New Home for Cheetah Experience
The Cheetahs Move to Bela Bela - September 2020
For the whole of September the team in Bela Bela were working day and night to finish the cheetah enclosures in preperation for the big move. There was foot fencing to be completed, gates to be made, electric fencing to be put up and of course a lot of clearing of debris!
We are so tired but so happy to have managed to complete all of the work in time!
In the last weeks of September we were busy painting transport crates to move into the enclosures to allow the cheetahs time to get used to them, as well as packing up much of the farm in Bloemfontein.
At the end of September we are pleased to say that everything was ready!!
On the day before the cheetahs relocation, the vehicles all arrived ready for the next day. We made lists and checked them off, had piles of things ready to be loaded alongside the cheetahs. Lots of plans were reviewed till we were certain everything that could be ready was... our vet was on standby should we need to sedate any of the cheetahs to load them into the transport crates..
The next morning was filled with excitement, anticipation and of course nerves! We had planned for all eventualities, but would the cheetahs follow the plans..
Loading of course took time, with so many cats to crate we had divided into teams, but soon we loaded the last cheetah onto the transport vehicles and all sighed with relief before breaking into huge smiles! Every single cheetah was loaded easily, they all walked into their crates with ease and comfort, we did not have to ask our vet to assist with a single cheetah. It was incredible, a remarkable feat with such an awesome team!
The drive from Bloemfontein to Bela Bela took over 6 hours, but also went without a hitch. All of the cheetahs were unloaded just as easily as they were loaded and they all settled in to their new home for the night.
It is expected that when you move any animal to a new home that some will settle easily, while others may take a bit longer... The cheetahs however decided to defy logic and by the end of their first full day all of them were happily exploring the new enclosure and environment!
It is really like they were just as exciting and happy to move, as we were to show them their new home!
Bela Bela Update - August 2020
For the last few months the staff at the new farm in Bela Bela have been super busy getting things ready for the animals and people.
The land is rocky and full of trees/bushes so there has been a lot of clearing to do to mark out enclosures and fence lines. This is not easy work and has definitely taken a bit longer than we had hoped, however the end is in sight.
Although we do not have a moving date as yet, there has been a lot of progress, the cheetah camps are in the final stages of completion with just a few little things left to do. The lion/tiger camps just need the electric fence put up, and then the finishing touches with the building of the houses and the tiger pond installation.
Serval, caracal and leopard camp poles have been planted, with the fencing set to start very soon!
It's amazing to see how far it has come already in just a few months!
Things in Bloemfontein have already started to be dismantled and packed up, we have managed to move quite a lot already but it is amazing how much gets accumulated over the years :p
We will update you as we know more, but for now keep an eye on our social media pages to see photos, videos and news.
New Land Announcement
To our supporters, friends and family,
When Riana first arrived at what is now Cheetah Experience, there was no money, no food, no furniture,
no fencing and no garden. It was just Riana and her first cheetah, Fiela. Since then, Riana, her
dedicated team of staff and army of volunteers have grown Cheetah Experience into the life changing
project it is today.
As many of you know, Cheetah Experience is currently on rented land. For a long time, we have wanted
to find a place of our own, where we can build bigger enclosures for the animals and further our
ability to release cheetahs into the protected wild. We have found the property of our dreams, and
finally our dreams are becoming a reality!!
Our new home is based in Limpopo, in a town called Bela Bela, 1.5 hours from OR Tambo airport in
Johannesburg. The property is 272Ha, more than 22 times as big as Cheetah Experience now!
This property offers us so many possibilities! We have designed and begun to build bigger more
beautiful natural enclosures for the animals. Our intention with the property will be to continue with
the volunteer project, cheetah breeding project and educational guided tours. On top of this we also
want to offer game drives – day and night, wildlife walking tours, photography safari’s and eventually
open a cultural village.
The farm was being developed into a resort which means that there are 18 completed units with 1,
2 and 3 bedrooms. There is a main house, plus a further 2 houses that will need some maintenance
and work. Additionally there are 14 apartments that are 90% completed, we will turn these into our
volunteer village. Each apartment can fit 2-4 people and we will build a communal lounge/kitchen
area to maintain the social aspects of the volunteer house currently.
The central feature of the farm is the completed entertainment centre/lapa and swimming pool adjacent
to the units. This will provide an additional area for socialisation, and possibly even a café in
The landscape is beautiful, lots of indigenous trees and bushes that will provide natural shade and
rest areas for our animals. Also the wildlife which roams free including zebra, nyala, kudu and impala,
as well as caracal, jackal and even brown hyena! We have been monitoring the wildlife with a camera
trap as well as identifying spoors.
You guys have all been here and seen the struggle we have had to maintain a good meat supply.
Many times throughout the year our freezers have been scarily low on meat. Trying to secure suitable
game meat for the cheetahs is a huge challenge. This farm is surrounded by game farms, and the antelope
already living on the farm will provide us with an element of self-sustainability. We have always
wanted to be able to feed the cheetahs a more natural diet, that doesn’t include any meat that they
would not naturally eat in the wild such as chicken and cow.
As we drove to visit the property, there were numerous caravan and camp sites that were packed
with visitors only a short drive away.
Our belief is that the development of the farm will create a lot of jobs for the local community, not
just during the initial building stage, but also in the long-term. We will continue to access local schools
and educational facilities in order to educate the future generations and we know that we will bring
in more visitors to the area.
The game farm is situated only 90 minutes from Pretoria and the university vet hospital, on the outskirts
of Bela Bela. The university hospital has already helped many of our animals including surgery
on Liberty the cheetah’s cleft palette, Lia the bat eared fox’s broken leg, and surgery and check-ups
on Legacy’s legs.
The farm is situated only 12 minutes away from the tourist town of Bela Bela. In Bela Bela there is a
shopping mall, restaurants and bars, take outs and supermarkets inc Nando’s and Romans pizza to
name a few. There are many different things in the surrounding area that not only attract tourists but
would also be available for the volunteers to check out including ziplines, paintball, big 5 game reserves,
animal parks and sanctuaries. We are also based only 4.5 hours from Kruger park and 4 hours
from Botswana making it possible to organise trips for groups.
For the last 6 months we have been busy with all the paperwork required for this exciting new step.
From the paperwork involved in the purchase, to writing up a business plan and submitting permit
applications, everything took some time. We managed to submit the permit applications (there was a
lot!!) on Riana’s birthday, and finally we got the approval to go ahead 3 months later on Poofy’s birthday!!!
The planning stages took a lot of time and work, we had to survey the land, decided where to
position enclosures, design the camps and finally work out how much everything is going to cost!
We are super excited for the future!!
Enclosure building is already underway, thanks to the generosity of our volunteers and supporters all of the enclosures have now been sponsored!
It is incredible!! We are truly overwhelmed!!