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Adventure Day 5: Casela Nature Park, Mauritius

We woke up earlier today so we could get on the road by 8am. We had signed the kids up at a Nature Park to be Zookeepers for a day. We weren’t totally sure what they we going to be doing other than, “helping to take care” of some animals. It was from 8:45 – 2pm and lunch was provided. That was the extent of our info, but the kids were game for trying it and Ty and I figured we’d be bored walking around this Nature Park for so many hours and we even brought books. Ha!

Traffic in the big city of Port Louis was our biggest issue. What should have taken us 45 minutes turned into an hour and a half due to rush hour traffic. So we showed up about 9:15. Ugh – we were stressed because you never know for sure if they’re going to say, nope you’re late, we cancelled your day! We’d like to think not but there’s always that small question. Thankfully after a very stressful ten minutes at the front desk area trying to get someone to check us in, we blindly raced through the park to the petting zoo area. Again, struggled to find someone on staff who knew where we were supposed to go. Finally a zookeeper takes our kids and goes off to find the rest of the program. Ty and I are left a bit out of sorts, drenched in sweat (the humidity here is a killer), and we’re talking with a staff member trying to figure out all these receipts for activities that we have. Turns out none of it is for us, the zookeeper comes back and races us back to our kids so we can turn in all their vouchers for activities and meet their program director. It was very fast paced and frazzling, but it got straightened out. We were so glad we got to meet Sindy, the program director, she seemed very put together, and wasn’t frazzled by our lateness at all. The kids did not seem thrilled to be going off on a safari initially but we hopped the day would improve.

Not sure how they feel about it initially.

That left Ty and I to figure out the activities we could do at the park, since it offers so much like 4 wheeling, walking with lions, big cat safari, jungle safari, petting wild cats… in addition to just walking around and seeing all the animals and exhibits they have on site. Since we were in the big cat area we went to the ticket office and she told us, the walking with lions was all sold out, and had been for days. However, we could go and pet a cheetah if we wanted, and I really wanted to pet the servals and the caracal. They’re just so dang cute! We also found out that you had to be 15 to interact with the cheetah’s, however, if the kids were tall enough we could bring them back at the end of the day and they could interact with the servals and caracal.

We paid for our cheetah interaction and headed right to their enclosure. It was Ty and I, a couple from Frankfurt, and a dad and his son. They really seemed to question the boy about his age, and if he was ready for the interaction. From what we saw, and comparing it to our experience at the Tiger encounters in Thailand a decade ago, this was a very well run organization. We went in with two zookeepers, and a photographer (of course). They didn’t force the cheetahs to come interact with us. We waited quite a while in the enclosure for one of the two twin brothers to lay down. Only once they were laying down did they get approached. They don’t bribe them with food or anything for our interactions, it seemed very dependent on the animals preferences.

We finally got a chance to squat next to the cheetah lying down. We were behind their heads and they told us to scratch just around his neck and head. Using force, ‘not tickling like with your cat or dog’. Their fur was so thick! It was just incredible, to be that close to a cheetah and then to get to touch one. I was over the moon! We got a million photos but they’re on a flash drive so all we can access are a few they airdropped to Ty’s phone, and they’re all of me.

Before you go in, safety briefing 😄
My heart was bursting!

After the cheetah encounter I was able to meet with the zookeeper for the servals. They had 4 servals in the enclosure but you only interacted with two of them. There was a mama serval and she loved attention. She had given birth to a girl and a boy a few years later. They allowed her to raise them so the ‘cubs’ were more wild and weren’t prone to interactions. But they had another older female and she was raised by humans and wanted the interactions. So I was able to pet and be close to those two older female servals. It was again, just so incredible to spend time with these incredible animals up close and personal. The zookeeper was a font of knowledge, and an amazing photographer as well. That was a fun bonus for me! Before leaving the enclosure, they ask, are you satisfied? To make sure you feel like you got your experience and time with the animals. I just thought it was so wonderful.

Eeeee!

Following the servals we went to the caracal enclosure. They only had two sister caracals, and one sister was notorious for not wanting anything to do with people. So they left her hiding in the grass after pointing her out to me. The more friendly of the two was still feeling “a case of the Mondays” according to the zookeeper. So she allowed me to pet her briefly while she was tucked under some grasses. But she didn’t stay more than a few minutes before getting up and walking off. Again, the zookeepers don’t force the contact, they encourage it, but allow the animals to choose. I was content, and wouldn’t ever want to do anything negative against these amazing animals so I was happy to give her some space and leave the enclosure.

Shy girl
😻

Ty was a bit jealous after he saw how awesome the little cats were, so we agreed, he needed to join in with the kids later. We then walked to ride the Tulawaka, a 760m summer luge, that’s basically a single person roller coaster and you can control the speed. It was really fun!

Fun there we ran around a bit trying to get on a safari but we kept missing busses by 5 minutes and in the end we would have been late to pick up the kids. So we turned around, and headed back through the park, so make sure we got them on time. On the way we decided to walk through the bird aviary and I’m so glad we did. Ty spotted Lincoln and we ended up tagging along with the kids for the last 30 minutes as zookeepers. They were having a blast, the other kids in the program were from Mauritius but spoke English, it was another brother and sister. Lunch was a fried chicken sandwich with fries, so the food was a hit. The big hit was they each got a peacock feather from the birds that were walking around.

When we joined them, they were just about to go and feed the bats. Ryder stayed outside the enclosure, but the other three went in. It was hilarious to watch how nervous the boys were but the littlest the sister, was all about it. Lincoln feed a bat, even touching its fur, and holding out its wing. Pretty amazing!

Holding the wing!

Then they fed fish in the ponds, and we learned some about the history of the park. We finished by watching 2 short 4D movies, that had nothing to do with the park or the animals but they were a big hit with the kids. After a final photo with the kid zookeepers and Sindy, we took the kids back to the Big Cat area for some interactions.

Zookeepers!

Lincoln needed zookeeper approval since he was right at the height limit for the servals. Then Ty, and the kids went in. Lincoln who was acting very nervous, was the first to go right up for his interaction. The kids said they were pretty nervous the entire time. But I’m so glad they did it.

Happy kitty loving family!

After the interactions we went and rode the Jungle Safari, it is a great way to see zebras, ostrich, antelope, giant turtles, rhinos, and even a giraffe. So incredible to see these animals able to roam around and not be in individual enclosures.

We were all quite exhausted, and sweaty by this point but we had talked up the Tulawaka luge by this point so we walked over after. It had just close! But I’m so thankful, it literally had just shut down, the staff all yelled for their manager who came over. He really didn’t want to let us, but we shoved our poor tired kiddos at him so he relented and had them keep the ride going just for us. Lincoln was too small so he had to ride with Ty, I knew Ryder would be more cautious with the breaks so I had her go after me. It was a total blast! There was a set of employees who were riding after Ryder, poor girls. Ryder kept on the breaks the entire time and I guess the girls were yelling at her to go faster. I’m sure that’s the not the end of the day ride either group had envisioned!

Apparently we shut down the Nature Park since the gates were all closed and we ended up catching a shuttle back to the front gate with all the employees that were leaving at 5pm.

Rush hour traffic was already miserable so Ty quickly found us a nearby mall where we went to get some dinner. Everyone was getting tired and cranky so some quick food and the decision to not buy some overpriced Pokemon cards. Then we were back on the road 45 minutes to the hotel.

Ty went for a swim, I spent the evening blogging and catching up on photos, while the kids plugged in. It was an epic day for our second to last full one in Mauritius.

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