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Leopard Land

Okonjima Game Reserve 🐆🐆🐆

sunny 30 °C
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Our last animal stop in Namibia is the Okonjima Nature Reserve, home of the AfriCats Foundation. The reserve is 20,000 hectares/50,000 acres surrounded by the Omboroko Mountains, and provides the land to support the AfriCats animals and other naturally occurring animals. The AfriCats foundation is committed to the long-term conservation and survival of Namibia’s large carnivores in their natural habitat. They rescue, rehabilitate, protect, study and provide education regarding leopards, cheetahs, rhinos, and hyenas. They also protect pangolins, which are not a carnivore but at great risk and present in Namibia. They work closely with the African Wildlife Foundation, a larger organization covering all of Africa, but are focused specifically on animals in Namibia.

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As we entered the reserve, our first sighting was baboons, followed by a family of warthogs (another of the Ugly 5):

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As part of the ongoing research on leopards, approximately 14 of the 30+ leopards on the reserve have electronic collars, so they can be monitored, studied and cared for if needed. The other leopards are monitored with field cameras (mounted on trees on the areas they frequent) and patrolling rangers. This provides a very unique opportunity to see the leopards, which was amazing for us. This is our guide, Matthew, searching for leopard signals:

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Our first sighting was a rogue female who is known to be shy. She ran away immediately and we did not try to follow her:

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You can see her collar in this picture, our guide said after a few days the leopards do not appear to notice it.

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Our second sighting was very exciting. A female in a tree with a large male on the ground. Leopards are very territorial and apparently he was encroaching on her territory, so she was hiding out in a tree, watching him the whole time. When he fell asleep, she quietly climbed out of the tree and escaped. A male leopard is bigger and stronger than females, so she would avoid fighting him at all costs:

Here in the female in the tree, so well camouflaged:

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We drove around to the other side of the tree to see the male leopard. He clearly couldn’t care less about us:

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Tough looking guy:

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Here he is in action: (turn up your volume and hit the arrow)

An overview of the situation:

She is laser focused on the male trespasser:

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It was so interesting to watch her watch him that we missed out sundowner and had a beer in the truck - a whole new level of “living in a beer commercial”:

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Also observing this wildlife show in a tree nearby, we wondered what this giant eagle-owl thought of the situation:

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We were having supper on the outside terrace right by a large waterhole and guess who dropped by?

The next morning we saw a Small Spotted Genet at the bar. Genets are nocturnal, so we knew we were up early! (Not for the bar though)

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A herd of stripped mongooses were also up early:

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And another adorable black backed jackal:

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We visited the AfriCats Research center onsite within the reserve. The first picture is of all the types of collars and tracking devises they have tried over the years. (The older ones were much larger and bulky, some with an antenna. Technology improvements has really helped.) The surgical pictures are from their website. They are very explicit about the threat they are fighting:

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The cheetahs are enclosed in a 20 hectare space, as they were rescued as cubs and cannot protect themselves in the wild or the rest of the reserve. There are five cheetahs, three siblings and 2 singles.

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More leopards that afternoon. First was a young male who had been “voted off the island” but was allowed to stay in his mom’s territory for now. He is about 2 years old:

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Later that day we saw three leopards at a kill (Kudu). It was smelly and lots of flys, but interesting to watch as dad ate first, then the cub and mom last. We didn’t see the kill, just arrived as dad was finishing:

Dad:

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The cub (see the kudu antler):

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Mom - we can just hear her saying “I’m just gonna lay here and make sure these two don’t screw anything up, then I will eat in peace.“

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Onto our sundowner, a great spot for views of the reserve (ends at the mountains) and baboons in a tree:

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We did a night walk to see the mysterious pangolin, a nocturnal animal that is rarely seen. This is one they are studying, a 7 month old female. She will potentially double in size in her life, eating ants and termites. Pangolins are poached for their shell-like skin, similar to a rhino horn. They roll up into a tight ball for protection against predators (man, large cats and hyenas). Our guide said he has seen leopards playing with a rolled up pangolin (ugh), batting it around. The good thing is they get bored fast and often leave it alone. Hard to get a good picture at night, so one from their website as well:

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We also came across a honey badger and a brown hyena on our way back to the lodge, both nocturnal animals:

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In the morning, we did a walk to see two male rhinos. The rhinos here are not collared or fed (by humans), however they have a 24/7 anti-poaching team tracking and monitoring them, and lots of space to roam. It was interesting talking to the anti-poaching team, they are all African “bushmen” and very protective of their rhinos, “I sleep best when I am near them” one of the team said to me.

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Matthew, our guide:

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Okonjima Bush camp was lovely (we got upgraded!). The second chalet is our viewing room, for watching animals - who doesn’t have one of those?

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Hockey, figure skating or animal viewing?

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We drove back to Windhoek to fly back to Cape Town. We stayed at Villa Violet, saw a few sights in their downtown area and had dinner at Joe’s Beer House. The first two statues commemorate Namibia’s independence from South Africa in 1990:

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Their parliament buildings and the German Lutheran Christ Church:

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The last supper:

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Adios Namibia!

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No dogs, but more interesting road signs!

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NEXT STOP: land in Cape Town and drive to Hermanus, beginning our tour of South Africa’s western cape.

Posted by margofiala 07:47 Archived in Namibia

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Comments

Your travel writings, descriptions, photos and details rival Rick Steves any day Margo! Enjoying coming along.

by Donna-Lynne

Feel like we’re there with you - fabulous photos.

by Kim Dahlquist

Can you say spots?

by Kim

The trip just keeps getting better! The pictures and the animals you saw Amazing! Thank you!

by Valerie Cook

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