Panthera Africa Big Cat Sanctuary in Stanford is one of those magical places that transports you to another world. The atmosphere created by the presence of these big cats is palpable, and creates a silent reverence in even the most jaded of visitors.
There are currently nine lions, two tigers, a black leopard, and three caracals living at Panthera Africa. Walking past the enclosures on an educational visit, I was struck by how relaxed the big cats look, lounging on their platforms or lying in the grass. Raise, the Bengal tiger, even walked with the group, almost as if he wanted us to have a better look at him!
The founders and owners of Panthera Africa, Cathrine S. Nyquist and Lizaene Cornwall, left their established careers in finance and Human Resources respectively, to start Panthera Africa. Their dedication and passion to the sanctuary shines through their eyes when they speak about their big cats.
“We started Panthera Africa to give a safe haven to these big cats,” says Lizaene. “Most of the big cats here were rescued from facilities where they did not have adequate care and we have managed to give them a happy, healthy life here.”
A mere one year after opening, Panthera Africa received a certificate of excellence from TripAdvisor, evidence that tourists love the experience. Currently they are listed as the number one activity in Stanford.
As the visit ended, I was struck by the care and love that seemed to fill each aspect of the sanctuary; from the love the guide had for these animals, to the small wooden ornaments that the volunteers had made to honour their time with the big cats. Whoever visits Panthera Africa, seems to open their heart to something larger than themselves.
Panthera Africa is open every day except Tuesdays.
Current prices 2017: R240 adult, R150 children under 13, R190 pensioners.
Book in advance online: www.pantheraafrica.com to avoid disappointment.