Paardeplaats Nature Retreat
On Paardeplaats the pristine nature will mesmerize its visitors in many possible ways.
Waking up each day to a magnificent sun-rise and the song of birds, one can enjoy unspoiled nature on foot, hiking one of the five walking trails, on the farm.
On arrival at this eco-lodge, with it’s superbly restored old mining ruins, you will find a temporary home in one of the four spacious cottages.
The Fauna & Flora, as surely as the camera has replaced the hunting rifle, will revolutionized traditional family activities. With the growing popularity of nature walks, a unique attraction when venturing out on foot, particularly on a ‘Full Moon Hike’ is the sighting of one of Paardeplaats’s resident cats: the caracal, the serval, the civet or even the leopard.
The Caracal is a medium-sized wildcat native to Africa. The name of this cat comes from the Turkish word ‘karakulak’ which means ‘black ears’ and black ears are a characteristic feature of the caracal.
Although the caracal is considered a small cat compared to other wild cats, it is among the heaviest and fastest. It is also referred to as the Persian Lynx or African Lynx although it is not part of the Lynx family. It is more related to the Serval and the African Golden Cat.
Historically caracals had importance in many cultures around the world. In Egypt paintings of caracals and bronze sculptures have been found and also embalmed carcasses as well.
This means that they were of great importance to the Egyptians. In China, emperors gave caracals as gifts. In India, caracals were used by rulers to hunt small game and also their coats were used to in making fur coats. This also shows that domestication of caracals is not something new but rather started centuries ago.
Little is known about the African serval– but they are an intriguing species. Their exceptional hunting skills have earned them the reputation as the ‘savannah stalker’. The second fastest running cat, after the cheetah, servals are remarkably successful hunters and catch their intended victims about 50% of the time as opposed to other cats that succeed around 20% of the time.
Strong and slender, these beautiful animals could be the Naomi Campbell of the bush. They have the longest legs of all cats relative to their size, making them one of the tallest cats, with longer hind than forelegs. Their average lifespan is ten years in the wild. The longest living African serval in captivity is estimated to be 23 years of age.
The serval is sometimes preyed upon by leopard and other large cats, but their numbers have dwindled largely due to human population taking over their habitat and hunting them for their pelts. In South Africa, serval is listed under the Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS) Biodiversity Act and as such are subject to rigorous legislation to ensure their welfare and survival.
A solitary nocturnal animal, the African civet is a small, agile mammal found mostly in forested woodland areas where they spend most of the daytime sleeping and resting in the trees, safely off the ground away from predators, which include large cats, crocodiles, and snakes. They are very good swimmers and are rarely found in arid areas as they need to be close to a water source like riverbeds.
They have perineal glands that produce a fluid known as civet, used to mark territories – this is also used in the perfume industry to create the aromatic base, musk. Civets survive on a diet of rodents, reptiles, insects, eggs, fruit, berries and birds.
The African civets are not members of the feline family, which some people are led to believe. They have a short, dense coat that is greyish in color with black spots and have a grey face with a black band around their eyes, making their appearance raccoon-like.
The African civet usually gives birth to 4 young and nests in an underground burrow in order to raise her young safely. Civet babies are quite unusual in the fact that they are born with fur and are quite mobile from a young age. They stay with their mothers until they are old enough and strong enough to fend for themselves.