Judi’s Special Activity, Oh! and Wine Tasting

Cougar's clawsWe departed Cape Town on April 15th for a short drive to Stellenbosch, a small town about 30 miles from Cape Town that is in the heart of the Western Cape winelands. It is the 2nd oldest European settlement and is known as the city of oaks, due to the many oak trees lining both sides of most streets. The first day we walked around the town, which has an eclectic mix of small bars, cafes and restaurants serving the many tourists and university students. For our only full day we had a day of wine tasting planned, but made a small change to accommodate Judi’s special treat.

The picture may provide a clue to Judi’s special activity, so read on to find out.

Judi petting the cougar 8

Judi’s special treat – petting a real, live Cheetah

The winelands tour comprised visits to 4 or 5 local wineries and lunch, but upon request, Anel the tour company owner and our guide for the day agreed to replace a couple of wineries with the Cheetah Outreach Program in the adjacent town of Somerset West. This program hopes to prevent the cheetah from becoming extinct and also assists in supplying farmers with dogs to protect their flocks from Cheetahs, which were previously shot by farmers.

Our day started with a guided tour of the facility by a volunteer, who was a young lady from Germany. She started with a short film explaining the program’s history and the challenges endangering the Cheetah, both in the wild and from farmers by attacking their flocks.

Young Cheetah running alongside kids and a chap in a motorised wheelchair

Young Cheetah running alongside kids and a chap in a motorised wheelchair

We noted this and a couple of other young Cheetahs running with the kids and a chap in a motorised wheelchair, so the volunteer explained how they receive exercise by chasing a motorised dummy around a track. The wheelchair apparently made a similar noise.

Young Cheetah watching the kids

Young Cheetah watching the kids

Once the tour is over you can partake in additional activities of either petting an adult or baby Cheetah. The young ones were already a year old, so Judi elected for the adults. I freely admit to the “Chicken” label and took a rain check that will never be optioned, but Judi loves cats, even really big ones, so she signed up for the petting.

The organisation, safety and cleanliness is exceptional. Before entering you receive a safety briefing, wash your shoes in a disinfecting solution and use gel on your hands. Entering the enclosure with Judi, was the handler, an outreach photographer and a volunteer who took my camera. I couldn’t go with Judi, which is fortunate as I prefer to be on the other side of the fence.

Handler settling the Cheetah before Judi approaches.

Handler settling the Cheetah before Judi approaches

Judi had to approach the Cheetah from behind, never from the front. The handler had him laid out and relaxed for Judi to approach from the rear. The next few photographs are Judi petting the rear of a very alive Cheetah.

Judi petting the cougar 3

Judi petting the cougar 4

Judi petting the cougar 6

Judi petting the cougar 8

The Cheetah has almost 2,000 spots, which are all present from birth, which is why young Cheetahs look much darker. As they grow the spots grow apart. The spots are also raised slightly and are also present on the skin.

Cheetahs spots

Cheetahs spots

Cougar's head close-up 4

Needless to say, Judi was an extremely happy camper when she left the Cheetah enclosure.

On departing the Cheetah Outreach we commenced the wine tasting portion of our tour, with the first stop at Jacobsdal Winery. In addition to tasting their wines we also stopped for lunch at their bakery/restaurant. Their wines were generally very pleasant, but being over a week ago I just can’t remember any specifics. Our next and final winery was DeMorgenzon Winery.It was an impressive estate and tasting room, with again some very pleasant wines.

Tomorrow we head back to Cape Town Airport and catch the flight up to Sabi Sands Game Reserve for the safari.

2 thoughts on “Judi’s Special Activity, Oh! and Wine Tasting

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