warthog bathing in a water hole

Our Favourite Places on Earth . . . . Okonjima Lodge in Namibia – Part 1

Trip Namibia 2016

I am writing to you from one of our favourite places on earth . . . . .  Okonjima Lodge in Namibia.

Okonjima and the AfriCat Foundation are run by the Hanssen Family siblings, Wayne, Tammy, Donna  and Rosalea and some extended family and friends. We’re staying at Bush Camp right now and I am sitting in the day room part of our accommodation. The birds are singing. I can see springbok and a herd of oryx within a few hundred metres. Every once in a while two oryx are head to head (horns entangled) in what appears to be a dominance ritual, the dust flies and a chase ensues. More dust and a triumphant oryx comes trotting back towards the rest of the herd. Aaaah Namibia. National Geographic pictures are our view. A family of warthogs has just arrived. Mom, Dad and four babies. They’re headed for the small water hole in front of our sleeping area where they will drink or possibly have a mud bath. Just one of the babies is lying in the water hole so far. An oryx comes for a drink and the warthogs are trotting away. More springbok are coming closer.

Namibia is one of the harshest places, climate wise, I know of to visit. It is not for the faint of heart. It might have something to do with the fact that we only visit in summer, so it is hot. Comprised of a lot of red soil, red sand and red rock but also lots of green – trees and scrub and in places grass. Many parts of Namibia have had less than average rainfall for a few years and the grass is sparse. Moonscapes of dusty earth exist under plains of trees or scrub brush. There is relentless sun and blue sky.

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Cycling through the Okonjima Nature Reserve

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We arrived Sunday night and spent the night in Windhoek before driving to our friends’ lodge, called Okonjima, on Monday morning. We arrived in time for “family” lunch which is always at Rosalea Hanssen and Luigi Bassi’s (aka headquarters), and were thus able to reconnect with the family and extended family in one go. Their lunch is a working affair where many facets of the lodge’s daily goings on and The AfriCat Foundation items are discussed and everyone is brought up to speed. There can be heated discussions too. Never a dull moment at Okonjima. Half of those present wear a pistol, all carry a 2-way-radio and now also sport cell phones. “Radio Okonjima” can be very entertaining.

This same bunch of people meet up at 5 or 5:30 every day for a coffee at the Bassi-Hanssen headquarters. Proper coffee (lattés or cappuccinos). More problems and discussion. More stuff worked out. We’re leaving from headquarters for a game drive and our guide and a tracker arrive with a game viewing vehicle and pick us up. We drive into the 20,000 hectare nature park entering through a gate. The tourist lodges and family’s homes are inside a 2000 hectare area which doesn’t have rehabilitated wild dog, cheetah or hyena. There are leopards in both areas but they’ve never been a threat to people staying or living within the 2000 hectare area.

Our game drive is eventful. We are just inside the 20,000 area and Paul spots a brown hyena. He’s shy and we get a few glimpses of him as he skirts along the edges of the bushed areas. We move along to a water hole and there we find four wild dogs, two of which we find lying in the grass at the edge of the water hole. They look like they’re sleeping on a lawn which someone has forgotten to mow. We watch them for a while but they are sleepy in the heat of the afternoon. Paul manages a couple of shots where they have their heads up but we move on a short while later and let them be.

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AfriCat’s Wild Dogs

The guide talks to a few other guides from other Okonjima tourist game-vehicles in the park and one is watching a leopard in a tree with a kill. We drive there (thankfully it’s not too far) and shortly after we arrive, the leopard comes down out of the tree and lies on a termite mound. That’s great because we couldn’t see the leopard in the tree from our angle. The tree was in pretty dense brush so we couldn’t get closer until the other game vehicle gave up its spot. After Paul gets a bunch of shots, and the other vehicle has left, the leopard puts her head down and dozes off in the heat . . . . .  the guide has also asked other guides about cheetah. It’s getting pretty late and the light is low, but they’re bound and determined to find some cheetah. And we do – dozing in the late light. And it’s a wrap. All in about two and a half hours. Our guides have certainly impressed us.

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Shirley and Paul Martins

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One thought on “Our Favourite Places on Earth . . . . Okonjima Lodge in Namibia – Part 1

  1. One of my best holidays. Sitting outside at night and seeing more stars than I believed possible,drinking coffee while watching the lions come for their special milk, trekking and seeing so many animals. Lovely place, lovely people.

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