Posted by: Tommy | February 10, 2011

Anna Rides the Ostrich

One of the towns along Route 62 (the longest wine route in the world) is Ooudtshorn.  We didn’t intend to stay in Ooudtshorn or have it be anything more than a marker of distance between wineries, but some bad weather on the way to Knysna, a beach town we were heading toward, made us turn and sometimes, that’s how you find the coolest stuff. 

I was pretty sure Ooudtshorn was going to be awesome when we encountered this sign as we drove into town.


When we arrived at reception of the Ooudsthorn hostel, the guy working there asked us if we were going to the ostrich farm or the Cango Caves.  “Should we be?” I asked him.  “Why else are you in Ooudtshorn?”  was his response.  Ok then.  When in Rome, right? (though I doubt there are many Ooudtshornians visiting the ostrich farms on a regular basis).  He explained to us that Ooudtshorn was well known for being the ostrich capital of the world and he gave us a coupon for half-off admission to an ostrich farm tour.  Sweet!

In the morning, the hostel provided free ostrich eggs for breakfast.  There was just a giant bowl filled with egg – take as much as you want.  It was 2 eggs – or the equivalent of 48 chicken eggs.  We would later find out the ostrich eggs have 1.5 times the cholesterol of chicken eggs, so 2 ostrich eggs = 72 chicken eggs of cholesterol.  Good thing we only stayed one morning!

High in cholesterol, high in awesomeness.

After ostrich omelets, we packed up and drove to the Safari Ostrich Ranch and Show Farm.  We signed up for the 10am tour and bought our tickets.  Jacques, our South African guide, outlined our tour – it would take about 45 minutes. We’d start with an information session and video, then we’d get to stand on some eggs (what?), feed some ostriches and then, the finale, ostrich riding!  Woo hoo!  I was excited to ride the ostrich – and even more excited to watch Anna trying to ride an ostrich.

The information session was a lot more interesting than we had anticipated.  We learned how to spot fake ostrich leather, how the farms choose breeding versus slaughter ostriches and the way farmers exploit the natural tendencies of the ostrich to harvest more eggs.  That was probably the most interesting thing:  the male ostrich creates a nest on the ground, covered in soft sand.  The female lays eggs in the nest, one every other day, until the nest is full.  After laying each egg, she sits on the nest to incubate the eggs and protect them from predators.  In the wild, she stops laying eggs when her body will no longer cover all of the eggs – usually 15 or so.  On the farm, the farmers let the females get 12 or so eggs in the nest, then take all but 1 away.  When the female sits on the nest again, she can feel 1 egg sitting there, but there’s a lot more room, so she starts laying more eggs.  By repeating this process, they have harvest 90 eggs per ostrich in the 6 month breeding season, rather than the usual 15.

After the information, we moved outdoors to an ostrich pen.  Jacques let us hold some eggs and then stand on them – apparently ostrich eggs can support more than 250 lbs.  Anna and I had no trouble standing on them.  After standing on eggs, we each got a handful of food to feed the ostriches.  You had to keep your hand flat (otherwise the ostrich would try to swallow your fingers) and just let it slurp up the pellets from your palm.  It was a weird feeling, but very funny to watch.

Weight-bearing eggs

These were both good fun, but we were ready to get to the main event – ostrich riding!  Jacques took us to the ostrich arena where several ostriches and ostrich jockeys were waiting.  He explained to us that only 4 of us (there were 14 on the tour) would be allowed to ride, though anyone else who qualified could sit on the ostrich.  To ride, you had to weigh 75 kilograms or less.  To sit, you had to be under 80 kilograms.  Apparently any more weight risks breaking the legs of the ostriches.

He asked for riding volunteers – immediately a guy and girl sitting near us raised their hands.  Looking around, no one else but us would even come close to qualifying for the weight limit (75 kgs = 165 lbs).  I told Jacques I wanted to ride, but I would be very close on the weight. He had me get on the scale …. 78.  Damn.  I could sit, but not ride.  Anna raised her hand and we had our three ostrich riders!

Before the riding, I got to sit and get my picture taken.  It was weird – the back of the ostrich was soft because of the feathers, but felt very hard and muscly under the feathers.  Just sitting on the back, you could feel the deep breathing.  I put my hands on the neck – leathery, stretchy (Jacques told us the biggest thing they’ve ever found in the stomach of an ostrich is a glass coke bottle).  It wasn’t as good as riding, but that’s my fault – Africa has too much meat, not enough veggies, to keep me under 165.

The other couple got called up first to ride the ostrich – and it was hilarious! The whole group was hooting and laughing as these Brits cautiously mounted the giant bird (over 7 ft. tall) and then held on for dear life, clutching the skinny wing/arms and leaning back as instructed as the bird raced around the pen.  And then it was Anna’s turn – rather than describe her very “graceful” ride, watch it for yourself!



  1. So cool

  2. That ride is so hilarious!! Good way to start my morning.

  3. This video made my day. Love following your adventures!!

  4. Oh, my word, that is sooooo much fun to watch! And to read, Tommy. Thanks for the fabulous updates of your travel adventures! We love it!

  5. That is a whole lot of awesomeness in one :14 second video!!!! Good stuff!

  6. Just got back from 5 days at Mom’s so am looking forward to catching up on your blog. Great ostrich ride, Anna!

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