Cheetah Parks, Namibia
The AfriCat Foundation ia a non-profit organisation, based at Okonjima. It is devoted to the conservation of cheetahs & leopards, rescuing animals that have been trapped by local farmers; providing humane housing, treatment and care for orphaned and injured animals; educating visitors and local people, especially farmers and school-children, about the animals they protect.
They provide a home and care for animals that currently cannot be released back into the wild. These are often orphaned cubs that are too young to cope on their own. These have either been captured without their mothers or their mothers have been killed. Others are animals that have been in captivity elsewhere and have become habituated to people or completely tame, making them unsuitable for release.
Most of the cheetahs and leopards that have suffered injuries are returned to the wild after recuperation, but in cases where the injuries have been too extensive, the cats have had to remain in captivity. The animals are housed in spacious enclosures of between five and four hundred acres in a natural, stress-free environment.
We visited the Foundation as part of our package while staying at Okonjima. We went first to see the clinic and food preparation area, and then went into the cheetahs’ huge enclosure in jeeps which were delivering their food (very large and bloody joints of game!) I’d imagined that we’d be lucky to spot a few cheetahs in the distance but that wasn’t the case at all. The animals have learned to associate the noise of the vehicles with food and soon came running towards us. It was a fantastic experience to see how fast and how beautifully they run, and then to be able to watch them from such a close distance – at times only a metre from the jeep. If you love big cats, this is really a must-see place on any visit to Namibia.
You can also adopt a cheetah, leopard or other animal – visit the website (below) to find out more.
Near Windhoek, at Otjiwarongo, you will find Africat Foundation was founded ten years ago to help Africa's cats conserve. Cheetas, leopards, lions, caracals are the stars of this organitaion with over 500 hectares fenced of enclosures to be in.
I went there from Windhoek to spend one night. It was a very hot day, but in our way to the campsite where we where going to camp at Africat Foundation land we saw springbok, gemsbok, baboons. The campsite was just the best place to camp.
Natasha came for us to show us Africat Foundation, to explain us how they try to help Africa's cats and to show us their cheetas and lions.
We did had a great day at this place.
It's a well known fact that a cheetah is a very big, very fast pussycat. I never thought in my life that I'd have an opportunity to get up close and personal with a cheetah - so what a treat it was when our safari took us to a cheetah farm, and we spend a part of the afternoon with the family who owned it, with their dogs, and with their pet cheetahs, that live in the house.
The photo does not do the experience justice I'm afraid - the cheetah unfortunately did not appreciate just how difficult it is to get a good pic when she stayed in the shade! So let me tell you about it.
The fur is surprisingly rough, but they cheetah purrs like a pet cat, and mews like a pet cat, but the volume is in direct proportion to its size. Where the cheetah and the pussycat differ (apart from size) is in the claws - the cheetah is in fact the only cat who cannot retract its claws - which means that a friendly pat across the face from a cheetah can result in hospital treatment!
These cheetahs were the first that the Nel family adopted, but they remain wild animals. While we were there, there was a family who had a small baby, making normal small baby noises. The paretns were advised to take the baby away because to the cheetah it sounded like a lovely afternoon snack!
You'd never think that the most successful predator and fleetest animal on the earth would need any protection. Well it does - from human beings- farmers to be precise. The Otjitongwe Cheetah Park was established by just such a family of farmers, who lost much of their stock to the cheetahs of Namibia. However the Nel family did not feel comfortable about killing the animals who were, after all, doing just what comes naturally.
They sought in vain for a service in the country which would protect both cheetah and farmer, and discovered that, despite the fact that all farmers were suffering from the predatory nature of the cheetahs, the only solution appeared to be killing them. So the Nel's fenced off a part of their land and tracked the animals for their own preservation. There then followed a period of uncertainty as the family battled with bureaucracy.
However the cheetah population has grown steadily over the years and now the park covers 250 hectaires (600 acres) and supports a population of something over 25 cheetahs. The Park is managed by a Trust which collects troublesome cheetahs from farmers in the country, paying the said farmers between US$ 300 and 350 a piece - in fact the rate is fixed according to what the farmer would expect to receive for selling the pelt, otherwise they would just destroy the animals.
Today the Nel family will take groups into the park on the back of an open truck, with only a binful of donkey meat for company. This is an amazing chance to watch the cheetah in motion!
The trust survives on donations as well as on the revenue they raise through their Lodge (see accommodation tips) and providing drives into the park to get close to the cheetahs - it is an experience that offers unparalleled photographic opportunities. They also receive donations directly.
Please visit their website below for full information and also on details about how you can support the Trust.
Namibia has the largest population of wild cheetahs in Africa. The problem is that many of those reside on private farmland, bringing them into constant conflict with farmers - who by law can shoot whatever wild animal is on their property.
Organisations such as Africat and CCF, try to help to conserve the cheetahs through research, education and rehabilitation of cheetahs. Apart from donations, a means to support such ambitious projects is to visit these organisations. Apart from contributing to a good cause, you will be having the time of your life with the unique opportunity to get close to these magnificent felines.
I can highly recommend Okonjima, home of the Africat foundation - a delightful lodge with activities to see leopards, lions and of course the cheetahs. Also night activities are an interesting window to secretive animals such as the porcupine and honey badger. The lodge in itself is also a great experience with attention to detail, superb service and really good food - luxury doesn't get any better than this!
Staying in Okonjima will most probably be the highlight of your trip :-)
For more details have a look at my Okonjima Travelogue
One of the most beautiful of Namibia's "big cats" is the graceful and swift cheetah. Unfortunately, as is the case in most places, sitings of this glorious cat in the wild are very, very rare.
But, be advised, they ARE out there. Keep your cat eyes wide open, and you just never know. If you do see spots before your eyes, consider yourself extremely lucky. Brag about it to your friends....a lot!
You will probably have your best chance to see a wild cheetah in a private game reserve, connected to a lodge or farm. They're extremely rare in the Etosha National Park, according to everyone we spoke with.
We saw some cheetahs in the game park connected to the Ojtitotongue Lodge. They also have a couple of human-reared tame cheetahs that will actually lick your hand. Quite an experience. (see separate tip about Ojtitotongue, under "off the beaten trail")
The AfriCat foundation is a charitable organisation based near Otjiwarongo. They rescue Cheetahs that have been found on farmland and are a threat to wildlife. Farmers have killed the cheetahs as they are regarded as a menace thus endangering the species.
AfriCat works with local farming communities to educate farmers to contact them to relocate the cheetahs out of harms way. The foundation houses the cheetahs until a suitable home can be found.
Don't expect this to be a cuddle a cheetah type experience. They try to keep them as wild as possible so they can acclimatise easily into the wild.
There is an exhibition about cheetahs here and daily cheetah feeding.
We had the chance to camp here one night. The place is quite big, with large fences around it. Around 5, Mario, the owner's son, came to pick us up and drive us to his house. He gave us some safety tips (take off sunglasses, pet only the cheetah's head and neck, keep a distance of at least one arm when you pet the cheetah, etc.) and then he opened the gate. Three cheetahs came up to us, just like cats. They came to smell us, and then went back to the shade. One after another we were allowed to pet a cheetah (and take a picture).
These 3 cheetahs are domesticated, but after that we went into another enclosure, to feed the wild cheetahs. At first, we could not see any cats, but after a while, they showed up. It was amazing to see them, they are such graceful animals. Mario threw some chunks of meat in the air and the cheetahs would jump to catch them and then run away to eat in peace.
We were also very lucky to see 2 cubs with their mother. .. Great experience!
There is a small bar at this campsite, where you can look at pictures of the cheetahs while drinking a beer. You can also make donations via their website, or when you go there, you can also give some money.
If you get the chance to visit Harnas you will not be disappointed, you will be taken in an open topped jeep to help feed lions, leopards, lynx and african wild dogs, then you may be allowed to go in amongst cheetahs and play with them.
For the last 20 years Marieta Van der Merwe has been caring for injured and orphaned wild animals on this huge farm.
Accommodation is available and the grounds are quite beautiful but the real pleasure lies in getting close to the wide variety of animals.
special experience is to visit the cheetah conservation foundation in Otjiwarongo
you can go by pickup car to search for the animals with the farmers and see how the cheetah get observed and heeled by any hurtings..
very amazing experience...you can touch and play with the young tame cheetahs..to the more wild one you can drive out in pickup car