Life is about the journey - some roads are not always what they seem but you sure learn a great deal from them!
Published July 12th 2013
Dance with the Wolves
The timber wolf is definitely not indigenous to South Africa. Of course, it is part of the dog family and you would be able to find other relations such the wild dog, the jackal, and the hyena. However, wolves do not roam wild within the South African terrain so to come across a wolf sanctuary is truly a unique experience.
The Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary was started with a small pack of timber wolves that were imported from Canada. The timber wolf is on the endangered list due to the gross misconception that wolves hunt humans and domestic stock. However, wolves are very shy animals and tend to stay away from humans and other types of civilization. From records, the culprit that is linked to the most livestock killed is the coyote.
You will always find an alpha male and female in a wolf pack. They are the only ones that breed within a pack and both the male and the female prevent others from mating. A pack can consist up to 40 wolves and every wolf has their place in the pack.
The Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary can be found just north of Plettenberg Bay. It does not have an exact map location, however it is off the N2 about 15 minutes north of Plettenberg Bay. It is open every day, and has a tour once a day. The Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary is not only the home to timber wolves, but also to African wild dogs, jackals and a huge selection of more placid animals (such as donkeys, llamas, emus etc) for the little tourists.
The look cute but these animals, the African Wild Dog, are known to be very agressive
We were en route from Jeffery's Bay to Cape Town when we noticed the wolf sanctuary sign on our left. There had been very heavy rains over the past week with many roads and facilities closed due to flooding. We decided to take a chance to see if the wolf sanctuary was open. We were all keen to stretch our legs and see some wild life on our trip.
African Tortoise - One of the more tamer of creatures you will see at theTsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary
We had about an hour before the tour started, so we took a little stroll through the facility to observe the animals closer than what we would be able to in the wild. We soon learnt that wild dogs are actually more aggressive than wolves themselves and seeing these creatures so close is truly a rare opportunity.
We were all a little nervous before entering a wolf enclosure. Of course, like misconceptions that the movie 'Jaws' created, we did not know what to expect, and stayed really close to the guide. One of the things we learnt is that wolves like to separate an animal from a herd. It was really important for us to stay together, while we observed the interaction of the wolves within the pack.
The alpha male was very assertive and could be seen instructing his pack to surround us. The guides were very good at ensuring our safety and explaining this whole process. I did take pity on the omega male, who was accidently caught between the alpha male and female in this "hunting" expedition. However, I learnt that each role within the pack was very important, and his role was similar to that of a "whipping block". While he did receive the most of the abuse, the alpha male always ensured that the omega wolf was never seriously injured.
The Alpha and Omega - you can see the difference in the body language. The Omega, in right of picture, is more submissive.
Our next adventure was an up close and personal encounter with a timber wolf. I was very aware at how powerful their jaws were and how quickly they reacted, so I made sure I stood my ground and respected the wild within the wolf.
I don't think anyone can truly explain the sensation of an encounter with a wild and notorious animal such as a timber wolf. Of course, I remained calm and confident within the compound which put the wolf at ease. Within moments I was stroking and interacting with the wolf. However moments like these don't last forever and soon we were en route back to the log cabin shop.
The Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary really has it all when it comes to a wild life adventure. It is a fairly long drive from Cape Town however it can can quite easily be a day trip. The staff are very pleasant and informative, so even though you may not be brave going into a wolf enclosure, you are sure to walk away with a wealth of knowledge and an adjusted perception of these amazing animals. I do suggest, however that you take a camera with loads of space on the card because you are bound to take a lot of photos.
A cup of Rooibos Tea decorated with home baked short cake and a lavender.
The Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary has a cafe on site which means that you can review your whole experience of a South African meal and a cup of tea. However, if you are planning to go to the Tsitsikamma Wolf Sanctuary, make sure you leave early in the morning so that you can enjoy a full day of encounters.