Namibia is not only a beautiful country but also a pioneer when it comes to conservation. In December, the Elela Africa team embarked on a quest for new exciting and sustainable tour ideas as well as for Namibia’s frequently mentioned cheetahs.
After a three hour drive north of Windhoek, we find what we were looking for. After a warm welcome we dive right into our adventure. Equipped with GPS trackers and aerials, Previous, our guide from Zimbabwe, takes us on an exciting drive across the 10.000 hectares wildlife reserve. The objects of desire: cheetahs and leopards, Africa’s endangered and extremely rare big cats.
At Elela Africa, we focus on game reserves, which operate in a sustainable manner and which provide guests with insight into their work or even let them participate. Okonjima is not only a wildlife reserve but it is home to the AfriCat Foundation, a NGO dedicated to the conservation of Namibia’s big cats.
Together with the AfriCat Foundation, Okonjima is actively involved in conservation work through their rehabilitation programme, education, research, working together with the locals and acting as a mediator in the human-wildlife conflict. Further, they prioritise the preservation of the cats’ natural habitat.
What’s special: together with experienced trackers guests can go leopard and cheetah tracking. Unlike elsewhere, the GPS coordinates of the animals are not being communicated secretly via the radio, but the guests can actively participate in the tracking and that way learn a lot about the work at a game reserve. Even better, guests can observe the big cats up-close and authentic in their natural environment. Most of the reserve’s predators such as leopards or hyenas wear tracking collars, which makes it easier to track and view them. Not only that, but valuable data is also generated through the collars, which can be used for research and conservation work.
After successfully locating the collars, it still takes a bit until one can actually see the well disguised animals, which is a thrilling experience. Guests are even allowed to leave the car and approach the cheetahs on foot- definitely a highlight! However there is one valid rule: no touching! In contrast to other African countries, Namibia’s wildlife conservation is very advanced and touching the wild animals and taking pictures is not permitted. The reason being that once an animal gets too used to humans it can’t be released into the wild anymore- which should be the goal of conservation work.
It is very rare that one gets to see leopards and cheetahs this close and can observe their natural behaviour in an authentic way at the same time.
Afterwards it’s off to the info centre, where guests not only get some interesting insight into conservation and the wildlife reserve, but are informed by the guides about the important work of the AfriCat Foundation and how your visit supports this work. Very interesting is the introduction into the work with the tracking collars, how these have changed over the years and the impact they have had on wildlife conservation.
Besides the leopard and cheetah tracking, guests can discover the vastness of Okonjima during game drives and encounter zebras, giraffes or hyenas. The reserve is also great for bird watching. Guests can also hike through the reserve, which is the perfect opportunity to explore Namibia’s breathtaking wilderness and to relax. The bushman trail is fun for the whole family.
The reserve truly represents sustainable tourism and simply by staying there, you support the important work of the AfriCat Foundation. Since the work at the reserve is corresponding with our values at Elela Aftica, you can discover it and many more conservation adventures in Namibia together with us.