I’ve always been envious of my friend Jeff who has a photo of himself with a meerkat on his head as his profile pic. I finally got the opportunity to get my own shot!
I’ve listened to so many stories, sat in product update presentations and have seen loads of photos and videos of the Makgadikgadi meerkats. Last month I was invited on an agent FAM (familiarization) trip to Botswana by Natural Selection. Our amazing itinerary included 2 nights at Camp Kalahari which is located on the edge of the famous Makgadigadi Salt Pans, close to Jack’s Camp and San Camp — as well as the sandy homes of meerkat families!
First of all, it is important to note that these meerkats are not ‘tame’. They are habituated. This means they are used to seeing humans and are not bothered by their presence. In fact, they actually take advantage of us – by climbing up onto our heads to get a better view of the surroundings and, most importantly, to keep a lookout for predators like foxes and eagles.
On the flat sandy plains near the edge of the salt pans, the meerkats live in communal burrows. Every morning they come out at sunrise and stand up on their hind legs to expose their bellies to the sun for warmth and to get their blood flowing. (A bit like us doing a sun salutation at a morning yoga class!) They then take off in a haphazard family group across the plains looking for breakfast (they love to dig up beetles and hibernating frogs), every so often stopping on top of an anthill to scout for predators. (This is the most opportune time to get that photo op!)
The trick is to lie down on the ground near an ant hill or molehill that you think one of the main male sentry meerkats is likely to want to use as a lookout post — and, nine times out of ten, he’ll totally ignore that you’re a human and clamber straight up onto your shoulder and then — if you keep really still — on to the top of your head!
How to get a meerkat to sit on your head in 3 easy steps:
Huge thanks to the photographer and our amazing tour leader – Tamryn Russell from NATURAL SELECTION
My trip with NATURAL SELECTION took me to these camps: Mapula Lodge, Sable Alley, Jackal & Hide, the new Tuludi Camp, Hyena Pan, Camp Kalahari, San Camp, Jack’s Camp, Planet Baobab and Meno a Kwena.
To see another magical meerkat maneuver, click here!
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