After a wakeup call and coffee at 5:00 am, we departed at 5:30 on a cool and rainy pre-dawn, in order to see the meerkats emerge from their burrows at dawn. They’re small mongooses, who live in colonies underground, eating insects and small animals.
A fellow named Shane met us at the site; he’s there to habituate them to humans. One finally poked his head out to look around and came out and stood up, still looking around. Others gradually emerged, including one pup. They were totally unconcerned with us, posing for pictures, digging dirt out of the burrows, playing around. They’re extremely cute, and our group shot many photos; Claire draped herself over a mound, hoping they would climb up on her, but it didn’t happen. One dug in a nearby hole, showering her with dirt. We spent several hours with them, including breakfast. In my opinion, they’re over-rated: worth seeing, but not obsessing over.
There is a BBC crew staying at the camp for an extended period, making a documentary on the meerkats. They’ve been here a few months, and will be there a few more. They have sophisticated high-end video gear, which they were happy to show us. The end result will be a one-hour video, condensing months of work.
We finally left the meerkats mid-morning, drove around for a while, learning more about the natural history of the area. It’s extremely flat, with salt pans and watering holes (one supplied with water from a borehole and solar-powered pump for the animals.) Large areas of open grassland prevailed, with some bush. Lots of zebras, blue wildebeest, one red hartebeest, two bat-eared foxes, many birds.
Back to camp for lunch. In the late afternoon, we departed again, to rendezvous with some Bushmen for Anna and Iver to go for a bushwalk. Meanwhile, we (Claire, Libby, Bones, and I) patrolled the grasslands, salt pans, and bush for wildlife. We saw a warthog, a few antelope, many zebras, wildebeest, etc., but no lions, although the Bushmen said they heard some roaring that morning.
The sun was setting when we picked up Anna and Iver; as we returned home in the dark, Bones shone the spotlight; we saw a few spring hares bouncing up and down, scrub hares, and a jackal.
We had a pleasant dinner with the BBC crew and a few other guests.