Panthera ~ My experience

I arrived at Panthera on Saturday 10th November, the ladies who own the sanctuary were getting married on that weekend, so things were a little different.

I was picked up at the airport by Kobin, he often did driving for Panthera, though usually you would be picked up by a volunteer co~ordinator.

Kobin was lovely & talked for the WHOLE two hours of the drive, I know all about the fires, the pear, apple & vineyards, the trees grown for paper, the pigs snout & LOADS of other stuff, he also very kingly did a little detour at Hermanus & we drove around the cove where whales are often seen, and we did indeed see one, which woke me up, he also showed me the flowers in the supermarket, as they were the ones he had told me about on the journey ~ such a lovely guy !!

On arrival at Panthera, all the staff were getting ready for the wedding & left at 3pm, so I was left with the four volunteers who had arrived the week before, we watched a video.

Sunday 20th

Went to the beach with the three volunteers who had arrived the week before. Hermanus is beautiful, the sea was clear blue, the waves were quite big & in the distance we could see at least one, possibly three whales, we also think there were dolphins playing around kite borders further up the beach, but could have been whales.

We went into Hermanus & had lunch at Fusions, then a wander around, I bought a plaque for my house.

On arrival back at Panthera I had induction with Sidney, one of she volunteer co-ordinators, she then took me down to meet the cat’s.

There was so much wedding cake left over, we had some for tea with some ice cream & candles as it was one of the volunteers 20th birthday.

We learnt how Martin the other volunteer co-ordinator met his girlfriend when she was a volunteer, she was now back to help in the absence of the owners & attend the wedding.

Went to bed at 9.30 & started to read Richard Peirce’s ‘The poachers Moon’

Monday 12th

Breakfast each day is toast or cereal.

Went with Martin & his girlfriend to clean water bowls & feeding camps. All the lions began to roar, which is apparently unusual at that time of day, so that was special.

I then attended a tour with Lindsey, a former employee who had come back to help whilst the owners were on honeymoon. The visitors are taken to each enclosure & told the cat’s story & visit Shani’s memorial, tours generally take 2 hours.

Then we went to help clear undergrowth.

Lunch is 12 ~ 3, we had spaghetti in a sauce with veg.

After lunch we did some enrichment, I decided to make some paper mache chickens for the caracals, complete with feathers, I put some rice inside to make them rattle & an egg as a treat..

Got taken to the supermarket to buy some food (breakfast & lunch is included, but you do your own diner)

Went to watch the ‘light’ feeding of the cat’s.

Tuesday 13th

Morning duty was checking the perimeter fence, following the fence to each corner & recording in a book, as you go around the fence, another part of the duty is to walk Max the Caracal & Pardus the black leopard, this involves walking around the outside of their enclosures, talking to them & encouraging them to walk with you, Max is ALWAYS up for this, Pardus not so much, though she did on this occasion.

Then we went to remove some poisonous plants growing alongside the road.

Lunch was salad, garlic bread & cheese.

Afternoon was clearing undergrowth, Joseph plucked me some feathers for my enrichment. Also had the chore of sitting & talking with Chaka the young lion & Arabella the tiger.

Wednesday 14th

Morning chore was cleaning the feeding camps, which involves cleaning & refreshing water bowls & removing any left over food & the odd poo, however, Sheba had gotten a bone stuck in his mouth so we only managed to do 2 camps, as the area was cleared for the vets arrival.

Carried on with enrichment.

Then we had Sammy Thompson come & do an ‘animal communication’ course with us, this was very interesting & relaxing, we did meditation, which is surprisingly easy at Panthera because the sanctuary free’s your mind, it’s still & void of the outside world. I will do a tab on this experience !!

Certificate – Debbie Groom

Thursday 15th

Morning duty was cleaning the kitchen, the porch & picking up dog poo. Spent rest of the morning on my enrichment.

Lunch was mac & cheese.

Spent the afternoon, clearing undergrowth to make a fire break.

Had a sushi evening for Lyndsey as she was leaving the next day after having helped over the wedding.

Friday 16th

Didn’t make a note of my morning duty.

Lunch was taco’s

Shadowed the 4pm tour, tourists pay to come & heat the cat’s stories, in the hope that they will spread the news of the lion farming in South Africa.

We went out on the evening for the 3 volunteers who were leaving the next day. We went to a little restaurant down by the water & had a lovely vegan curry. Then some of us went to The Soul Cafe which had live music, had a dance & a drink, got a taxi back, which is 400rand from Hermanus.

Saturday 17th

Chore was cleaning the kitchen & dog poo.

Watched the big feed at 9.30

Done more enrichment, finished off the chickens & started on some hanging items.

Lunch was vegan chicken burgers.

Did some more enrichment.

3.30 was time to walk Max & Pardus, Pardus wasn’t interested having had such a big breakfast.

New volunteers arrived, 2 German ladies, Nicole & Ilka

Sunday 18th

Sat & done some meditation & animal communication with Zakara the lioness.

Volunteers can paint a rock or log, either to leave a message or for one of the cat’s ~ I started on one for Zakara.

Went to Hermanus for lunch at Fusions with Stig the sanctuary manager & Si Lje, a returning volunteer, who had come to help after the wedding. Had nacho’s & bought a book in Stig’s favourite book shop, saw a whale in the bay & did some food shopping.

Monday 19th

Morning chore was kitchen cleaning & dog poo picking. Then clearing the undergrowth around Arabella’s enclosure,

Lunch was salad & had a nap.

Afternoon chore was cleaning the enrichment camp, where the cat’s go for a change to their own enclosures.

Walked Max & Pardus.

Watched the big feed of horse heads & legs.

Had a nice evening chatting on the patio  as the sun went down & the resident owl went about her business.

Tuesday 20th

Rained for most of the day, so spent time doing my rock.

Lunch was bean stew.

Spent time in the afternoon clearing undergrowth around the curio shop & Arabellas enclosure.

Spent the evening playing board games & cards.

Wednesday 21st

Morning chore was cleaning the kitchen.

Went on a hike to the ‘Pig Snout’, very beautiful & tranquil water fall, then into Hermanus for a lunch in an Asian Restaurant. Spent the remainder of my time in Hermanus by myself, bought some gifts & momento’s, got up close with some rock hyrax or ‘darcies’, had a coffee in the Blue Cafe while the others shopped for food.

Sat with Chaka & Arabella, then watched the big feed.

Was quite a cold day.

Thursday 22nd

Did 3 big camp cleans ~ removing poo, bones & old enrichment.

Did some feeding camp cleaning.

Did some undergrowth clearing.

Lunch was pasta.

Did some more underground clearing.

Walked Arabella & Chaka

Played cards & had a good laugh.

Friday 23rd

You don’t do any chores on your last day, so finished of reading a book which belonged to the sanctuary & then finished off my rock for Zakara.

Obi & Oliver had spent the morning in the Enrichment camp, went TWICE to see them being moved back, but they decided they would rather stay put.

Lunch was potato bake.

Spent the afternoon with the cat’s.

The evening was spent eating pizza, drinking wine & chatting.

Saturday 24th

Time to start the long journey home, had lots of hugs & photo’s, then set off for the airport, along the coast line of beautiful Hermanus.

Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary is in the countryside, it is VERY peaceful, all you hear is the odd vehicle, the odd strimmer, lions roaring, jackals cackling, birds, frogs & beetles, my mind for once was peaceful, an incredible feeling ~ no thoughts of the outside world, easy to slip into meditation. The cat’s are cared for above & beyond, they have many health issues due to the different circumstances they found themselves in ~ EVERYTHING is cared for, they are given the best & it shows in their stunning physics  & peaceful demeanor ~ the only time you see any pacing is when they know food is on its way, everything perfectly portioned & appropriate for each cat.

This is a true sanctuary, there is no handling, even though many of the cat’s were raised by the owners, there is no breeding & there is no dealing, these cat’s who have had the worst starts in life, will now live the best life they can, given that they are in captivity, the owners also run tours, teaching the public about the farmed lion industry in South Africa, a story which needs to be told again & again to end this abhorrent industry.




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