The Eye of the Beholder
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there is no better place for tourists to see the beauty of Africa’s most endangered big cat, the graceful cheetah, than at Ashia, a recently established wildlife sanctuary and education centre located in Paarl, a 45-minute drive from Cape Town.
Cheetah Experience Ashia is 35-hectare working agricultural farm where environmental values are applied with an emphasis on supporting the conservation of endangered big and small cats, particularly cheetahs. Founded in 2016 by husband and wife team Chantal Rischard and Stephan Illenberger, in partnership with Riana van Nieuwenhuizen, the founder of Cheetah Experience Bloemfontein, the aim of their sanctuary is to help prevent the decline of cheetah populations and increase the genetic gene pool through captive breeding programmes. These cheetahs will then be re-introduced into the wild through protected wildlife reserves by offering support to other ethical and sustainable conservation initiatives. They further aim to educate the public, especially the youth, about the plight of cheetahs.
Ashia is an African name, meaning “life and hope”. Through educational experiences visitors get to understand the urgent need for action and the critical need to protect these majestic predators.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, cheetah numbers have dropped from about 100,000 in 1900 to probably 6,800 today and now only cover about 23% of their historic range in Africa. Of these, only about 2,000 live in protected areas. The species loss today is about 10,000 times higher than their natural death rate. This is mostly due to human/animal conflict in rural settlements and on commercial farms where cheetahs are seen as a livestock threat.
Ashia offers an opportunity to aid in cheetah conservation through volunteer programmes, working holidays and research/internship programmes. Luxurious guest accommodation opened in January 2018, where visitors can experience farm life and cheetah conservation. Four spacious suites (3 x one-bedroom and 1 x two-bedroom) offer sumptuous comfort in relaxed surroundings, each en-suite with a fully equipped kitchenette. Guests can refresh and eat at the Café with its sweeping views over the Drakenstein mountains, browse through the extensive selection of high-end gifts and memorabilia in the Boutique Shop, or explore the beauty and diversity of the farm on foot.