Monday, June 27, 2011

Meerkat Manor

Friday afternoon I emailed the woman at our hotel to see what time we would be seeing the meerkats and received a response saying “Sunday morning, weather permitting.”

What? Weather who? I’ve been emailing back and forth with this woman for about 2 months and was very clear the only reason we were making the 4 hour (each way) drive for one night was for us to see these meerkats. She never said there was any possibility that it may not happen.

I tried to ease my worries by reminding myself it has rained a whopping 3 times since we’ve been here. Surely she didn’t mean anything by it and surely it wouldn’t rain on my very last weekend and very last chance to see these little guys.

When we finally made it on Saturday afternoon my nerves were on edge. My face had broken out in an allergic rash and at one point we had to pull over to find some Benadryl because the right side of my throat was swelling. I have weird allergic reactions sometimes, but when having one in the middle of nowhere South Africa I tend to overreact.

As we met with the lady and were checking in she said she really hoped we’d see the meerkats, but with the cold front it didn’t look good since they don’t come out when it’s cold. It was currently freezing outside.

My rash-covered face could not hide my disappointment.

Since I had taken the Benadryl (they usually knock me out) and we had to make sure my reaction didn’t take a turn for the worse, we spent our afternoon reading and hanging out by the fireplace in our room.

At dinner we were greeting by Shelton, the resident meerkat man. He showed us some pictures and said he was very hopeful that we would see the little guys tomorrow since it would be sunny. He explained that another group had tried to see them for the past 3 days to no avail. “It will be good tomorrow, I’m sure we’ll see them” he said.

I wanted to believe him, but our odds weren’t looking too good.

We were up bright and early Sunday to ride out to the meerkats. It was one of the coldest rides of my life. I couldn’t help thinking “no way they’re going to be out”, but then as we came over a hill, Sheldon said “Look there- do you see them?”

see those little meerkats standing up?

See them standing? Probably not, but they’re there, just in the middle.

I was estatic! We parked and slowly walked towards them. A few ducked back into the burrow, but after a few seconds came back out to stand in the warmth of the sun…



Shelton spent 2 years getting this colony of meerkats comfortable with humans. He knows them all by sight and gave us the brief history of them recently losing their dominant female, the aging dominant male and the 6 month old babies. It was awesome to be so close to these little creatures.

We were there with another group of people staying at the hotel and after about an hour they asked to go back to the hotel because they had scheduled a horse riding tour. I started taking my final photos and bidding goodbye to the little meerkats.

Shelton then came over and asked the Wife and I if we’d like to stay longer. Um, obviously.

He took the group back to the hotel and we sat down amongst the colony. The wife was very sweet and took the camera in case one came up to me. None of them actually came right up to us, but I can’t begin to tell you how cool it was to sit right next to a burrow hole and have little meerkats pop their heads out, look me over, and decide I’m okay enough to sit next to for some sunbathing...


It was so awesome!

Shelton came back and we spent another hour or so just observing and of course taking a million photos…






Just us, Shelton and 15 meerkats-it was like being on our own private set of Meerkat Manor! So incredible…


This was our last weekend in South Africa and a pretty awesome one at that.

Depending on the volcanic ashes coming out of Chile, we’re hoping to spend the weekend in Buenos Aires before arriving in Rio on Sunday.

I may have used up all my good weather luck with the meerkats though…


and it was totally worth it!

Pics from the weekend…

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