Then think of a cheetah purring: a strong sound like that of a blender, dedicated to you, who is caressing it! But is it possible to approach the big cats even if you are not an expert? Are you sure? And above all, is it right to subject animals to this kind of activity? Then allow me a little digression on the ethics of these meetings before telling you of my emotions in walking with lions and cuddling cheetahs.
Ethical considerations when walking with lions, embracing cheetahs, taking pictures with lions… and so on
Yes, I know that there is a great deal of controversy about this phenomenon, which sadly sometimes leads to the exploitation of the animal. And that is exactly what we are trying to fight. It is a very long and complex discussion, and it involves a series of innumerable considerations. But to make it short, what we think is that men are inseparably connected with all the other living creatures on this planet and that every man must have the opportunity to approach nature to learn, but also enjoy the interaction with any other species, obviously in an ethical and controlled way. The joy of this wonderful experience of contact is a privilege that should not be reserved only for a small group of individuals. If done respectfully and professionally, walking with lions becomes not only exciting but educational. One remains indelibly connected with nature and realizes the importance of conservationism.
In short, after having done so many, in different ways, for so many years, with so many species of animals I can safely say that I am not opposed. The important thing is to go to the right places, where these beautiful huge kittens (because they are nothing else, believe me!) are saved or otherwise treated with all the respect they deserve.
Walking with lions, embracing cheetahs and taking pictures with lions
In South Africa you can do something really special: one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences that leaves an indelible mark on your heart, whether you love animals or not, and whether you have the will and the courage to approach them. By making the right stops along the way it is possible, in some particular situations, to meet the big cats up close.
You will find yourself in a fairy tale walking with young lions and lionesses who, although free to move within the reserve, are accustomed to the presence of the man who then considers it as a “friend”. By sure, they are in any case potentially dangerous animals, but, thanks to the presence of expert rangers, it is possible to approach them and often touch them.
Some of you will find it hard to believe, but we are convinced that, as we have pointed out in other articles, any animal that grows with man behaves neither more nor less like our dogs and cats (which sometimes, we know, can be equally dangerous). And so we suddenly find ourselves sitting on a trunk, in the middle of the African forest, sharing a beautiful sunny day with a feline one meter high and twenty and two and a half long. And, although you can perceive its power, an amazing expression of the power of nature, you feel an immense desire to cuddle and play with it as if it were just a soft puppy.
In some recovery centres, however, you can meet the fastest animal in the world: the charming cheetah, with his face furrowed by fake black tears that descend on his smart face, to protect the deep eyes from the reflections of the scorching African sun. You can take him for a walk just like you would with your pet, make him rest, smell everything, play … and so on. And after a long walk, let it sleep on its lap, listening to the noisiest purring in the world. The cheetah belongs to a particular category of felines which, in spite of its length of one and a half metres (plus the tail), is similar to the “small felines”. These have a bone called the hyoid at the base of the tongue, which allows them to purr but not to roar (on the contrary, the “big cats”, have flexible cartilage for roaring but can not purge real).
It is really difficult, believe me, to deny that, all in all, they are only pets, as we have so many in our homes. And the cheetah, although he can not even portray his claws as most of his cousins do, shows us full awareness in knowing that he risks hurting his “friend man” and then plays, licks, respects him, as long as it is in turn respected.
What to do in South Africa besides walking with lions and cheetahs and taking pictures with lions
Walking with lions, caressing a cheetah and taking pictures with lions is just one of the many emotions that a country as special as South Africa can give you. But there are so many things to see and do in South Africa that it’s hard just to put them in order. Even deserted areas like the Karoo and Northern Cape have wonderful landscapes, with fascinating stories just waiting to be told. Fortunately, there are roads (Routes) in South Africa that group together the most interesting destinations in each region.
On the Whale Route, for example, you can cross all the best sighting points for Whale Watching from the ground (which we will discuss more specifically in another article), and cross magical places like Hermanus, from where you can see the whales and their young a few meters from the shore, thanks to the high depth of the seabed. Feeling their breath and looking them in the eyes is always a unique emotion.
Then there’s the Crayfish Route, which passes through many characteristic fishing villages where time seems to have stood still while the rest of the world continues to change. With breathtaking views, the restaurants serve the best fresh fish in the country, freshly caught directly from the shoals of the Atlantic Ocean.
And so on with the Brandy Route (Route 62), the many wine roads (Franschhoek Cap Classique Route, Constantia Wine Route, Stellenbosch Wine Route), the Diamond Coast Route and, “last but not least” the popular Garden Route.
The “garden road” starts in Mossel Bay (where you can make one of the best dives with white sharks in the world) and, after three hundred kilometres of lush forests, craft shops that alternate with shopping malls, beaches and whale watching points, ends in the picturesque Tsitsikamma National Park.
The points of interest along this road are so numerous that it is impossible to even list them. If well organized, a road trip of one or more weeks can allow the traveller to appreciate all the many facets of the beautiful African continent simply by crossing the Garden Route, perhaps with a few small detours.
See the colonies of the Cape penguins, meet the local populations, do wonderful safaris, visit the ostrich farms and Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of the continent, where you meet two oceans and that is still sufficiently off the beaten track as opposed to the more popular Cape of Good Hope.
I imagine the amazement of many in reading these “strange” words, and in seeing the photos of this marriage. But I wish everyone the opportunity to experience such a strong emotion as sharing a healthy walk with these splendid examples of the wonderful masterpieces of mother nature.