It is not always easy to view these amazing little mammals when one is out in the bush.
On our way back from the Eastern Cape, we joined Devey Glinister in Oudtshoorn for a couple of hours on a private piece of land belonging to De Zeekoe Guest Farm. Devey has been researching Meerkats for about 3 years on this very site.
We had to meet at sunrise ie 6am and of course, being Murphy’s Law, the weather decided it was changing from summer to winter the couple of days we were there. I am talking serious cold; this is after all Klein Karoo area. I had to really struggle out of bed at 5.30am and layer all the clothes I had onto my frozen body.
At our designated meeting point, it was pitch dark on a very dark road and because hubby always has to be a little early….nobody else was there yet. This made me very anxious. I was convinced we would be high-jacked or worse….thankfully, Devey eventually arrived in his pick-up truck, bush hat, boots and all! There were eight of us by then huddled on the side of the road and we all duly followed Devey convoy style to the designated Meerkat “spot”.
After some coffee which Devey provided, we were all given camp chairs and after a short hike to the spot where Devey had seen the meerkats disappear the night before, we set up our chairs and waited……and waited for the little blighters to show themselves!
In the meantime, I was praying for the sun to rise as my feet were completely frozen!
The Meerkats will not come out of their burrows till the sun has risen and warmed up the ground – clever little devils
Sunrise was spectacular!
Not long after, up popped the first one. Too cute, our frozen limbs forgotten, we all aimed our cameras.
As soon as they come out of the burrow, they stand up on their hind legs and face towards the sun. This is so that they can expose their solar panels which are on their tummies to the sun – did I say they were clever?
Usually, the dominant female comes out first and she will look around to see if there is any danger. After a while, another one popped up and then another, soon the whole family of about 20 were all scurrying around. One though was always the sentry, standing guard on the highest point he could find.
Once they had warmed up a bit, they started playing, grooming and mock fighting with each other – really lovely interaction and they also seemed quite affectionate with each other too, just like a large social family really. This went on for quite a while and I took some amazing photographs. They have become quite used to people, but one cannot make any sudden moves or any loud noises.
After about an hour, suddenly, the dominant male made a loud noise and scurried off. The rest of the gang immediately followed him and only then did they start to forage for food. As Meerkats do not store food, they need to forage all day to make sure that they have enough to eat. Insects, worms, scorpions, small rodents and birds all make up a delightful menu. If it is very hot, then in the middle of the day, they would have a siesta, lying down under a bush with their tummies on the ground to cool off – as before though, there will always be one Meerkat on sentry duty. All very civilised I must say.
Once they were out of sight, we packed up our gear and headed back to our vehicles. It was an amazing experience to see this gang of Meerkats in the wild – to me they look almost “alien” with their dark ringed eyes. They really are adorable though and I will always be grateful that I had this fantastic opportunity.
Have you seen Meerkats in the wild? Were you able to watch them interact?
PS: To book a Meerkat Tour, visit www.meerkatadventures.co.za