Asia is quite famous for its unique cafes, particularly when it comes to the animal variety. I love animals, so I never miss an opportunity to mingle with them up close and personal. I’ve been to several dog, cat and raccoon cafes in Korea. I’ve even been to an owl cafe in Japan!
I thought I had seen it all, but I recently came across a cafe on Facebook, Meerkat Friends. I couldn’t believe it, so of course I had to check it out for myself. Hidden among the crowdedness that is Hongdae, I found a building with the banner outside plastered with meerkat pictures and excitedly made my way to the 3rd floor.
Before getting to the good stuff, we were asked to slip on some indoor slippers and purchase a drink (1 per person). The prices were a bit high at ₩8,000~₩10,000 per drink, but that also includes admission. While we waited for our drinks we were asked to read their extensive list of rules (provided in Korean & English).
One of the most important things to note, is that children under the age of 15 are not permitted into the cafe period. They strongly enforce this rule. In fact, I saw two less than happy families get turned away because they had children with them. Though they were upset, I think this is a great rule to have for the protection of both the animals and children. Other than that, the rules were pretty basic like do not feed them, remove all items from your pockets, don’t talk too loudly, don’t pick them up (allow them to come to you), etc.
After that we were finally able to enter the cafe and pick a place to sit. It was spacious and clean with lots of windows to let in plenty of natural light, since meerkats love to sunbathe. It was also temperature controlled, so it was a bit on the warm side. The meerkats were kept in a large playpen at the center of the cafe, but a genet, raccoon and very antisocial arctic fox roamed the rest of the cafe freely. I was quite surprised when an employee opened a cabinet and a genet popped out of it and crawled up a pole and onto a beam on the ceiling. I had never seen one before, so I had to look it up online. Genets are indigenous to Africa and look like a cross between a cat and a lemur. Apparently people have domesticated them for thousands of years and typically raise them with cats or dogs, or in this case, meerkats.
After a few quick sips of my coffee, I was ready to play with the meerkats! We had to read another set of rules, remove our slippers, use hand sanitizer and then we were finally escorted in. Only a certain amount of people are allowed in at a time and you get 10 min of play time. They are very strict with the time on weekends, but if you go on a weekday (like I did) and it’s not busy, they are more laid back about the time, so long as the meerkats are ok. Sometimes they have nap time and you have to wait till they wake up, but they are still so cute to watch!
Getting to actually play with them was so exciting and a bit nerve wreaking, since they are apparently known to bite noses. However, no one got bit. They are quite gentle and curious if anything else. I’d advise to wear clothing you’re not too attached to because they love to dig and may snag something. They were constantly digging at my socks, climbing up my arms and pouncing around my legs. I loved every minute of it! There were even a few moments where a meerkat would curl up in my arms and just rest there. It was so adorable I almost died!
It was such a well organized cafe and the animals seemed really well taken care of. The atmosphere was very relaxed and we had so much fun. It’s definitely a unique experience and well worth your time if you love animals. So if you’re ever passing through Seoul, stop by for some meerkat cuddle time.
- No children under the age of 15
- 12:00pm~9:45pm, Everyday
- 마포구 와우산로21길 19-12 (3층)
- 19-12 Wausan-ro 21-gil, Mapo-gu, Seoul (3rd floor)