Half way between Windhoek and Etosha in Namibia lies the Okonjima Nature Reserve.
Completed in 2010, and with a 96 kilometre fence surrounding the 22,000 hectares, Okonjima Nature Reserve is also home to The AfriCat Foundation.
Namibia is home to the world’s largest wild/free-ranging cheetah population; the majority of the country’s cheetahs and leopards can be found on approximately 7000 commercial farms. These large carnivores occasionally prey upon the livestock that roam unprotected in the bush.
As a result, carnivores are often regarded as vermin by the livestock and game-farming community and are deliberately trapped and/or killed. As more land is farmed in Namibia, there’s increasing pressure on the wild cat populations as what was once a mutually exclusive landscape is becoming overlapped.
Hunting is of course instinctive in carnivores, but many of the cheetahs at Africat lack experience due to being orphaned or removed from the wild at an early age. This inexperience, as well as their conditioning to captivity, makes them unsuitable for release. The nature reserve, based around the Okonjima and Kaross farms, provides captive cheetahs and other carnivores with the opportunity to hone their hunting skills and become self-sustaining, thereby giving them a chance to return to the wild.
I spent a wonderful day and two nights visiting the Okonjima Nature Reserve, seeing both completely wild animals and those that are undergoing rehabilitation.
If that wasn’t spectacular enough, on the last night of bush camping I was subjected to an amazing thunderstorm far off in the distance across the plains of Namibia.
There was the perfect viewing point on a small hill next to the campsite, and although I was slightly concerned to be walking out into the bush at night (I would prefer not to be supper), I couldn’t resist spending 15 minutes up there to see if I could get some lightening photography under my belt. In the UK we don’t get to experience much lightening, so I simply couldn’t resist the temptation…
The following morning we broke camp and headed for Etosha National Park, more on that shortly…
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