This was one of my favorite days yet on our trip! Brad is a Google search king—I am more like a pauper—and a while ago he searched for activities in Jacksonville, FL and found a really cool big cat rescue. This rescue has a few scheduled days a month where you can go watch the cats being fed and since I love big cats, I was sold on going! It was two hours away and didn’t open until 6:00 PM so we decided to make a day of driving down to Jacksonville by stopping at Jekyll Island on the way.
Jekyll Island is just one of the many islands in Georgia that is part of the islands knowns as the Golden Isles. After crossing over a large bridge to get to Jekyll Island, there is a mandatory pay station. It cost us $6.00 to get on the island and it was defiantly worth it. We didn’t have to worry about paying for parking like on other islands and going to the state park and other sites was included in the price.
We parked by the new shopping and restaurant plaza and beach access was right there! It was turning out to be a hot and sunny March day and since we had been in the truck for a while, we walked on the beach to cool off and stretch our legs. Afterwards, we found a nice lunch spot on the patio in the plaza, a very nice, clean, and well maintained area surrounded by cute shops, multiple restaurants, and cafes. The beach and plaza were getting busier by the time we left to find the state park.
On this island, the park is called Driftwood Beach and you guessed it. It is home to another bone yard beach! I wasn’t lying when I said I am getting obsessed with taking pictures of those types of beaches! It proved to be just as beautiful and unique as the others and we enjoyed sinking our toes into the sand and walking along the shore taking in the scenery—exposed large tree roots from trees lying on their side, the interesting bumpy texture of a tree stump, and the crash of the waves. This island was one of my favorites and we could have easily spent the day there. Not only is there the driftwood beach, the shopping, the restaurants, and beach, there is also a trail that goes around the whole island. We saw many people riding their bikes on the trail.
We left Jekyll Island and headed to Florida in the late afternoon. Once we passed into Florida, we saw a sign for free orange juice at the visitor’s center so we stopped. When in Rome, right?! The cat recuse called Catty Shack Ranch Wildlife Sanctuary (such a clever name!) is located right outside Jacksonville. The parking lot is small, but someone was directing traffic when we pulled up. The admission cost is $15.00 per person and goes right to caring for the animals. The price of admission includes a forty-five minute tour to see all the animals, free time to walk around after the tour, and the night time feeding at 7:30 PM.
The Catty Shack is home to twenty-four tigers, three lions, six cougars, four leopards, one bobcat, two foxes, and two coatimundis (like a long-tailed raccoon). All the animals have different stories on how they ended up at the sanctuary. Some were bought as a personal pet, others were at a zoo that closed down or at a zoo where they couldn’t afford to keep them. Still others were bought for a breeding program and since they were not breeding, the program didn’t want them anymore. The main thing they all have in common is that they couldn’t be cared for previously. Since they cannot be released back into the wild because they would not survive, it is great that they have place like the Catty Shack to call home.
There were a few amazing observations that Brad and I noticed on the tour. The first being the staff loves all the animals and the animals know the staff. We were standing in front of a tiger cage and the tiger was just looking at us. The owner of the Catty Shack came up to us and started to talk to us and the tiger went crazy! He started rubbing against the fence (just like a house cat would show affection by running up against your leg) and purring. When the man walked away, the tiger was looking around for him. Second, some of the animals went crazy over feeing time. The male lion roared and was pacing and so did a different tiger. Others took the food so gently and delicately. One thing that was the same with all the animals is that the sound of raw meat being eaten makes a crunchy noise, since they eat the bones and all (OMG. “Yuck,” says me who doesn’t eat meat!). Third was how knowlegable the staff was about the animals. They knew the personalities of all the animals and what was best for each of them. They also knew a lot of basic information about each the breed. For example, lions sleep up to 20 hours a day and tigers up to 16 hours.
Crazy Catty Shack facts:
• Their electricity bill is $3,500 a month.
• 650 pounds of meat is served each night.
• It cost $300 per day to feed the animals.
• The largest cats eat 20 pounds of meat a day.
• All staff are volunteers.
• The sanctuary off admission fees and mostly donations.
• On a clear day, a lion’s roar can be heard up to 5 miles away.
• Hearing that lion roar in person is crazy. We couldn’t image being out in the wild hearing that roar!
Daytime and night tours are scheduled. A fundraiser during which you can camp in the sanctuary is called the Roar ’N Snore but no worries, the cats stay locked up. If you are one to donate, this is a great place consider. If you are in the Jacksonville area, look up this place. This was a fun and adventurous day and we look forward to sharing our next adventure!