Africa – our Grand Namibia Adventure
Having flown back from Serra Cafema to Doro Nawas, we were reunited with our hire car and after a swift drink on the balcony, which has the most superb views, we headed out for the drive south to Okonjima. After an hour of the usual bumps and just west of Khorixas, a mirage appeared about a mile away; jet black and glistening in the sun was the most beautiful site. Tarmac!
We briefly stopped to check the tyres – always a good idea when leaving a shale road and going on to tarmac, as anything sharp caught in the tyre will be pushed in further – before pushing onwards through Otjiwarongo, where we swung south to our final destination, Okonjima. Just like I had ‘reservations’ about going back to Serra Cafema, I had similar feeling about Okonjima, as it was the first lodge that I visited as the soon to be owner of (what is now) Signature Safaris, some 17 years ago. How much had it changed?
If the controlled access was any guide, it had certainly grown up. What used to be a single unmade track back in 2000, was now a more formal approach road with manned gates and key pad controlled automatic gates now bisecting the Okonjima Reserve.
We were due to stay at Plains Camp but there was an imminent huge wedding, taking out the entire camp and as preparations were in full swing, we were moved to Bush Camp, the smaller and more intimate of the two principal camps now offered. The other two being the Grand African Villa, ideal for family groups, and the Private Bush Suite which offers honeymoon couples an exclusive experience away from the bigger camps. Ask Brad and Angelina; maybe not though…..
The Okonjima Reserve is home to the Africat Foundation which has, for many years, done a sterling job in rescuing, treating and relocating or homing on their reserve injured large carnivores, principally leopards and cheetah but also lion and wild dog. This work still goes on but education of future generations now forms a bigger part of what they do.
Our accommodation was a comfortable Bush Suite with a bedroom and en-suite as well as a separate open fronted lounge. Both facing out towards the part of the reserve that did not contain any predators, hence it was safe to walk from our room to the main area without the need for an escorting ranger. We saw a lot of wildlife from both rooms – black backed jackals, giraffe and kudu to name but three.
Parking our vehicle next to our accommodation was somewhat unusual but it kept luggage lugging to a minimum.
That evening after dinner we headed out to the night hide in the hope of seeing a leopard or perhaps a honey badger. Alas it was not be but a porcupine put in a sterling effort in almost finishing all the food placed outside the hide before departing at a noticeably more pedestrian pace than he arrived.
Taken by me on day day 11 – Leopard just a matter of feet away.
Being awoken by the guttural calls of not too distant lion is always a magical experience – perhaps a little disconcerting if this is your first time of hearing it. Reassuringly African if it’s not.
After a pleasant light breakfast we headed into the reserve in search of a family of four cheetah that had recently been released. The cheetahs had been radio collared so that their progress back in the ‘wild’ could be monitored in case of any problems; we found them quite quickly – we were on foot and they were hunting!! To be so close to the fastest land creature on Earth, and by close I mean about 15 yards, tends to focus your mind and you do exactly as you are told by the ranger. Well you have to, there’s no point in running…Taken by myself on day 11 – Leopard just 15 yards away!
Over the next hour or so, they made repeated attempts against various prey but their inexperience told and it was almost as if they were being mocked. Their time will no doubt come.
After brunch we had time to relax back in our room, before yet more food was proffered in the form of afternoon tea and we headed out to find a leopard. Again many of these are collared and we soon picked up the signal of ‘Electra’ and found her laying in a dead tree, immediately above (and I really do mean ‘immediately) a warthog den. We must have spent a good 1½ hours watching her as she looked around for a sight of the warthogs from her vantage point. After about an hour, and with a rainbow in the distance as a backdrop to her from our viewpoint, she became more alert; she spotted something. Our ranger looked in his wing mirror and spotted a warthog family break cover about 50 yards away and make their way towards their den. However they sensed something and would not get closer than about 20 yards, before moving off. Electra would have to wait a while longer for her meal.
Taken on the same day – Leopard hunting Warthogs from a tree with rainbow in the background!
As we bade farewell to Okonjima we knew that our Grand Namibian Adventure was coming to a close and the drive back to Windhoek International was noticeably more muted than the day or arrival.
So what of Namibia as a destination?
As Jeremy Clarkson said so aptly on the Grand Tour “Namibia is a beautiful b*****d of a country”.
He is so right is so many ways but this really doesn’t say enough as Namibia is also welcoming, incredible, awe-inspiring, thought provoking and so much more – it’s not just a safari destination in terms of wildlife, it is far far more.
If you want to find out more give me a call on 01342 811787 and I’ll be happy to talk to you for as long as you‘d like about Namibia.