A tour of Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre is an ideal add-on to any safari or wildlife lover’s itinerary. This Garden Route wildlife sanctuary is unusual in that it rehabilitates terrestrial and marine creatures, and offers visitors an opportunity to get close to six of South Africa’s seven indigenous wildcat species.

Did you know?

Black-footed cats, half the size of a domestic tabby, are among the rarest indigenous cats.

Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre specialises in the rehabilitation and conservation of indigenous South African wildcats. This Garden Route wildlife sanctuary exists foremost to mend injured creatures (not only wildcats) and reintroduce them back into the wild wherever possible.

Wildcat tours at Tenikwa begin with a guided Sunrise Cheetah Walk. Limited to six adults, or children taller than 1.5m, the experience lasts 90 minutes as guests accompany two cheetahs on a meander of the cats choosing.

Most guests then move on to the Wildcat Experience. This is a one-hour guided walking tour, suitable for the whole family. First, guests are taken through the educational awareness centre before meeting servals, caracals, leopards, African wildcats, black-footed cats, and cheetahs in enclosures specially designed to mimic the cats’ natural habitat.

During the encounter, guests are discouraged from touching the animals, with the exception of non-sighted visitors who are permitted to feel the cat’s fur under a guides’ supervision.

Even just observing, you’ll get near enough to these amazing felines to hear them purr and maybe feel a whisker-tickle or two, as your guide explains their unique attributes, the threats they face, and how your being on a wildcat tour at Tenikwa supports the centre’s wildlife rehabilitation programme.

Though used to humans, these are wild cats, so stick to taking their pictures and savour watching them, up-close, in near natural surrounds.

If you’re not an early-riser, opt for the Sunset Cheetah Walk that concludes with sundowners, snacks, and a chance to learn about the plight of Africa’s threatened cats from Tenikwa’s owner-managers, Len and Mandy Freeman.

Other tours on offer are an exclusive four-person wildcat photographic safari, and a full-day Crazee Cat experience where you’ll enjoy two cheetah walks, a wild cat tour, and spend time with the keepers during their daily routine.

Visitors to Tenikwa can also see marabou storks, blue cranes (South Africa’s national bird), endangered African penguins, and meerkats. Education is central to Tenikwa’s conservation message, and their non-feline residents are valuable in educating guests on biodiversity and the interconnectivity of species within the food chain.

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