OKONJIMA NATURE RESERVE
Okonjima Nature Reserve, in the heart of Namibia, is 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 across Namibia.
Okonjima offers a number of accommodation options to suit any budget or traveller, making it the perfect African safari destination in Namibia. If you’re looking for a luxurious experience, the exclusive Okonjima Villa is located within the 20 000ha Okonjima Nature Reserve, while the affordable, family-friendly Plains Camp, the safari favourite Luxury Bush Camp, the Private Bush Suite, and the Omboroko Campsite, as well as the PAWS Environmental Education Centre are found within a 2 000ha non-rehabilitated area.
Frequent leopard and cheetah sightings during game drives is what an African safari is made of! The 22 000ha nature reserve also boasts an array of indigenous African wildlife, such as Zebra, Giraffe, Eland, Kudu, Gemsbok (Oryx), Impala, and Springbok as well as an abundance of bird life, which make for superb wildlife photography opportunities. Our guests also indulge in smaller pleasures that make their African safari one to remember, 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 to bird watching and a fitness retreat.
The AfriCat Foundation focuses on ensuring a sustainable future for Namibia’ large carnivores, such as cheetahs and leopards, through their conservation efforts. 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 protected Okonjima Nature Reserve provides them and other carnivores the opportunity to hone their hunting skills and re-acclimatise during the rehabilitation process. This offers them a chance to return to the wild.
Our rehabilitated cheetahs are fitted with radio collars, so their welfare and progress can be monitored by AfriCat’s conservationists and researchers. The leopards within Okonjima Nature Reserve form part of the AfriCat Leopard Density Project and are also fitted with radio collars to enable us to gather valuable data. Our 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 spend hours in the bush closely observing and getting to know each animal. It has taken us over 20 years to form a bond, whereby man and beast can coexist in the same space with mutual respect and tolerance.
However, 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 and rehabilitate the grassland plains to their natural state, as part of our debushing efforts. The Blackthorn (Senegalia mellifera) and the Sicklebush (Dichrostachys cinerea) are encroaching on the nature reserve, which results in an imbalance in the grass to bush ratio and decreases biodiversity.
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 and are forced to hunt in leopard territory, which often try to kill them. 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 7ha 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.
Through our ongoing conservation and debushing efforts, Okonjima hopes to preserve this part of Namibia for centuries to come, so that it is always a peaceful African safari retreat for our visitors.