We were invited to visit the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm near Oudtshoorn, South Africa. The farm is located only an hour's drive off the popular "Garden Route", and it's definitely worth the detour.
Besides, the scenery along the way is gorgeous...
Beautiful scenery near Robinson Pass.
We arrived a few minutes before our 10:00am reservation. This is a great time of year to visit because the busy crowds from Christmas and school holidays are over. We were greeted by our tour guide Melissa, who would spend the next two hours telling us everything she knows about ostriches. And Melissa knows a lot about ostriches!
First stop was to see the little ones!
These ones are only five days old. Most of the eggs are artificially incubated to increase the number that hatch, although they do have an area where some birds do the job naturally.
Interesting how their neck is actually quite short at this age.
5 day old ostrich.
Next stop was the small workshop where artists and craftsmen produce the many tourist trinkets that are made from various ostrich parts. Feather dusters and decorated ostrich eggs are very popular! We were visiting on a Sunday, so most of the workers had a day off. However, we were fortunate that professional feather duster maker, Uncle Melvin, was on hand to show us his stuff.
Melvin uses an old, but very effect machine to make up to 300 feather dusters per day!
Ruth is demonstrating how to use a feather duster. But these feather dusters are made so that both sexes can use them. They're not just made for women!
Another room is where the ostrich eggs are decorated and painted.
Next, we went to see some of the full grown birds. An ostrich is considered full grown at 18 months, and an adult ostrich will live to between 45 and 60 years! However, most ostriches are culled for their meat and leather at 18 months. When an ostrich is kept for it's feathers, it is not killed. They used to kill them for the feathers, but then it was found that if the feathers are properly trimmed, they will grow back.
Ostriches are so funny looking.
But they're even funnier when you try to feed them. Melissa went to get a bucket of dried corn. They love the corn, and you could see them getting excited as they definitely knew what was coming!
Ostriches waiting for their corn.
Ha! I had the bucket of corn and all of the ostriches wanted some. They were pecking at the bucket so fast I couldn't see what was going on. There was corn flying everywhere!
From there, Melissa took us over to the area where the ostriches mate and hatch the eggs naturally. There is usually only one mating pair in a large fenced area, although sometimes there are two females with one male until he decided which one he wants! Sometimes, he wants more than one, although they are usually monogamous.
This is a big male ostrich, Jack the Ripper!
And this is his wife Susie. Susie is on top of her 7 eggs, but eventually she got up.
Ostrich eggs are very strong. Melissa says that she has allowed some very large male tourists to stand on the eggs and she hasn't seen one damaged yet!
Our guide Melissa, showing how they cut and trim the feathers.
And now the fun begins.
Before you can ride an ostrich, you have to learn how to sit on one. So they capture an ostrich and place a bag over it's head. This doesn't hurt the ostrich at all, but it becomes very calm and you can easily manage it. Ostriches can be aggressive, and their legs are very strong. In fact, there have been reports in the wild that an ostrich can kill an attacking lion with one hard kick. They are also the fastest creature on two legs and can reach speeds up to 70 km/h (43 mph).
Ruth, carefully mounting the ostrich.
The wing feathers fold up and look very pretty! I also sat on one, but the feathers didn't look nearly as pretty on me!
It was then time to ride an ostrich. If nothing else, you have to watch this video. It's hilarious. Turn up your volume first so that you can hear Ruth shrieking!
Ha, ha, ha. Yep, and then it was my turn. And yes, you have to hang on for dear life!
Kevin, riding an ostrich. Do I look like I was falling off? Well almost. But I hung in there for the entire ride!
Then, we got to watch the professionals. These three guys really knew how to handle an ostrich. They could make them run and steer them. It was exciting watching them race!
Then it was off to the curio shop where you can purchase any ostrich related products.
Melissa, explaining about the ostrich skeleton, and showing us some of the items they have found in ostrich stomachs!
Various things that the ostriches have eaten.
And of course after you have learned about the ostriches, held the ostriches, sat on and ridden the ostriches, and seen the products made from ostriches...you have to taste the ostriches! They have a great little restaurant onsite at the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm.
The outdoor seating at the restaurant.
The first item we tried was ostrich egg fritatta with ostrich biltong. The biltong is a dried meat similar to beef jerkey. Delicious! I expect the egg taste to be stronger, but it was much like chicken egg. Go easy though because ostrich egg is very rich and extremely high in cholesterol. One single ostrich egg contains as much food as two dozen chicken eggs!
Next up, ostrich steak. Again, perfectly prepared! low in fat, and high in protein. And tasty and tender too!
We thoroughly enjoyed our ostrich tour at Highgate Ostrich Show Farm! We laughed a lot at these interesting creatures and their antics. And our guide Melissa was simply the best. These tours are priced between R110 ($11.50) for a traditional tour and R285 ($30.00) with a full dinner. We can honestly say that you will have fun, and we highly recommend you put a visit here on your list!
Assistant Manager Nelli, Manager Jan, and our tour guide Melissa in front of the gorgeous grounds at Highgate Ostrich Show Farm.