After spending some time with Erik and Yipe planning the day’s activities, we headed straight to Oudtshoorn, a town in the Western Cape Province. The town is home to the world's largest Ostrich population, with a number of specialized ostrich breeding farms. The drive itself is mesmerizing as one passes through Sedgefield, Wilderness and George. Crossing the Oteniqua Mountains you enter the Klein Karoo with a dramatic change to a rugged country-side. From the moment you enter this lovely region, you will be struck by the vastness of the country.
As you drive along the plains, you suddenly see the entire landscape full of Ostriches. For a first time visitor like us, the sighting is truly thrilling and one stops the car to take a closer look.
In the early 18th century, Ostrich feathers become extremely popular as fashion accessories in Europe; they were especially popular for use on hats. This resulted in a large number of farmers taking to Ostrich farming over other agricultural products. Over a period of time it has gained popularity for its lean and healthy meat.
|Feathers adorn the hat of royalty|
Self and Kats had Ostrich steak. It is closer to beef in its texture and taste.
We spent some time on the farm with the guide telling us very interesting tidbits about Ostriches. In the earlier days people used to build an ‘Ostrich Palace’ made of feathers. Every year they send around 5 tons of feathers to Rio for the carnival! Ostrich eggs are the biggest eggs of any animal at an average of 3 pounds. Scrambled egg made out of one egg can feed up to 17 people. Ostriches have no teeth and they swallow stones to digest their food. They are known to eat a variety of items found on the ground including long spoons, horns, spanners, water bottles, a variety of nuts and bolts etc.
The ostrich usually weighs between 200 and 300 pounds and can grow up to 9 feet tall. The males have black feathers with some white on the underside and tail. The females are usually grey in color. An ostrich's eyes can be nearly 2 inches in diameter giving them the largest eyes of any land animal. They are extremely protective of their eyes. The guides always carry a thorny bush stick to scare the ostrich if they become aggressive. Ostriches live off of whatever they can find to eat. This includes plants, insects, and small animals like lizards. They often live in herds with other ostriches.
We were advised to protect our cameras as they are known to make a go at them.
The Safari Ostrich Show Farm is spread over 1800 hectares and has 1200 birds. The birds live up to 60 human years. If one is bald like me – be wary of the ostrich. In all probability it will confuse your bald head to be one of its newly laid eggs and sit on it for 42 days incubating it (in vain, I might add) with a very puzzled ostrich patiently waiting for the outcome. J
All of us got a chance to sit on an ostrich, stand on its egg (that’s how lightweight we are or how strong the egg is; take your pick) and see an ostrich race with the jockeys clinging on for dear life! We spent a very interesting morning.
|Ride of a lifetime|
|Some heavy weight|
|Ostrich racing by the staff|
In the late afternoon, we visited ‘Buffelsdrift’ restaurant, located on ‘5 ha dam’ waterfront. The restaurant is on stilts. To add to the grand picture, the waters below support a herd of Hippopotamuses (or hippopotami whatever suits you).
|View of the shacks|
|Nile Hippos at the far end 800 to 1000 Kg|
As we finished lunch, heavy and blinding rain started lashing at us. We had to cancel our visit to ‘Cango Caves, and return home. The Cango Caves are a series of dripstone caverns that open into vast halls of towering stalagmite formations.
|Final view of Knysna from our terrace|
09 May 2014 – Cango Wildlife Ranch
We drove down to Cango Wildlife Ranch situated 3 km north of the town of Oudtshoorn. A very well maintained zoo, set up with the aim of protecting endangered species. It is home to Trumpeters, Flying Foxes, Red River Hogs, Designer Pigs, African Bush Pigs, Cape Vulture, Ring Tailed Lemurs, Greater Flamingo, Nile Crocodiles, Pigmy Hippos, Spotted Necked Otters, Marabou Stork, Corvettes, Cheetahs, Leopard, Tortoise, White Tigers and many more.
Our visit to the zoo was a very satisfying experience.
|Red River Hog|
|Pygmy Hippos - 280 Kg|
|Most elusive cat - Cheetah|
|White Bengal Tiger|
|White Lioness Resting|
|The king and his consort|
|Albino out on a stroll|
|Spot the cat|
On the way back we went to do a bit of wine tasting. We had a tasty lunch in a very up market restaurant called ‘Jemima's in Oudtshoorn. The place is really worth seeing as the owner has tried to maintain the feel of a private home while catering to the public.
|At the vineyard|
|Fascinating interiors - Jemima's|
We ended our trip to Knysna on a very satisfying note.