also known as suricates, are small carnivores belonging to the mongoose family. They inhabit a large swathe of southern Africa, largely in the Kalahari and Namib deserts.
A group of meerkats is called a "mob", "gang" or "clan". A clan often contains about 20 animals, but some super-families have 50 or more members. In captivity, meerkats have an average life span of 12–14 years and about half this in the wild.
These little creature have an unusually high cultural visibility. The popular television series Meerkat Manor and a UK advertisement campaign by a company called Compare the Market have massively increased their profile, meaning that we are asked to include them in a disproportionate number of trips.
Wild meerkats are very frustrating to view, they are very shy, very vigilant and almost impossible to approach closer than around 100 metres in our experience, from which distance they really do look tiny.
However in a number of locations it is possible to interact with habituated meerkat mobs in the most endearing fashion. This is the experience that people are after.
By far the best of these projects is in the Makgadikgadi area of Botswana, accessed out of Jack's Camp
, San Camp
, Camp Kalahari
and Planet Baobab
In South Africa there is another similar project at De Zeekoe Guest Farm near Outdshoorn in the Western Cape, which is inherently less wild, but a good deal more accessible for many people. There are also habituated meerkats at Ganora Farm
in the Eastern Cape.