“ A luxurious lodge in the heart of a large private nature reserve largely dedicated to the Africat Foundation. Tel: + 264 67 687032 /3/4 „
Okonjima Main Camp, Etosha Namibia
This accommodation was booked through the same company as all our others in Namibia, www.namibiareservations.com. It was a company we found on the internet which offered to book hotels and car hire for a small fee and helped you plan places to stay in order to accomplish seeing the things on your personal 'must see' list. We exchanged many emails before they sorted an itinerary for us which we approved and sent a deposit of 50% then about a month before we were due to go the other 50% was paid over the internet and then they sent us vouchers for both the car hire and the different hotels.
We drove from Mushara Lodge near Etosha National Park to Okonjima in about two and half hours as it was all on tarred roads apart from the 24km of private driveway to Okonjima Main Camp. This was a very pleasant change as we had really had our fill of dirt roads and pot hole avoiding. Okonjima means "place of baboons" in Herero which is one of the local languages and it lies almost half way between Windhoek, the capital city and Etosha National Park. We had known nothing about this place until reading about it while we were in Namibia. We discovered that it was the home of the AfriCat foundation which was responsible for rescuing about 1000 wild African cats since it began in 1993.
We arrived at the main gate just off the B1 main road and were greeted with a padlocked gate which slightly concerned us, however a security guard came over to check our booking then used a walkie talkie to communicate with Main Camp to check our booking and alert them to the fact that we were on our way. He did warn us that it was 24km on the track so off we went. This 24km on the sandy track took us at least 45 minutes and possible an hour as we did stop a few times for animal viewing.
Once we arrived at main camp we were met before we even got out of the car and pointed in the direction of some covered parking bays. The lady who met us then suggested we take our luggage out and put in on a ride on mini tractor and trailer to be taken to our room. We then went with this lovely lady to the main building with reception, bar, dining and other relaxed seating areas to enjoy a glass of fresh iced tea while she went through all we needed to know about Okonjima resort. This was a lovely open area under a huge thatched roof with open sides so that there always seemed to be a pleasant breeze flowing through. We were then shown menu for dinner which was served at 8pm and then she explained about the optional trips and activities that were available at the resort.
This farm or game reserve is an entirely separate business from AfriCat which is an official charity but the money from the trips goes to AfriCat and a certain amount each month is paid by Okonjima to AfriCat as it is the family who own Okonjima who started the charity AfriCat and their entire 160,000 hectare farm is now a game reserve designed to protect these cats and the balance of wild life in the bush in this area.
We were then taken to our Bush view chalet/lodge, one of 10 in the resort which were double rooms in a simple lodge painted in a soft olive green with corrugated metal roof. It didn't look that great from the back which is how you approach them but wow! When you open the door a truly wonderful room awaits. There are two double beds facing a huge plain glass window which looks out onto the open bush. The room has windows on all sides and was painted a subtle pale olive green; the beds were made with white sheets with a slate brown/grey throw across the bottom. It was light and open and so amazingly luxurious. The beds were against a half wall which gave privacy from the front; behind this wall was the wardrobe, safe with six figure code which did work, shelves with bright green pool towels, a suitcase shelf and the door to a really opulent bathroom area. There was a small table and chairs in the corner with coffee/tea and kettle. Just outside the door was a small patio with folding chairs so you sit outside and watch the view constantly changing as different animals wandered past. In the room there was a phone and a panic button, luckily we had no need to use this! Above both beds was a very efficient reading light and there was also a bedside table for both beds big enough to hold whatever you might want to have beside you at night.
The entire bathroom area was concrete painted and varnished and then the vanity shelf was black with two white basins both with tilting oval mirrors behind them. There was a third tilting mirror with lights and a seat for putting on your make -up. The toilet was a separate room with lovely brightly coloured tall hand painted giraffes on the floor and a shelf with a few more. There was also a pile of magazines for perusing while enjoying a quiet moment of contemplation in this small room.
The shower was huge and the shower head also huge but unfortunately neither of us managed to ever get the shower to stay warm, you either burnt for a few minutes then it went cold or it just stayed cold which was not quite so pleasant. If we had been there longer we would have asked for assistance in sorting but by the time we discovered this we were going to be checking out in the morning so we just suffered. In this bathroom area was a fridge with small packs of milk and a jug of cold water, there was no min bar but as we never take anything from the mini bars this didn't upset us at all. There were large bottles of soap and body lotion near the basins and also an all in one soap/shampoo in the shower attached to the wall. The body lotion smelled lovely so I made good use of that! There were several soft white towels and bath mats, more than ample for the two of us for one night.
All the windows that opened had fly screens; the huge front picture window was fixed and could not be opened. All the windows had simple cream curtains but because the rooms were built at an angle we were not over looked by anyone else. On the sides dividing the rooms were high log fences too so that at no time were you overlooked except by the animals in the bush land in front. We closed the side curtains but left the big picture window ones open so we could watch the sun rise from our bed and also see if we had any early morning animal visitors.
There was no air conditioner but there were two very effective fans and neither of us was hot in bed but it was quite cool that night as it rained for about 20 minutes so I'm not sure what it would be like if it was very hot. Windows could be opened on two sides too and the windows high up in the bathroom on the back wall were open which allowed a good air flow.
The large main thatched building was reception, dining area and bar as well having small areas with comfortable leather sofas for relaxing. The shop was a separate building but we didn't get a chance to explore that. The building had three sides open sides with huge canvas curtains which could be closed if it was raining. The garden area was lovely leading off the dining area. A bird feeder encouraged large numbers of small birds which were lovely to watch. There were benches to sit on around the garden and the six double and four single garden rooms (small thatched buildings) surrounded this area.
In the evening we enjoyed a drink from the bar at our dining table where we were joined by our guide and another English couple who were just beginning their Namibian trip. The meal was a set menu; starter of vegetable kebab grilled with cheese, main course was roast lamb with apricot and mint sauce in delicious gravy with fresh vegetables followed by pears poached in red wine served with ice cream and a spun sugar garnish. Everything was beautifully presented on white plates and served by lovely friendly waiters. I thought it was a nice idea to put the other English couple on out table and our guide asked us if he could join us for dinner when we came back from our excursion with him. It made for a very interesting evening as we could ask him the questions about things that we had wondered about as we travelled around.
There were only 10 guests at the camp and interestingly all European but no Germans this time, two Italian ladies, two French couples and then four of us were English. At the previous places we had stayed the majority of guests were German so it was nice to have a bit of a chat over drinks and dinner with other travellers.
This was a family run business started by and still owned by the Hanssen family who originally farmed the area with Brahman cattle but have now changed Okonjima into a game reserve with particular concern for the protection and relocation of the large cats of Africa. I plan to write a more detailed review of the work of AfriCat so will not go into this too much in this review.
Apart from the 6 double and 4 single garden rooms and the 10 Bush view chalets at Main Camp there are also available 3 luxury, en-suite tents as well. No children under the age of 12 are allowed at Main Camp at all. Main camp is only one part of Okonjima, there are other types of accommodation available in other parts of this enormous property. According to the brochure left in our room there is also a luxury exclusive villa only 10km from Main Camp, which has 2 select luxury en-suite rooms in the main house and 2 separate luxury private suites. In three of these rooms the double bed rolls out onto the patio so you can sleep under the stars! This is available for groups and is fully inclusive, all wi-fi internet, infinity pool, a personal chef, guide and game drive vehicle all exclusively for the guests of the villa. We were told that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie stayed here not so long ago so I suspect the price is beyond our means.
Okonjima's luxury Bush Suite is another option and is 3.5km from Main Camp. Here you have the option of 2 luxury en-suite bedrooms each with two queen sized beds one of which in each room will roll out onto the patio so that you can sleep under the stars. These rooms have wifi access and air conditioning, inside and outside showers and then the persona; host, chef, guide and game drive vehicle. This is once again a fully inclusive rate and far beyond my means financially but you can dream I suppose.
As well as these options you can also choose to stay at the African lodge where there are 8 thatched African chalets, one honeymoon suite which has 2 Queen sized beds, lounge with fire-place, en suite and outside bush shower or you can try one of the 3 superb en-suite tents. These are available for full or half board and no children under 12 are allowed.
Finally there is also a self catering campsite where you can bring your own tent but use the open=air geyser powered shower and flush toilet both with a view! Not for me thanks but there are some who may enjoy this.
Breakfast was served in the main dining area and was a buffet style with a large bowl of fresh fruit salad, two different yogurts, cereals, and a plate of about 10 different cheese and another with cold meats, there were also several spreads and then in a special hot box were some warm buns. The cooked breakfast was cooked for you on a BBQ in the garden, bacon, sausages etc were already done but eggs were cooked to order.
There was a small pool which looked lovely and was in a secluded area with trees giving shade too. There were a few sun loungers under trees. Towels were also provided in your room in the wardrobe for pool use if you wanted to go swimming .The pool was just behind the main area of the resort and was not immediately obvious, I had to do a bit of exploring to find it.
The price we paid for this accommodation for dinner, bed and breakfast for one night was $ 2504 Namibian ( $11 Namibian to the £1) we thought this was pretty good value considering again that it was a long way from most places so supplies must be tricky. We loved this place as it was so friendly and they had really made a big effort to make it luxurious and special. We also liked their conservation work and the fact that they were putting something back into the country and trying to educate others into "Big cat friendly" farming methods. This was a really interesting place to stay and we learned a lot about the work of AfriCat as well as enjoying a chance of another game drive and seeing cheetahs up close. A brilliant place to stay and I thoroughly recommend the experience.
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