Inkwenkwezi: a purr-fect getaway

Helen Crooks

WHILE Chinsta East is renowned for its stunning beaches, bush lovers are also catered for at the four-star Inkwenkwezi Game Reserve which is a scant 10 minutes drive from the seaside town. And while the reserve, which boasts the big five, offers the usual game drives there’s a lot more to Inkwenkwezi than meets the eye.

The reserve also offers guided three- to four-hour hiking tours, guided quad biking tours, mountain biking and canoeing.

An added attraction – especially for youngsters – is the opportunity to interact with the tame elephant and cheetahs housed within the reserve.

Time constraints meant that we could only interact with the three cheetahs – two male and one female – which had been abandoned at birth. Rather than leaving them to die, they were given a two-hectare home at Inkwenkwezi.

We were assured that the trio were so friendly that they wandered around, mingling with lunch guests and following game vehicles.

Still it is with a certain amount of trepidation that you enter the enclosure: these are after all wild animals and therefore unpredictable.

In such a large, treed area you only have an 80% chance of spotting them, but we were lucky enough to chance on one of the males straight away.

The initial nervousness eventually gives way to curiosity and it is a real thrill and rare pleasure to be able to tickle these animals behind the ears and to be rewarded with a purr of pleasure – like domestic cats, cheetah purr with pleasure rather than roaring like lions.

Wandering a bit further into the enclosure we came across the other two cheetahs, basking in a patch of sunlight from which they were determined not to budge. Emboldened, we simply went up to them and were again allowed to stroke the magnificent duo.

Eventually it was time to leave but if we had had longer to explore Inkenkwezi we could also have experienced a similar experience with elephants saved from culling by the reserve, which also offers elephant walks.

With all the controversy surrounding circuses and caged animals, there are those among us who would frown upon these interactive experiences.

But these animals would not have survived in the wild – so why not give them a second chance while at the same time giving people a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Africa’s most amazing animals?

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