Watching meerkats in South Africa? Is it worth it? Isn’t it rather the “Big Five” that you must have seen in South Africa?
No, because South Africa’s wildlife has a lot to offer and meerkats are definitely one of them. Oudtshoorn is an almost ideal place for this. Oudtshoorn passes many vacationers on your way to the Garden Route and can be used perfectly for a stop during your vacation.
Oudtshoorn and meerkats
Many holidaymakers explore South Africa individually by rental car. A “classic” is a tour from Cape Town via the Garden Route to Port Elisabeth. Oudtshoorn is located in the Klein Karoo semi desert in the Western Cape province. The city of Oudtshoorn was founded in 1847 and is the largest city of the Klein Karoo with about 70,000 inhabitants. Oudtshoorn is known as the stronghold of ostrich breeding in South Africa. In addition, the region with the Swartberg Pass and the Cango Caves cave system and even the meerkat tours offers great holiday highlights that more than justify a stop. We spent 2 days in Oudtshoorn and were impressed by Oudtshoorn and the possibilities.
How to get there
Coming from Cape Town we recommend the journey via Route 62, a great 7-hour trip that fills the day due to the many highlights/stops along the way. From the Garden Route you can reach Oudtshoorn in about 2 hours via the beautiful Robinson Pass.
Overnight stay in Oudtshoorn
Oudtshoorn has a good tourist infrastructure with hotels and guesthouses* for every budget.
We had decided for the De Zeekoe guest farm (book here*) about 8km outside of Oudtshoorn. A very nice and comfortable complex with main house and cottages. Our room had a very nice view of the mountains and super fast Wlan! A further advantage is that one gets relatively fast to the starting point of the meerkat tours, which was an important argument in view of the early start at 6 o’clock. Breakfast and dinner are served in the main house. We can fully recommend the De Zeekoe guest farm.
Tip: The farm is located outside of Oudtshoorn far away from any air pollution. This will give you an ingenious view of the starry sky of the southern hemisphere.
Restaurants in Oudtshoorn
Oudtshoorn has a good number of good restaurants and cafes in every price range and for every taste.
We had visited the Nostalgie Restaurant in the city centre. The restaurant has a very cosy and rustic interior. Typical Karoo dishes are served for lunch and dinner. Our food (ostrich) was good and the prices were ok. The Nostalgie Restaurant is very popular and without prior reservation it is difficult to get a table. Despite reservation we had to put up with a longer waiting time.
What else can you do in Oudtshoorn?
We recommend visiting an ostrich farm, the Cango Wildlife Ranch and a drive over the Swartberg Pass. We decided for a tour to the Cango Caves and were not disappointed. The Cango Caves are spectacular stalactite caves about 1 hour away from Oudtshoorn. There are two guided tours through the cave system – the Heritage Tour for all ages and the Adventure Tour where you climb through chimneys and crevices. (Tours around Oudtshoorn)*
We had decided on the Heritage Tour and had a great guide who brought us perfectly closer to the Cango Caves*. Since we had visited the Cango Caves in the low season there was almost no waiting time. In the high season (December / January) it is extremely crowded, so the tours should be booked in advance.
Our Meerkat Tour
For us it was clear from the beginning that we had to see meerkats in South Africa as well as the “Big Five”. We had decided for the tour of Meerkat Adventures, because both the good evaluations in the net and the offered combination package with the De Zeekoe guest farm represented the best combination for us.
The tour starts in the morning at sunrise about 10 minutes from the De Zeekoe guest farm. Meeting point is a parking lot at the R62 from where you drive another 10 minutes to the meerkat spot. The signage is reasonable and on Google Maps one can trust also only conditionally. The group size is 15 – 20 persons.
After a short walk in the steppe you make yourself comfortable in camping chairs and wait for the sunrise and the meerkats. This is accompanied by a lot of information about meerkats and co. from the guides. Of course there is no meerkat guarantee. The organisers, however, are constantly discussing with each other where the meerkats can be found in their cave systems. So, shortly after sunrise, we also had the pleasure to observe a meerkat family of about 20 people leaving the cave and searching for food.
It’s nice to see the lead animal leaving the building first and sounding out the situation, followed by the rest of the herd. The whole thing takes about 30 minutes, then the meerkats move on to look for food. For us it was a great experience, which made us forget getting up early very quickly.
It doesn’t always have to be the big five. A visit to the “Shy Five”, among which the meerkats are also worthwhile. And in Oudtshoorn you will find the ideal place during your trip to South Africa.
What were your experiences with the meerkats like? Did you like Oudtshoorn as much as we did?