OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVE

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Okonjima Nature Reserve is in the heart of Namibia, in a Malaria-free area midway between Windhoek and Etosha National Park. This 20 000ha nature reserve, which is surrounded by the sandstone Omboroko Mountains, is equally famed for its wildlife sightings as well as its picturesque landscapes that marvel guests, from first-time visitors to our regulars. It is also home to The AfriCat Foundation, which is renowned for its conservation work with predators.

Okonjima offers a number of accommodation options to suit any budget, making it the perfect luxury wildlife safari destination in Namibia. The exclusive Okonjima Villa is located within the 20 000ha Okonjima Nature Reserve, whilst the affordable and family-friendly Plains Camp, the safari favourite Luxury Bush Camp, the Private Bush SuiteOmboroko Campsite  and the PAWS Environmental Education Centre are found within a 2 000ha non-rehabilitated area.

Frequent leopard and cheetah sightings during game drives is what African safaris are made of! Though our guests also indulge in smaller pleasures, such as the peaceful atmosphere of the African bush, spotting wildlife at the watering holes situated at each accommodation, our flavoursome food and welcoming hospitality. Okonjima also offers a number of activities to guests and day visitors , from hiking and mountain biking with your own mountain bike to bird watching and a fitness retreat.

The 22 000ha/200km² nature reserve boasts an array of indigenous African wildlife such as Zebra, Giraffe, Eland, Kudu, Gemsbok (Oryx), Impala, Springbok to name just a few, offering some of the best wildlife photography opportunities and making your wildlife safari a truly memorable one.

Head quartered on Okonjima is The AfriCat Foundation, whereby the large carnivore conservation organisation focus their resources on trying to ensure a future for the large carnivores of Namibia. Many of the rescued cheetahs at The AfriCat Foundation lack natural instincts and hunting experience because they were orphaned or removed from the wild at an early age and have become habituated while in captivity. However, the 20 000ha/ 200km² protected nature reserve provides them and other carnivores the opportunity to hone their hunting skills and re-acclimatise during the rehabilitation process, which gives them a chance to return to the wild.

The rehabilitated cheetahs are fitted with radio-collars, so their welfare and progress can be monitored by AfriCat researching teams. The leopards within the Okonjima Nature Reserve form part of the AfriCat Leopard Density Project and are therefore also fitted with radio-collars to enable us to gather valuable data on each individual. The leopards are all wild born within the nature reserve and have never been exposed to humans prior to being collared. Our experienced and passionate guides have spent hours out in the bush, observing and getting to know the different cats on an individual basis. It has taken us over 20 years to form a bond with these animals whereby man and beast can coexist in the same space with mutual respect and tolerance.

Over the last century, over grazing and controlled natural fires as a result of commercial farming have damaged Namibia’s natural habitat. Many of the country’s open plains are becoming thorny thickets as a result.

At Okonjima, we are trying to reclaim the grassland plains and rehabilitate them to their natural state, as part of our debushing efforts. The Blackthorn (Senegalia mellifera) and the Sicklebush (Dichrostachys cinerea) are encroaching on the reserve, which results in an imbalance in the grass to bush ratio and decreases the biodiversity of the reserve.

Cheetahs prefer open plains, where their speed and binocular vision play to their advantage in outsmarting their prey and competitors. Due to encroaching thorny thicket areas, cheetahs become easy targets for other predators wanting to kill them, and are forced to hunt in leopard territory. This makes AfriCat’s rehabilitation of captive cheetahs challenging. We aim to create natural habitat boundaries between predators through the mechanical removal of invader bush and thicket, so cheetahs can lay claim to the open plains, while leopards roam the riverine thickets.

Mechanical removal can clear around 7 ha daily, but carries a hefty price tag and can also damage the soil while taking with it vital grass species too, which makes it a costly operation in terms of funding and conservation. The time-consuming and labour-intensive manual method is preferred in areas where care needs to be taken during selective de-bushing. We retain high grasses, which are a useful resource and source of employment for many Namibians.

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