Only an hour from Johannesburg and 45 from minutes from Pretoria who could turn down a day trip like this?
Cruising along the single lane road, at the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountain range in the North West province I was elated to see that there are numerous great attractions on this one stretch of road.
I decided to focus on two of them but if you have time, I highly recommend staying over at Leopard lodge and also visiting the castle at Camelot Wedding venue.
This amazing facility was established in 1971 by Ann and was originally known as the De Wildt Cheetah Research centre, it was then changed in 2010. Over the years it has gained international recognition for assisting in bringing the cheetah back from the brink of extinction through its captive breeding programmes.
Over the years, close to 600 cubs have been born at the centre and reintroduced into the wild. The centre is also home to a pair of hyenas that were relocated from Bloemfontein when the zoo closed down. There are wild dogs and a few other rare and endangered animal species including the rare Egyptian vulture and Cape vultures.
Unlike most animal facilities, this one is NOT a petting zoo. You won’t be cuddling up to a cheetah or walking with cheetahs. The aim, after all, is to have as little human contact as possible so that they can be reintroduced into the wild.
If you want to see the cheetahs run, book a tour on a Wednesday ( Bryan Habana tried to race a cheetah in 2007 here but lost dismally ) He was after all trying to race the fastest land animal that reaches speeds of up to 120km/h in just three seconds.
The Ann Van Dyk centre currently has 86 cheetahs and 21 wild dogs ( the second most endangered carnivore in Africa )
I fell in love with the two king cheetahs. They are magnificent and dare I say they know it. The cheetahs we know have anywhere between 2000 to 3000 spots. The king cheetah has a mutated fur pattern and is one of the rarest animals in the world. It is believed that there are 30 left in the world and two are found at this facility.
Heathcliff, the male, lay on the ground purring while I took multiple pictures of him. Jules, who is kept in another enclosure lay biting her nails and rolling around for me all the while purring in contentment.
The centre is a non-profit organisation and receives no government funding
Income is generated through tours, an adoption programme, donations and sponsorship. I highly recommend booking a walking tour and learning more about these animals.
Ann is 90 years old now and stays in a retirement home. This remarkable lady dedicated her life to these animals, she never married or had children. The centre is now run by her nephew. Paging through two of the many books she written we can only be grateful for her commitment and endurance to ensure these animals live on in Africa.
Established in 1982, the herbal centre is known first and foremost for lavender. I have always dreamt of seeing fields of lavender. As Sandra Roberts, daughter of Margaret Roberts explained to me, water shortages are a problem, but she would also love to have fields bursting in purple all year round.
Walking around the farm that is only open on Wednesdays to the public I was immediately struck by the calm and exuberant tranquillity of my surroundings. Buzzing Bees surf the open spaces from flower to flower, desperately seeking pollen.
The tall lavender stalks sway with a salsa rhythm, nodding their heads in delight as butterflies flutter through the air with their velvet wings.
The Margaret Roberts lavender is registered in South Africa, it flowers nearly all year round and fully hardy. Its an upright, fast growing lavender that took Margaret 15 years to cultivate. The tough lavender will survive the harshest of South African weather conditions.
Further on, behind the Chapel is the very curious labyrinth
Take the time to put your cellphone away and walk through the labyrinth, breathing in the fresh air and listening to the sounds of nature. With carefully laid out paths for easy access to all areas, it’s a pleasure to wonder through the nursery, then amble on towards the tea garden (where they serve delicious cheese cake and fresh herbal teas ).
Not to be forgotten is the shop that is a real treasure trove of goodies. They say one must keep the best for last and how right it is. My last stop was the Fairy gallery, which houses the Fairy Castle that is built in a 1:12 scale. The fairies that were all handmade by Margaret and Sandra are from an exhibition that started in 1982, they have travelled all over the world. It’s a little girls dream come true walking into this magical fairy land.
The herbal centre is one of South Africa’s top ten gardens
With the aim of building wellness through herbs, medicine foods, organic farming, education and books. Margaret Roberts, the plant whisperer passed away in March 2017 but her legacy lives on through her daughter and granddaughter who both share the same love for herbs and health products.
We live in a beautiful country and are so spoilt for choice when it comes to things to do. Conservation of both fauna and flora are so important for future generations, let’s take the time to appreciate this beauty in our back yard and preserve it.