While not technically on the Garden Route, we included a stop in Oudtshoorn on our journey down the Garden Route. Located about an hour and a half inland from the coastal Garden Route the area claims to be the ostrich capital of the world. And rightly so. Home to countless ostrich farms, these farmers have been in the bird business for nearly 150 years making a pretty penny breeding the birds for their meat and leather.
On a brief detour from our coastal escapades, we headed to the harsh and desolate landscape of Oudtshoorn for a visit to an ostrich farm. The visit began with a tour of the farm’s facilities and thorough explanation of the breeding process and business. We got a chance to hold a massive ostrich egg where a baby chick was hatching and were shocked at the size of the day-old ostriches as we held one in our hands.
Truly not a place for animal rights activists, the ostrich farm also gives you a chance to saddle up on a full grown ostrich. After hand-feeding the gangly birds, one was selected for the ride. Our lucky feathered friend Bessie must have picked the short straw. She was soon lead to a small pen where a bag was put over her eyes. We were then instructed to mount her before taking off running full throttle on her back.
And what a ride it was! You don’t realize how high up you are until you are actually sitting on top of the ostrich and how little control you have. We were told to steer the bird by pushing the neck to either side and hold on for dear life by wrapping our hands around the wings and legs around the chest. Words do little to describe how equally comical and terrifying this experience was so I’m not going to try. I’ll let the videos and photos do the talking.