The Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana got to be the best place in the whole of Africa to see and interact with Meerkats!
Starting from the Natural Selection lodges Planet Baobab (has a campsite as well), Camp Kalahari, San Camp and Jack’s Camp, you get the incredible chance to spend a morning with a local meerkat colony. The meerkats respond to the non-threatening presence of people by simply carrying on with their daily activities – mainly digging, digging, and… um… digging. They still live a completely wild life and are not being fed. The habituation happens because of a very dedicated “Meerkat Man” (…imagine putting this in your CV 😉 ) whose job it is to follow the little mammals around all day.
We spent a night at the funky Planet Baobab lodge and were driven to the denning area in the early morning, just after the meerkats have left their burrows. What these tiny creatures are known for is a particularly funny behaviour: They like to climb onto people’s shoulders and heads to get a hight advantage and look out for potential dangers or to relocate family members. This they do completely voluntarily and it’s something that obviously can’t be promised, as the climbing is in no way encouraged by your guide or the Meerkat Man. So it either happens or it doesn’t.
But here are a few tips that might make it more likely to happen:
- Sit or crouch down as much as possible to make it easier for the meerkats to climb on you
- If you are tall like me, consider lying down flat on the ground (yes, there are lots of thorns… ouch!)
- Position yourself in front of a borrow or hole OR alternatively on a little hill or high point that the meerkats might naturally use to get a height advantage
- Be patient and just have fun regardless of whether or not they will climb onto your head. They will most definitely climb onto your body somehow.
This is hands down one of the most fn activities to have on an African safari. It truly is up there with the Chimps and Gorillas for me. The meerkats are highly sociable animals and have very strong family bonds. It’s so entertaining to watch them do their daily business without paying any attention to you.
As always, if you would like to go see the Meerkats of Magkadikadi, consider booking your trip through Franks travel agency www.safarifrank.com (German & English-speaking support).