A few months ago, when Mum and I were still planning what we’d do in South Africa, Mum had come across a cheetah experience in the town of Bloemfontein. This town wasn’t on our itinerary as it was a little out of the way and in the middle of nowhere, but when she read that this place offered the opportunity to volunteer for a day and to interact with the cheetahs and leopards there, she was intrigued. When she read that they had wolves, she signed us up.
So coming forward a few months to our trip to the country, we flew from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and then onto Bloemfontein – there are only direct flights to this tiny three-gate airport from Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban.
The flight was our first time at having two flights with a short stop in between and I’m glad that we made our connecting flight because the plane was the smallest plane ever! I’ve never been on an aeroplane without a jet engine on it and watched the propellers start up with great interest.
Anyway, we landed in Bloemfontein and the next morning we made our way to the north of the town for our 9 hour volunteer day. Our day was filled with quite a lot of fun and also some labour.
The first thing we did was a short induction with the other volunteers during feeding time. We hadn’t seen any leopards or cheetahs in the wild so this was the first time we saw these great cats. We then helped to sweep and tidy up a few areas.
After this we helped to make some items for the animals’ “enrichment”. This is basically to introduce some new smells or sensations into their enclosures to give them something new to do. What we did was spray cardboard boxes with different smells – honey, balsamic vinegar, air freshener, vanilla essence, essential oils – and also making a few tubes for the African Wild Cats or the meerkats to play with.
Some of the animals were for it, some not so much but there’s little we can do to change that!
Whilst we were here we also helped to feed all of the animals there:
- Two lions
- The Canadian wolves
- And even a Siberian Tiger which was currently homed by this place
It was pretty awesome.
For two hours of the day, we sweeped dust off of a cheetah running track – think a greyhound track but with rust-coloured dust everywhere. Then add another truck load of dust and you’ll have a good idea of the area we were helping to tidy.
We also go to go in and interact with some of the animals on a more personal scale, which was lovely, as you can see in the pictures above.
And with that and a short amount of time taking it easy in the town centre the next day, our time in Bloemfontein was over.
We were on-route to the east coast next, to discover what Durban had to offer. To reach this final destination of our trip together we, again, had to get one flight to Johannesburg and then another to our final destination.
Sadly, our first flight was delayed and we ended up missing our second flight. After a bit of an argument with several airline staff, we were put up in a lovely hotel for the night. With the stress of that day still heavy, Mum and I enjoyed a few drinks and a wind down in our own rooms – paid for by South African Airlines.
But we arrived in Durban the next day and enjoyed our short stay there. We hung out by the beach for most of our day there and we spent our two evenings on Umhlanga enjoying cocktails and great food.
After the second night in Durban, I was dropped off at the airport alone. After three weeks together, I left my parents to travel down to George for a work-stay in a hostel on the south coast.