The new Okonjima Plains Camp is located in Namibia's Okonjima Nature Reserve.
Okonjima Plains Camp: Our full report
Set amidst plains and rolling hills in a 220km2 private reserve just south of Otjiwarongo,Okonjima Plains Camp opened in late June 2014 and is the newest of the accommodation options on the Okonjima Nature Reserve. It has effectively replaced Okonjima Main Camp, the original Hanssen family farmhouse that was converted into the first lodge on the farm, which is now normally booked exclusively by small groups. It remains the most affordable of the places to stay on the reserve and the camp's raison d’être is still the AfriCat Foundation, set up to conserve and protect Namibia’s threatened cheetah, leopard and other wild carnivores. A stay here gives you a wonderful opportunity to learn about these animals and to see them up close and personal.Namibia is home to over 20% of the world’s cheetah population – the largest concentration in the world. Since 1993, AfriCat has rescued over 1,000 cheetahs and leopards from Namibian farmland, returning over 85% of these animals to the wild. A few of the cheetahs at Okonjima were either orphaned or removed from the wild at a very young age, so do not know how to hunt for themselves. These are cared for within the AfriCat welfare programme.
Activities at Plains Camp are varied, but the main attraction is the chance to track big cats and carnivores. Radio-tracking leopard and/or spotted hyena is from game-viewing vehicles (when you could well come across animals such as giraffe and mountain zebra, too), while for those staying at least two nights, rehabilitated cheetah can be tracked on foot. On our most recent visit to the reserve in July 2014 we successfully tracked a beautiful, young leopard just as the sun was setting; and the following morning, following a lengthy drive across the reserve, we tracked cheetah on foot and watched in awe as they feasted on their kill from the night before. A stay of one or two nights here will usually give you the chance to see big cats at close range, although sightings can never be guaranteed.
Depending on your length of stay at Okonjima, you could also include a visit to AfriCat’s Information & Carnivore Care Centre, which offers a valuable insight into the work of the AfriCat Foundation.
Additionally, guests may follow the marked walking trails – within the fenced area encompassing the camp and lodges – on their own, perhaps keeping a look out for birds along the way, or follow the ‘Bushman Trail’ with one of your hosts to get an insight into how these ancient people set up homesteads, made fire and hunted their prey. After dinner, there is also the option to join a guided 4WD night drive in the reserve. With the exception of the self-guided walking trails, all activities will cost extra. These can be pre-booked and paid for in advance, or arranged and paid for at the camp.
The focal point at the camp is the enormous main area that houses the reception desk, bar and curio shop as you walk in, and also a large dining area and several sitting areas spread out over two levels. Nicknamed 'The Barn', the whole building is purposefully reminiscent of a farm barn, albeit quite a modern one with a polished concrete floor, very high metal roof, exposed beams and brickwork, as well as floor to ceiling glass windows across the entire front of the building, facing the grass plains. Because of its size, it doesn't feel cosy like its sister-lodges on the reserve, and may even seem a little 'cold' at first glance. However, take some time to chat to a member of the team or walk around and perhaps, like we did, you'll start to feel more in touch with the place. Along the length of the wall on the lounge side are family photographs of years gone by, honouring the cattle-farming history of the Hanssen family. In pride of place, along the opposite wall in the dining area, are pictures of smiling family and team members. We particularly liked the 'windmill' ceiling fans, while during winter we expect the wood burners, spaced out between the homemade polished metal dining tables, and between the numerous sofas and sitting areas, will add some warmth.
Outside to the front, is an outdoor sitting area and to the side, from the dining area, is the outdoor barbeque and a couple of pizza ovens. There is also a small pool, in the design of a farm reservoir, surrounded by manicured lawn with sunloungers dotted about and shaded areas to relax out of the sun.
Okonjima Main Camp has two types of room – 14 Standard Rooms (10 of which were formerly the ‘View Rooms’ from Main Camp) and 10 brand new larger View Rooms. Both room types offer a comfortable stay and, perhaps a little confusingly because of their names, views looking out towards the grassy plain in front of camp. However, the new View Rooms have a larger bedroom, bathroom and outside verandah. A little more attention has been paid to the decor and they are spaced further apart for added privacy.
Nonetheless, all the rooms are spacious, and beautifully designed with light hues of blues and greens, and splashes of bright colors. The walls are decorated with painted, wooden African art work and photograph of Okonjima’s carnivoresa; woolen rugs and mats are scattered on the polished concrete floor.
The main bedroom area has very large windows, letting in plenty of light and affording you great views of the bush from your bed. Each room has two double beds, which can be pushed together to make one large bed, with a converter mattress, or used as two single beds. There are two ceiling fans above the beds for the warm summer nights; however each room also comes with two hot water bottles for the cooler evenings encountered during winter. The headboard divides the room, and to the rear shelves and hanging space can be found. Each room also has a tea/coffee station, a small selection of reading books, a safe and a telephone to contact reception.
The bathroom is a good size and has twin wash basins, with large wall mirrors and a vanity area with a retro style stool and a make-up/shaving mirror. There is also a mini fridge just under the surface top where you can keep bottled water and drinks. Off this is a separate toilet and at the other end of the bathroom is a large walk in shower, with single shower heads in the Standard Rooms and twin shower heads in the new View Rooms.
Each also has its own private verandah with two comfortable canvas chairs and a small table where you can relax and take in the views. The rooms each have their own shaded parking - useful as the rooms furthest from the main area are quite a hike! Two of the new View Rooms and four of the Standard Rooms are built in a semi-detached block of two, with an interleading door, and these can be used as family units. In the new design of the camp, we noticed a much more relaxed attitude towards families and children as young as 6 or 7 years old, although parents just need to be aware of some restrictions to activities, in place for safety reasons.
Plains Camp also has several sister-camps on their same large reserve – Okonjima Bush Camp, Villa and Bush Suite - all of which are relatively close together (within 5-10km). Between them they offer a range of accommodation to suit most travellers level of luxury and purse!
Our viewDespite it’s increased size and change in design, Okonjima Plains Camp has retained a relaxed, informal and friendly atmosphere. It is an ideal base for those wanting to visit the Africat Foundation, and stay in tasteful accommodation with all the amenities and facilities that go with a good quality lodge but without a very high price tag. It offers great photographic opportunities for the big cats (plus some smaller creatures too!).
Ideal length of stay: At least two nights is best if you want the opportunity to do most of the activities, particularly tracking leopard and cheetah. However, if limited for time, on a one night stay you should be able to get an idea of what the AfriCat Foundations does, and hopefully see some cats.
Directions: 48km south of Otjiwarongo on the B1 you will see a clearly marked signpost for Okonjima. Head west for about 24km along this track and follow the signs directing you towards Plains Camp.
Accessible by: Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Owner: Owned by the Hanssen family
Food & drink
Usual board basis: Half Board
Food quality: We didn’t get a chance to sample the food on our most recent visit in July 2014, although on previous visits to the old Main Camp the food has been of a very high standard.
Before setting out on the early morning activity, guests are offered tea/coffee and muffins to keep you going until your return, when a full brunch is served. On offer will usually be an array of cereals, bread, cheese and cold meat, fruit, yoghurts, and a full cooked breakfast of your choice, such as eggs, bacon, sausage, tomatoes, mushroom, omelet, pancakes.
A set menu lunch is available. In 2014 this cost N$120 per person, rising to N$150 per person for 2015.
Dinner at Okonjima has always been a real treat. When we last visited we had a tasty soup with freshly baked bread rolls still warm from the oven, followed by beef roulette with broccoli, carrots and spicy rice and finished with a wonderful plate of poached pears with vanilla ice cream drizzled with red wine syrup. All the dishes were beautifully presented and we got to meet the chef during the main course. Okonjima has a good selection of local and South Africa wines to compliment the lovely dinners.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Tea and coffee are included. All other drinks are extra.
Further dining info: No
Birdwatching: Here you can spot birdlife typical of Namibia's Central Highlands. The guided or self-guided walks pass by a variety of watering points, including dams, lakes and even bird-baths – making a lovely addition to a Namibia birdwatching break.See more ideas for Birdwatching in Namibia
Photography holidays: For close-up shots of the big cats – especially leopard and cheetah – Okonjima should be high on your list. Activities work on a two-day cycle, so allow yourself at least two days here to maximise your chances of good photographs. Be aware, though, most cats are collared.See more ideas for Photography holidays in Namibia
Wildlife safaris: Visitors will usually have the chance to view the big cats at much closer quarters than possible in most national parks. Obviously most of the animals seen are not truly wild, they are habituated to humans and can be approached closely.See more ideas for Wildlife safaris in Namibia
Walking: There are guided and self-guided walks around Okonjima, and if you chose the latter you'll be able to take a radio in case of emergency. This is a good spot for walking in Namibia and exploring some African bush on foot.See more ideas for Walking in Namibia
Attitude towards children: Children over the age of three years are welcome at Plains Camp. However, for safety reasons, there are restrictions on the age of children allowed on activities. Well behaved children aged seven and over are allowed on activities conduced in a vehicle. Children between the ages of three and seven may visit the Africat Information & Carnivore Care Centre. There is a minimum height restriction for tracking cheetah on foot, so the age limit will depend on the height and age of a child, but this is normally 12 years.
Property’s age restrictions: Plains Camp has a minimum age limit of three years.
Special activities & services: None.
Equipment: Highchairs and cots are available on request. This should be arranged in advance.
Generally recommended for children: We think that Okonjima’s more child friendly approach makes it more suitable for children than it historically used to be. However, with the restrictions on the age limits for activities, we think it’s still most suitable - and is likely to be more interesting - for older children aged seven and over.
Notes: Children are welcomed but they must be under the constant supervisioin of their parents at all times. The pool is not fenced and despite the fence around what they term as the ‘safe zone’, there is some wildlife (warthogs, antelope, zebra, giraffe etc) in the area.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Power supply notes: There are plug points in each room for charging batteries and electronic equipment.
Communications: There is a central telephone in The Barn. There is normally mobile phone reception at Okonjima. The camp also has a computer with internet access for guest use.
TV & radio: No
Water supply: Borehole
Water supply notes: All rooms have showers and hand basins that are plumbed in, with flushing toilets.
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: No
Medical care: Nearest doctor is in Otjiwarongo, about 40 minutes' drive from Okonjima.
Dangerous animals: High Risk
Security measures: The whole reserve is fenced and there are armed guards at the main entrance gate.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in each room and in the central areas.
Disabled access: In Place
Laundry facilities: Laundry can be done at an extra charge and costs between around N$10 and N$40 per item. If laundry is collected in the morning, it will normally be returned the same day, weather permitting.
Money: There are no currency exchange facilities available. Each room has a small safe for storing valuables.
Accepted payment on location: The camp accepts payment by Visa or MasterCard credit or debit card. Payments can also be made in cash with Namibian dollars, South African Rands, US dollars, Euro or Pounds sterling.