There is something quite exhilarating about sitting next to a cheetah – perhaps it’s the most obvious – the fear of being mauled alive and the anticipation of that happening with every flinch the spotted cat makes.

So when I was told to lie down next to her and ‘cosy on up’ as if it was my husband, I must say my heart was beating out of my chest. As I ran my hand along her coarse patterned back, I could feel the vibrations of her purr. I may have been terrified, but she showed her enjoyment as she flexed her claws, retracting in and out of her massive paws.
This once in a lifetime opportunity to get up close and personal with some of Africa’s wild cats is an experience Emdoneni Lodge prides itself on being able to offer guests.

Central to Zululand’s main attractions in Hluhluwe, Emdoneni Lodge and Cheetah in SA on KarryOnGame Farm offers an intimate guest experience. The lodge’s chalets and rondavels are the perfect place to base yourself, with spectacular surroundings to enjoy while you unwind and relax after a day exploring the area.

Less than two hours from Durban, Emdoneni Lodge offers a dinner, bed and breakfast basis, allowing guests to sample the delights of true South African hospitality and cuisine. A Boma and sundowner deck is the perfect place to enjoy a few evening drinks and discuss your day with fellow guests.

While the lodge itself is an experience of South African adventure, their Cat Rehabilitation Centre is the ‘cherry on top’. The interactive tour gives guests the opportunity to learn more about South Africa’s endangered wildcat species, while giving a hands-on engaging experience.

My visit included the chance to get close to some serval cats, african wildcats and Caracals (Lynx) that had been brought to the Centre as orphans or due to injury in the wild. Remembering that these are still wild animals, there was a sense of caution stepping into each enclosure.  This was not helped as the experienced guide decided to throw a piece of the meat he had been feeding the caracal at my feet.  As the Caracal pounced on this part of his dinner, I could not help but think my toes would be next.  To the entertainment of everyone else, the caracal gave me the first of my up close and personal experience as promised.

The finale was yet to come however, as the group moved into the cheetah enclosure. Here the group took turns in spending time with two of the most beautiful cheetahs I had laid eyes on. Learning about how fast and agile these streamline animals are does not exactly assist with the nerves.

The interaction was more hands on than I imagined and when the time came to leave I felt a sense of amazement.  There are many experiences you can enjoy in South Africa, but hands down this one was up there with the best of them.

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Kate Webster

Kate Webster is an editor and travel journalist – writer and photographer – who travels the globe in search of vivid imagery and compelling stories that capture the essence of the places she visits. Born out of a life-long love of travel and fascination with the world around her, is Kate’s inspiration behind her writing and photography.

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  1. What an awesome experience. One for the bucket list for sure. Thanks for sharing, Kate.

  2. smart post. I have always loved your writing/articles/posts. keep it up

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