March 2nd; Swellendam to Inverdoorn, Through the Waboomsberg
We left Klippe Rivier reluctantly, after the best night’s sleep in ages. We loved the old country estate and wished we could have stayed on another day. Leaving Swellendam on the R60 we rode through rolling hills of farm land and some vineyards. From R60 we turned towards Montagu and then into the Waboomsberg Mountains. The passes were a lot of fun, but unfortunately, it is impossible to take photographs of the best riding roads. We temporarily forgot about the cameras and enjoyed the drive.
We followed R318 through several passes, then a short stint on N1 before a turn off onto R46. Our destination was the Inverdoorn Nature Reserve and Western Cape Cheetah Conservation project and guest lodge.
The road turned from hard surfaced “tar” roads to gravel on R355 and R356, which lasted approximately 15 km. The ride took us 3 ½ hours, so a short day of riding.
Inverdoorn is a private game reserve on 10,000 hectares (about 24,000 acres) with over 1200 wild animals. They have three lions, three rhinos, giraffe and many of the other wild animals you expect on a safari game drive.
But it is the Cheetahs, nine of them, that we came to see. We had bad timing on the Cheetah viewing as a vet had been there the day we arrived and the afternoon Cheetah close encounter had been canceled. But we were promised a surprise during the evening drive.
They have done many good things here, including rescuing many of the animals you see during the drives. The largest lion, a beautiful, huge, black-maned male, was rescued from a farm where they beefed them up on steroids and sold them for “hunting trophies.” This handsome guy would have ended up on someone’s wall or floor. The practice of canned hunts (lions in fenced enclosures sold for “trophies”) has been outlawed. Inverdoorn has had their lion for almost nine years and have two females as well. They have also rescued three rhinos, and have signs out warning poaches of the dye they have injected into the horns. The poaches have threatened not only the rhinos here, but the workers’ lives too. The Cheetah rehabilitation program has been in place since 2001 with specialized care, breeding, and repopulation.
Our evening surprise was that we were alowed to watch the cheetahs exercise. They run the cheetahs on a dirt runway, letting them chase a rag bundle pulled along at a high rate of speed by a machine at one end of the runway. There are viewing stands and you get to see the speed of a cheetah in action. It was growing dark as we watched this, so my photos isn’t as good as I had hoped, but you get the idea. The cheetahs are beautiful.
Inverdoorn was a nice experience for Cheetahs and the closest we have gotten to rhinos, but since we have had game drives in the wild, it seemed less of a safari experience knowing the area is fenced and the animals fed. They have to feed them as the land was over farmed and has lost all its nutrients. They are working hard at restoring the land and doing good things. The guides are dedicated and full of information.
The dinner was wonderful and the lodge facilities are very nice. The natural beauty of the Karoo is a stark, empty beauty and the lodge area is set up with local vegetation that thrives in the dry climate. With Bedouin tents and drought tolerant shade trees Inverdoorn gives visitors an oasis under the vast skies of the Karoo.