Okonjima Bush Camp: Our full report
The rolling hills and grassy plains of the Okonjima Nature Reserve, just south of Otjiwarongo, are home to ...... Okonjima Bush Camp. The 220km2 reserve is also the base for the AfriCat Foundation, a non-profit organisation set up to conserve and protect Namibia's threatened cheetah, leopard and other wild carnivores. From this small camp, guests are invited to learn about Namibia's big cats, with excellent opportunities to view them at close quarters.
As of 2019, the Okonjima Nature Reserve no longer acts as a release site for former captive cheetahs, therefore cheetah tracking is no longer offered as an activity. Please see the activities section below, for more information on this as well as the other activities on offer.
Bush Camp has several sister camps on the same large reserve – the bigger Okonjima Plains Camp, the private four-bedroom Villa and, just next door, the two-bedroom Bush Suite. All are within a range of about 5–10km of each other, and between them they offer a range of accommodation in different price brackets.
Namibia is home to over a third 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 farmlands, 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.
So, as with its sibling properties at Okonjima, big cats remain the big attraction of Bush Camp and are the basis of most activities. A stay here of one or – better – two nights will usually give you the chance to see big cats at close range. From game-viewing vehicles, guests have the opportunity to radio-track leopard and/or spotted hyena or wild dog. We last visited Okonjima in December 2016 and successfully tracked leopard and cheetah, and both species seemed unperturbed by our presence – resulting in some fantastic photo opportunities! Not only did we see the cats but we were also privileged enough to see brown hyena (twice!) and wild dog as well. We were exceptionally fortunate, please do bear in mind that in a reserve of this size, sightings can never be guaranteed.
As of February 2019, Okonjima Nature Reserve stopped their cheetah tracking activities. We understand that this is because of a lack of success in the survival of former captive cheetahs that were released to live wild in the reserve. These are the animals which are radio-collared to enable the post-release monitoring. Within the large fenced reserve the competition with hyenas and leopards has increased to a point where the Okonjima Nature Reserve has now been judged to be unsuitable for the release of these cheetahs.
The Okonjima Reserve is also home to a wealth of other wildlife. Although the focus is normally very much on tracking the cats, on our activities the guides were informative and we stopped to watch oryx, giraffe and mountain zebra, and we had a superb sighting of the normally very shy and diminutive Damara dik-dik – one of Africa's smallest antelope.
Depending on the length of your 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 they can take a guided walk on the 'Bushman Trail' to get an insight into how these ancient people set up homesteads, made fire and hunted their prey. After dinner, you could join a guided 4WD night drive in the reserve or – an option that is not usually possible from other camps on the reserve – visit a night hide where you might spot the more elusive nocturnal animals such as porcupine and honey badger.
Bush Camp has just eight chalets and a honeymoon suite. Spaced 80–100m apart, for privacy, the thatched clay chalets are styled on traditional circular African dwellings, or rondavels, with conical thatched roofs. Large glass windows to the front of each chalet let in plenty of light and afford terrific 180° views of the grassy plains from your bed. The rooms were refreshed in 2015 and look smart: simply decorated in a warm cream colour, enlivened by carvings and artefacts. Each has two large queen-size beds. A sculpted partition wall separates the bedroom from the en-suite bathroom, which has a shower, twin stone sinks and separate toilet. Each room is also equipped with a ceiling fan, a small safe, a hairdryer, insect repellent and a telephone .
Linked to each chalet is a separate open-sided rondavel that serves as a lounge area and is furnished with very comfortable day beds. This is the perfect shady spot to relax in the heat of the day. Welcome refreshments are also close to hand in the form of tea/coffee-making facilities, accompanied by a jar of delicious freshly baked biscuits, and a minibar that is stocked on request. In front of each chalet is a small bird bath/waterhole where smaller antelope and warthogs come to drink. And an additional nice touch is a jar of birdseed that is provided for you to scatter to attract a variety of birds. We got some great close-up pictures of guinea fowl, waxbills, francolin and hornbills when we tried it!
With similar amenities, but quite different in design, the honeymoon suite is a rectangular room with large sliding glass doors in front of the bed. It also differs in that there is a fireplace in the lounge, as well as a bathtub and an outdoor shower.
The main area at Okonjima Bush Camp is one of our favourite parts of the camp and has also recently been refurbished. A large curved building, it overlooks a manicured lawn with a pond, and grassy plains beyond. It has three quite distinct areas: the reception and a curio shop; a dining room with beautiful, heavy wooden tables; and a large and very inviting lounge with a fireplace and the bar. There is almost always a member of the team around if you need anything and when we stayed, nothing seemed too much trouble. Around the side of the building, and slightly raised, is a good-size swimming pool, with sunloungers and shaded areas to relax out of the sun.
Okonjima Bush Camp’s small size, as well as the generally high standards of care, attentive service and delicious food, create a very comfortable and exclusive-feeling environment. Over many visits, the camp’s knowledgeable guides have also made it highly memorable. We've returned home with a wealth of information about Namibia's carnivores, and some fantastic photographs of leopard and cheetah in particular.
Country manager: Namibia
- Okonjima Nature Reserve , Namibia
- Ideal length of stay
- At least two nights are best to do most of the activities, particularly tracking leopard and cheetah. However, if you are limited for time, on a one-night stay you should be able to get an idea of what the AfriCat Foundation does, and with luck see some cats.
- 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 Bush Camp.
- Accessible by
- Self-drive or Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
- Usual board basis
- Full Board & Activities
- Food quality
- Whenever planning a visit to Okonjima, we always look forward to the meals here; sometimes imaginative and often well presented, they have rarely disappointed us.
A light breakfast is on offer for those going out on a morning activity. It's an early start, so it's normally a small selection of cereals, muffins, fruit, tea and coffee. On your return, a much larger full breakfast buffet, consists of the usual selection of bread, toast, muffins, cereals, yoghurt, fruit, juice, cold meat and cheeses, as well as a hot breakfast with bacon and eggs cooked to order.
Lunch is usually quite informal and may be a salad or light meal.
We recommend leaving some space for afternoon tea.
Dinner is a three-course plated meal. On a previous visit, we tucked into lentil soup with warm bread rolls, followed by game steak served with mashed potatoes and vegetables, and polished off by a decadent and warming sticky toffee pudding.
- The large luxuriously appointed chalets at Okonjima Bush Camp complete with a separate day room are perfect for a Namibian honeymoon but for something extra special consider the larger honeymoon room.
- See ideas for Honeymoons
- The guided and self-guided walks around Okonjima can be excellent for birdwatching, and the lodge itself has a variety of watering points, bird-baths, dams and lakes that help to attract in the local birdlife.
- See ideas for Birdwatching
- Photography holidays
- For close-up shots of big cats – especially leopard and cheetah – Okonjima should be high on your list. Activities work on a two-day cycle, so allow at least two days here to maximise your chances of good photographs. Be aware, though, that most cats are collared.
- See ideas for Photography holidays
- Wildlife safaris
- Visitors at Okonjima will usually have the chance to view big cats at much closer quarters than is possible in most national parks. Most of the animals are habituated to humans so are fairly relaxed around people and vehicles.
- See ideas for Wildlife safaris
- Okonjima Bush Camp’s interior encompasses lovely African artefacts and carvings, the stone washbasins and a large walk-in shower are stylish amenities found in your room. A highly attentive service and delicious food add to its reputation as comfortable and luxurious safari lodge.
- See ideas for Luxury
- Attitude towards children
- Okonjima Bush Camp welcomes well-behaved children over the age of 12 years.
- Property’s age restrictions
- Bush Camp has a minimum age limit of 12 years.
- Special activities & services
- Generally recommended for children
- Although we think that Bush Camp would be acceptable for children over the age of 12, they might feel more at ease at. Plains Camp, which is much more geared towards families. They are also much more likely to meet other children at Plains Camp.
- Children must be under the constant supervision of their parents at all times. The pool is not fenced and despite the fence around what they term as the 'safe zone' for the camps on the reserve, there is some wildlife (warthogs, antelope, zebra, giraffe etc) in the area. Warthogs – not tame! – often graze on the lawns in front of the main area.
Our travellers’ wildlife sightings from Okonjima Bush Camp
Since mid-2018, many of our travellers who stayed at Okonjima Bush Camp have kindly recorded their wildlife sightings and shared them with us. The results are below. Click an animal to see more, and here to see more on our methodology.
- Power supply notes
- There is a back-up generator in case the mains power fails. Each chalet has plug points, as well as a hairdryer, electric kettle and bar fridge.
- There is cellphone reception in the rooms and in the main area. There are normally telephones in each of the rooms, with internal lines only. WiFi is available in each chalet as well as the main area.
- TV & radio
- Water supply
- Water supply notes
- All rooms have showers and hand basins that are plumbed in, with flushing toilets. The honeymoon suite has a plumbed-in bathtub.
Health & safety
- Malarial protection recommended
- Medical care
- The nearest doctor is in Otjiwarongo, about 40 minutes' drive from Okonjima. In a medical emergency, the camp can arrange for travellers to be flown to Windhoek.
- Dangerous animals
- High Risk
- Security measures
- The whole reserve is fenced and there are guards at the main entrance gate.
- Fire safety
- There are fire extinguishers in each room and in the central areas.
- Disabled access
- On Request
- Laundry facilities
- A full laundry service is included. Weather permitting, laundry collected in the morning will be returned the same day.
- Each room has a small safe for storing valuables. There are no currency-exchange facilities available.
- Accepted payment on location
- The camp accepts Visa or MasterCard credit and debit cards. Payments can also be made in cash with Namibian dollars, South African rands, US dollars, euros or pounds sterling.
Other lodges in Okonjima Nature Reserve
Alternative places to stay in this same area.