On the drive to Cango Cave I noticed the Cango Ostrich Farm offering tours, and ostrich rides. Who can say no to that? Certainly not me.
But first lunch as I was very hungry after the caving. Hmm… ostrich kebabs on the menu, so why not. Very tasty.
I went on a tour of the ostrich farm with one guy from Massachusetts. Shane, our guide, talked about how the farm raises ostriches for meat, feathers and hide. The curio shop was loaded with goodies. I bought an empty egg, an ostrich leather change purse and a batik wall hanging.
We were introduced to Betsie, the only tame ostrich on the farm, and encouraged to feed her some kind of ostrich pellets. After seeing, and hearing, her snap that big bill as she greedily gobbled up the treats I passed on the feeding experience. The ostrich has the largest eye of any land animal measuring almost 2 in (5 cm) across. But even that didn’t convince me to get too close.
Adam and Eve are the oldest mated pair on the farm and even help raise other birds youngsters. Ostriches’ average life span in the wild is 30-40 years and longer in captivity.
Though they cannot fly, ostriches are fleet, strong runners. They can sprint up to 43 miles (70 k) an hour and run over distance at 31 miles (50 k) an hour. Shane led us past the ostrich corals and asked if we wanted to ride. You bet!
Collage photos taken by the other tourist and he chickened out and wouldn’t ride
Some guys I guess you could call ostrichboys wranglers caught one of the 7-9 foot (2.1-2.7 m) ostriches and put a hood over its head after bringing it into the chute. Then Shane told me to hang on to the wings with straight arms, back straight and legs wrapped around it’s breast.
What he didn’t tell me was to use their wings like rudders to change direction while running. And boy can they run! An ostrich’s powerful, long legs can cover 10-16 feet (3-5 m) in a single stride. These legs can also be formidable weapons. Ostrich kicks can kill a human or a potential predator like a lion. Each two-toed foot has a long, sharp claw.
With that in mind I jumped off the Big Bird after what seemed like minutes, and was probably only seconds, and before I fell. In the end, I won without injury and came away with an ostrich feather trophy.
Next Shane took us to see just how strong ostrich eggs really are. (These are all empty.) All of the group’s hens place their eggs in the dominant hen’s nest then the dominant hen and male take turns incubating the giant eggs. Each one weighs as much as two dozen chicken eggs. That’s a lot of omelets.
This was definitely one, of the many, most exciting days of travel in South Africa. Yet I wondered what more was ahead as I drove back through the Outeniqua Mountains to return to the coast near Mossel Bay.
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