The road from Upington to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park has accommodations and camping establishments. We have passed the Kalahari Trails Meerkat Sanctuary often on our way to the Park, always without stopping to see what it was all about. This year, we decided to visit and support them in their endeavours. We are happy that we did.
The sanctuary is situated 35 km away from Kgalagadi, making it ideal for driving to the Park for an early start. Once we’d settled into our campsite, which had its ablution block and a lovely outlook over the dune veld, we were ready to wander over to see the meerkats.
The afternoon’s heat didn’t seem to faze the meerkats (Suricata Suricatta), and their smiley faces welcomed us as we sat on the wide verandah of the house. It was almost feeding time, and they gathered in numbers to come and eat. Their interactions with each other were heart-warming, and we listened with interest as their guide and handler told us about how the sanctuary started and what their work entailed.
After feeding, we were taken to the area where they had their burrows, and we saw a tiny meerkitten with its parents.
This small animal almost looked like an alien from space, and it stole the show as it ran around the area, suckling from its mother at every opportunity.
There were many photographic opportunities, and we had to drag ourselves away – after all, how many photos of meerkats do you need?
The sanctuary’s founder was Professor Anne Rasa, who had extensive knowledge of dwarf mongooses from her research in Kenya’s Taru Desert. She purchased the run-down farm in 1997, and after much work to restore it to its former glory, she moved into the house in 2000. Word soon got out that she was an expert on mongooses, and it wasn’t long before wounded, abandoned, and rescued meerkats were brought to her. The Kalahari Trails Meerkat Sanctuary was started and grew from there into the haven that it is today. Her son, Richard, took over the reins after Anne died in 2020, and he continues to promote conversation and eco-tourism. The farm covers an area of 3500 hectares and has beautiful trails that beckon exploration.
In future, do stop off and support this worthwhile project and allow yourself enough time to go on some of their day or night tours into the Kalahari dunes. You won’t be disappointed.
One final parting shot: many of their meerkats were kept as household pets and then abandoned when their owners found them too much to handle. Please be aware that keeping wild animals as pets is not advisable. They have much happier lives in their habitats, surrounded by their kind.