January 31, 2018
 

In the past few issues, we have been extensively featuring the lesser known and exotic attractions of South Africa along its famed Garden Route. On a familiarization trip organized by South African Tourism in September this year, a group of travel agents and media experienced several adventure activities and went up and close to the wildlife of South Africa. From the Birds of Eden and Monkeyland in the Plettenberg Bay to the various game reserves across the Garden Route, the safaris facilitated great close-ups with the jungle kings, winged and tailed wonders as we learned about how some of the species were rehabilitated.

Birds of Eden

The Birds of Eden shelters around 3500 or more feathered wonders of varied hues and sizes in 220 different types of species. The tour along the sanctuary takes about an hour and as the guide explained about the daily routine and stories of the birds, one red parrot accompanied us throughout the tour. His innocence tempted us to touch and pet him and he was more than willing to hop on to our palms, but we were strongly advised to discourage the act so as to help the bird, who was once a music humming pet in an Australian home, forget his past. There were exotic and multi-hued birds that were quite at ease in front of our cameras. The guide told us that the new arrivals undergo a process of rehabilitation before they enter the actual sanctuary because most of the birds that arrive there have a caged past and some of them were also not used to flying or seeing other birds. The sanctuary aims to provide a stress free life for these birds in a natural habitat. Some of the birds included golden parakeet, pheasant, flamingos, African cranes, etc.

Monkeyland

In close proximity to the Birds of Eden at a few minutes of walking distance, Monkeyland is the world’s first free-roaming multi-species primate sanctuary. For the first time, I saw more monkey species than I had previously in books and on television. There are more than 700 primates such as Lemur species; the Black and White Ruffed Lemur and the Ringtail Lemur, Spectacled Langur and the Hanuman Langur, Black Howler Monkey, Bolivian Squirrel Monkey, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, Tufter or Brown Capuchin, Red-backed Bearded Saki, Vervet Monkey and Monkeyland's only ape species the White Handed or Lar Gibbon (Hylobates lar). The one-hour walk across the sanctuary threw light on the history of many monkeys now under rehabilitation here. These monkeys lived in a somewhat quiet harmony under the green canopy of Monkeyland. We were advised not to touch or go too close to the monkeys as many had just gotten over fearful and abusive pasts with humans. The walk was dotted by small puddles and ponds and a canopy walk that make for great photos. There is also a restaurant and a souvenir shop for tourists to pick memorabilia.

Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve

Located along South Africa’s Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape Province, Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve offered what I call the most rugged and thrilling wildlife safari experience that I had thus far. Into the reserve on the safari jeep, the cold breeze did nothing to dampen our spirits as the safari guide drove strenuously up and down the uneven terrains in the reserve. The drive to was across a stretch with sparse vegetation, muddy puddles with deep dents that the driver had maneuver through with all his grit. We saw several springbok deer grazing across the reserve, wildebeest, warthogs darting across.

Once inside the lion reserve, we were instructed not to shout or stand up or stretch our arms out of the van at any instance. Lions and lionesses and cubs in brown and white lay relaxed as they saw our van. They couldn’t care less, we were told, as they were aware that only the white vans brought them their food. They were being fed by the reserve as there are not too many preys for them to hunt. Even though they were used to humans around them, it is needless to say that unnecessary pranks and histrionics would warrant their attention and put us at risk. We took a good 20 minutes to take various shots of the lions even as we couldn’t help looking at a lioness who stared at us as her cub came near our jeep. After coming out of their enclosure, we had refreshments before we left the reserve. Inkwenkwezi‘s varying landscapes offered superb photography opportunities, many of them spruced up by springbok and wildebeest. There are tented camps and lodge accommodation available in the reserve for those looking to stay and explore at leisure.

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