Should you ever find yourself within ten feet of a cheetah on defense and hissing at you, there is only one right response: Stay absolutely still and DO NOT run! Okinjimo Africat Reserve was the first stop on our two week Namibia roadtrip. This is where we went cheetah tracking in Namibia.
The first two cheetahs we saw. Cheetahs always travel in pairs
Farmers hate predators like lions, leopards, wild dogs and cheetahs because they kill their livestock. Many are killed by subsistence farmers fending for their land. The Okonjimo Africat foundations rescues big cats from farms across Namibia, bringing them into care and re-wilding them on the Okonjima nature reserve. They run programs to educate farmers and school children that killing these animals does not make commercial sense. Here we had perhaps our most thrilling and up close encounter: cheetah tracking.
Okinjimo was strongly recommended as a great stop between Windhoek and Etosha. It helps break up the 5.5 hours drive to Etosha, which we appreciated on our first day on the road in Namibia. We also considered Waterberg National Park which is also enroute to Etosha, but read lukewarm reviews of the park. Quan’s sister and her husband stayed at Okonjimo during their Namibia roadtrip and cited it as one of their favorite stops. This was the same for us and would highly recommend 1 night here on your way to Etosha. Warning: If you are planning a Namibia roadtrip during high season, Do Book Ahead! We were lucky that our Namibia roadtrip was during low season, but this place books out during high season!
Driving Distance from Windhoek: 225 Km/140 miles
Driving Time: 3-3.5 hours
Road Conditions – Paved Road
Okinjimo Africat Reserve is a 200 square kilometer wildlife sanctuary for orphaned leopards and cheetahs not ready to be released into the wild. There is an onsite clinic which treats these cats when they first arrive. All the leopards and cheetahs inside the park have a tracking device around their neck. The two activities the lodge provides at a cost of $30 USD per person are leopard tracking by vehicle or cheetah tracking by foot. Guides use a radio device to track the animals in advance so you are guaranteed a cat sighting. This is one of the few laces in Namibia where you can go cheetah or leopard tracking. Even with the tracking device it still takes a while to find the cats due to the size of the park. Both activities take place at sunrise or sunset.
Okinjimo Africat Reserve Campsites
The luxurious campsites at Okinjimo Africat Reserve only cost 400 Namibian Dollar per person ($30 USD per person). Namibian campsites are some of the best we’ve encountered in the entire world. Okinjimo Africat Reserve had the absolute best amenities of all the campsite from our 2-weeks in Namibia. Each campsites is on an isolated plot giving you maximum privacy. On each site is an outdoor kitchen, private outdoor bathrooms (with amazing views of the reserve) and outdoor showers. Here’s a picture of the outdoor bathroom and the view from the luxury toilet!:
A hiking trail near the campsite leads to an amazing sunset viewpoint. Additionally, there is a pool that the 4 campsite share, which we cooled off in after our hike.
Quan at the top of the 15 minute hike just before sunset
Jesse underwater at the pool
The campsites are about a 10 minute drive to the main reception area. We went there during the heat of the day to use the wifi and relax on the patio. There is a giant watering hole in front of the patio where we watched warthogs play. There is also an indoor area with a cafe that is directly next to the campsite. We think that we were allowed access to the main lodge because the campsite lodge was closed for the season. A room at the main lodge costs $300 USD per night. We essentially had access to the same amenities at 1/10th of the price!
View from above of our totally isolated campsite. The covered area has a counter with a sink
Cheetah Tracking By Foot
We chose to partake in Cheetah Tracking by foot, because neither of us had ever seen a cheetah, let alone in Nambia! We saw leopards during our safaris in Sri Lanka the prior week. It was about a 4 hour activity. It took our guide almost two hours to locate the signal of the cheetahs. We drove the length of the park to scan for a signal. It was a bit comical to watch him climb to the top of the safari jeep to scan the sky!
As soon as he got a signal, we drove to a location near two cheetahs (cheetahs always travel in pairs). We exited the vehicles and walked within 15 feet/5 meters of the cheetah.
We apparently got too close as the video shows, the cheetah got into a defensive position. Our hearts lept, but we followed our guides instructions and stayed absolutely still. The fact is that a human can never outrun a cheetah. Cheetahs also typically back off unless further provoked. Jesse was shocked that Quan didn’t screech when the cheetah crouched down and hissed!
Shortly after our guide received a call that another vehicle just spotted a cheetah kill. We then drove see 2 cheetahs devouring a springbok.
Both of these sightings were an amazing start on our Namibian roadtrip and set the tone of the rest of the trip!
Thinking about seeing more of Nambia? This is our two week Namibia itinerary: