Reviews of Okonjima Bush Camp
They do not necessarily represent the views of Expert Africa.
Okonjima Bush Camp is amazing!
We are very pleased that Expert Africa recommended this to us. We had 2 wonderful days here. The thatched chalets are absolutely fabulous with a separate lounge chalet to relax and enjoy the birds and animals coming to drink at the little pool right outside. The food here was the best we have had in all the camps we have visited. The staff were all really nice and welcoming.
Our guide Daniel was excellent. He and the trackers did a great job finding a big male leopard called Nkozi, 2 pairs of cheetah and a pair of African Wild dog for us to track and watch.
On our evening visit to the hide we saw a family of porcupine, a honey badger and a brown hyena!
It was a bit unclear what activities were included and which were extras. We opted for a night drive on our last evening which we thought was included, but found out later was extra. Not a big problem but the paperwork we had in advance wasn't clear about this.
The stars here are amazing too.
The camp is in huge fenced area where you can walk on your own without the risk of meeting a predator. We were therefore able to walk the Dik Dik trail on our own to watch birds It was good to be out of the vehicle and stretch the legs! On our walk we saw black wildebeest.
Okonjima Bush Camp review
Great place - we stayed at the Bush Camp as our first option was not available but were very pleased with the chalet. It was two little chalets, very private - one with a bed and the other with minbar and sofas to look out to the great views. A small waterhole where warthogs were regulars! The service was brilliant, everything was very well organised, very friendly staff and they really made you feel special. Even though I had challenging dietary requirements they were very accommodating - the food was excellent!
We did the Leopard trek in the evening and the early morning Cheetah trek with our guide Jonas who was brilliant. Both activities were great and were very lucky to see two wild dogs and a cheetah involved in a kudu kill on the morning walking trail. We were allowed to stay for as long as we wanted and not rushed back - they just worked around us, having breakfast laid on later and also letting us check out late - all staff seemed to work in sync.
Overall great place which is made special with the exceptional staff and service.
Another wonderful place!
We adored Okonjima. The boys especially enjoyed it. We got really close to the animals and were especially thrilled to see leopards close up.
The boys' highlight were the wild dogs. We enjoyed being able to walk near the cheetahs.
Our guide was Daniel who was gorgeous. We also liked Jason and Angel
Our rooms were stunning and to have a day room was unexpected and very special.
We didn't think we could better our visit here 2 years ago. How wrong we were. From the moment we were upgraded to Bush Camp this became a very, very special place for us. Our guide Richard was truly excellent and he took us to parts of Okonjima we hadn't seen before. Food was very good and activities awesome.
Saw Shanti twice, a leopard my wife had sponsored 2 years ago, as well as seeing a rare pangolin. A great way to start our Namibia trip.
Okonjima Bush Camp review
We enjoyed the Okonjima Bush Camp and their whole idea of saving the "cats".Read more about the whole safari
Lovely location. Rooms were splendid although the point of a separate viewing lounge for each room seemed unnecessary. It meant going outside to make a hot drink! It was fun to have your own private water hole.
Our guide (Rohan) was exceptionally good but we found the manager (Angel) a bit condescending. Our initial greeting from another member of staff was not very professional as he seemed confused as to why there were only three of us. He stumbled over the names and made us all feel a bit uncomfortable.
The drives were fantastic. Rohan made them an experience we will never forget, especially our walks - tracking Cheetah, Wild Dogs and Spotted Hyena. The food was excellent.
Great Guiding from Rohan
our guide Rohan, was delightful and so obviously passionate about the animals on the reserve. He displayed a great deal of knowledge and took great care to ensure that we were enjoying our experience.
Our greeting on arrival didn't meet expectations, we had to wait for someone to check us in and they still had my husband's name on the room list, something that the staff in every other Lodge had been extremely careful about.
Okonjima Bush Camp review
I came away from Okonjima with very mixed feelings.
First the positives.
The Thatched Lodges are very high quality, very comfortable and have everything that you need. Each also has a separate viewing room for betting up close to the local wildlife (bit limited) and birds. But it is very, very comfortable even if the closest Lodges are a pretty decent walk from the main guest area - in fact a long walk! For some the presence of green lawns is somewhat at odds with the dry surrounds of the country side. It makes it nice and pleasant but is a bit artificial?
Next, the game viewing, particularly cats, is very good provided you can set aside any prejudices that you may have about "cheating" a little by searching via radio collars rather than genuinely "hunting" in the wild. But, if you want to see, in particular, leopard, this is that way to do it. I also had some good cheetah sightings and was able to "track" an impressive pair for about 15 minutes but be aware they do move quickly, even when they are just walking. We also had a close up of a "resting" spotted hyena and found a pair of wild dogs for really good close ups. We also saw porcupines from a night hide - which were impressive but only after a dangerous clamber over a rocky path in the dark because no body bothered to tell us to bring a torch!!!!!
Less impressive was the actual guest service in the areas of the welcome, the food and bar service and the overall quality of the meals. Frankly, it seemed as though they were a staff member or two short for the number of guests! The buffet and cooked breakfast were actually quite good and we were served by an excellent and enthusiastic waiter who was pretty much run of his feet and there was a tendency for the buffet to run out of things. Certainly, on the occasion of one afternoon tea the plate of savouries had disappeared within about 10 minutes and a request for a refill could not be fulfilled.
The main meals were OK but not outstanding. Some of the game meats were, frankly, a bit tough compared to other places and the "service" side did not match the quality of the accommodation.
There were other irritations such as a very confused welcome and booking in process where clearly our party of three lodges got confused and I ended up with the "personal" welcome note of one party and the luggage of another. How hard is it to remember three different groups/names? And on check out we had to sort out a small issue of being charged for some bar items when we had booked "fully inclusive". Not major issues and all solved but at these prices .........!
For the purists the visit to the Africat Foundation is both impressive and perplexing. It is impressive because of the effort and energy that has obviously gone into creating a very impressive facility to accommodate leopard and cheetah and to assist at least some back towards a potential release into the "wild" within a Reserve environment. More perplexing is the ultimate outcome for some animals that are not able, for various reasons, to be released back into the wild. Africat explains that these animals are used for "education" purposes and the long term objective of helping the community to better relate between farming and wildlife is clearly desirable. At the same time I came away with the impression that there was an awful lot of energy and resources into creating a very, very impressive "zoo" to look after some wonderful animals - but for how long and ultimately to what purpose. I was impressed but am still in somewhat of a dilemma.
Overall, Okonjima is worth a visit.
Okonjima Bush Camp Review
This camp has recently been refurbished to an amazing level - the accommodation was really good, with a bedroom, bathroom and separate lounge each. The game drives were good with great sightings. However, the big BUT - the catering and service were very poor. There was not enough staff to serve, and they desperately need someone who can actually cook!! Such a shame - this brought down the whole experience.
We have to also complain about one of the 'managers' - Rodney. He was totally incapable of a). sorting out our rooms, b).giving any information and c). any administration. To cap it all, he tried to charge us for standard alcoholic drinks, which we knew to be included. After arguments from all members of our group, he backed down and cancelled the charges. Not a good advertisement!
Glad we went but wouldn't go again.
We have struggled with our review of Okonjima Bush Camp because although we enjoyed our wildlife sightings and admire the goals of the Africat Foundation, we are troubled by some of the things we learned.
First, the camp: The Bush Camp accommodations are amazing. The villas are large, well appointed, and quite luxurious. Each villa has a sala attached and from there you can lounge, enjoy the view, and feed the birds. Heavenly! So, no complaints whatsoever about the accommodations. But, when it came to food and service, there was a disconnect. Where the accommodations are five star, the food and service struggled to get past 2 stars.
This was another place that struggled with my food allergy but beyond that, the food was simply not good. Also, no meal options were provided. Like it or not, that was what was for lunch or dinner. Take it or leave it. Afternoon tea was offered but so little was put out that if you didn't arrive early, you might well go hungry. Unless, of course, you had a food allergy and an assertive personality and were willing to find a manager and specifically ask for something to eat. Kudos there to Angel, who seemed to be the afternoon manager. He was professional, accommodating, and seemed to have an understanding of service standards in the hospitality industry. The person who appeared to be the morning manager, however, (I think his name was Ronald) was withdrawn, surly, and prone to mistakes. Overall, the staffing levels were low, which made it hard for any of the staff members to do a good job. Also, the staff members' skill and training levels seemed to vary greatly with some staff members being very personable and competent while others struggled.
Now for the wildlife experience: We went to Okonjima specifically to see cheetahs and leopards and, in that regard, we were not disappointed, even though all our sightings - with the exception of one leopard cub - were of collared animals. What I wasn't really prepared for was how much our game drives felt like excursions into a big, fenced zoo. We have an attraction in the Toronto area called African Lion Safari, where guests can drive through a large park in their own cars and see the animals. As our Okonjima guide swung his tracking device around, and as we pulled up next to collared cheetahs and leopards (as well as a sleeping hyena and two wild dogs) that seemed completely oblivious to our presence, I kept thinking this was not a typical wildlife safari and these were not typical wild animals.
I felt even more uneasy when I learned from our guide that a fairly large number of cheetahs (I don't remember the exact number) have been killed by the resident leopards because the area is so heavily covered by brush and conditions are far better for leopards to hunt than for cheetahs. Apparently there are only 6 collared cheetahs left in the park while something like 14 have been kept in holding cages for some time now (at least 2 years) waiting for more brush to be cleared so they can be released. Another group of cheetahs are in the holding areas but will never be released for various reasons such as not being able to hunt for themselves. I understand there are also three or four leopards and three lions in holding areas and none of these animals will ever be released.
Several things the guide said made our group wonder how much professional guidance Africat has had over the years. For example, we heard of several "mistakes" made over the years that cost the lives of many cheetahs and how Africat has struggled with the cats' diets because of the high cost of feeding them (which apparently came as a surprise after having rescued a few cats). We also heard that Africat has consulted a "lion whisperer" but we didn't hear of any consultations with wildlife biologists or other scientists. It could be that Africat is guided by a board of highly training and variously qualified professionals (biologists, veterinarians, and others knowledgeable about conservation) but we didn't hear about this type of guidance or oversight. Also, please keep in mind that my criticisms must be taken with a grain of salt because not only do I not know the details of Africat's involvement with scientists and conservation agencies, I am well aware that even the most professionally guided and best run conservation efforts make mistakes, encounter conundrums and cannot "save" each and every animal. I'm simply expressing some of the concerns our group voiced.
We also heard that Okonjima has recently brought several different types of animals into the park including ostriches, horses, and rhinos. If these efforts are aimed at ensuring a healthy and balanced environment for the cheetahs, leopards and other current occupants of the park, then I applaud; however, if these efforts are aimed at diversifying the wildlife in order to broaden the park's appeal, I hope Okonjima anticipates the consequences for the animals currently under their care. For example, our guide stated that they are considering bringing lions into the park, a move that is certain to have negative repercussions for the cheetah population, especially with regard to cub mortality.
Although I am conflicted by some aspects of Okonjima's operation and approach, I applaud their current focus on education. They seem to have come to the awareness that in addition to saving individual animals threatened by human-animal conflicts, a focus on education may also save species.
In summary, this is a camp to visit if you simply want to get close to cheetahs, and especially leopards. If you are interested in an authentic safari experience, Okonjima is not for you.