor, located in Brenton-on-Sea. We had a delicious breakfast of scones and coffee, and then toured the premises. Check them out.

Until then, ja ne for now. ^_^

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