Our grand finale!
Tea, coffee and fresh muffins are served at 5.30 this morning. Our local guides today are Previous, Martin, Peter and Stefan. Four game viewer vehicles are waiting for us outside the barn. These game viewers have for rows of seats, a canvas roof and open sides. This ensures you are protected from the sun but enjoy clear views of any animals. This morning we are tracking for leopards. We leave Plains Camp and enter the main reserve. The cars split into two directions to increase our chances. Some of the leopards are collared and our guides use radio tracker to seek out any signals. Each collar has a different frequency so the guides can punch in a 4-digit code to seek out a particular animal. The signal range can be up to 3kms depending on the terrain. A feint bleep indicates a possibility. A strong bleep indicates something nearby.
Today it proves quite challenging. Two cars started in the east of the reserve and discovered a leopard on the mountainside which was impossible to follow. Martin’s car found a leopard called J.J. on the west of the car. She was sitting in the middle of one of the sand roads that cross the reserve in all directions. There are no road signs of course and how our guides can find their way around we don’t know. Martin’s group are lucky, J.J. has her two cubs with her! They walk down the road but it is not long before they head into the thick bush. Martin tracks them with the radio aerial and five minutes later they emerge again for another short walk along the road, before diving into the bush again.
The three other cars have not found a leopard so Martin suggests they head for him. He keeps tracking J.J. to help direct Previous, Peter and Stefan. Stefan arrives first, drives directly into the bush and discovers J.J. alone. She decides to climb a tree and lie down. Previous arrives next, then Peter.
Back at the barn we enjoy a late breakfast brunch and a siesta to follow. Lunch is offered but most people are full up. However afternoon tea and cake is popular. This afternoon we rejoin our game viewing cars and visit the Welfare Centre to learn more about AfriCat programme. Another highlight this afternoon is a private viewing of a leopard called Leewa. She was rescued and is being looked after because she wouldn’t now survive in the wild on her own. She is fed on certain days and we are fortunate to be sitting in a hide at the right time! The name Leewa means “beautiful” and she certainly is! Our cameras are in full flow.
To celebrate the day a sundowner is clearly in order and we drive up a bumpy road to a wonderful view point. Our guides have brought along the requested drinks …. gin and tonic, red and white wines, beers, juices. An amazing view with a nice drink – can’t be bad.
Day two in Okonjima starts with a reasonably leisurely breakfast followed by a guided Bushmen Walk. The first inhabitants of the region were called San, and they lived very much in harmony with nature. They only caught as many wild animals as they needed. If their traps caught extra animals, these were released. They made string and rope out of plant material. They created fire with dry moss and wood.
Immediately following the walk we gathered in the old homestead to meet Tristan Boheme, one of the owner-managers of Okonjima. Tristan gave a very interesting talk covering the history of Okonjima and AfriCat and also the challenges of educating Namibian farmers how best to cope with big cats on their land. Many thanks, Tristan, an inspiring presentation!
Lunch to follow and tea and cake shortly after that, before we rejoin our game viewing cars and we head off to track cheetah …. on foot! We drive first, hoping to track the animals with the radio antenna. Once we are nearby we step off the cars and walk with our guides through the bush. We are successful. Three cheetahs in their natural habitat. And we are within 15 feet!
Our last sundowner is on the open plains but we need to rush to get there. Hold on tight! As we arrive at the top of the hill we notice a white linen covered table complete with champagne and nibbles. What a lovely Okonjima finale!
Namibia, the verdict? Stunning, wonderful, varied, unique. Everyone seems very happy indeed and we may well have difficulty in getting everyone on the bus for our departure!
Thank you everyone for joining the tour.