It appears we’re on the home stretch – 11 days in Namibia and 1800 km of driving around its expansive landscape. Two more nights and it’s bye-byes to the Namib desert, the wild animals and luxurious accommodation. Must it end?
Once again we zipped down the highway, this time in a southeasterly direction towards the buzzing town of Otjiwarongo – with a quick stop at the Farmhouse in Outjo for another one of their coffees. Not much choice for coffee in this part of the world so we grabbed it wherever we could.
The town of Otjiwarongo was all go on the Monday morning we arrived; bustling with locals hitting the shops, grocers and markets in its compact town centre. I was drawn to this small outdoor market in a park opposite the main shopping centre in town, curious as to what all the women were selling. Can you guess what it is?
Biltong, of course.
The main reason we were in town was to find a place for lunch. A walk through the big supermarket revealed a whole lot of options, mainly beneath heat lights in fried form. Not quite what we were after.
Located near the centre of town is the Crocodile Ranch, somewhere I’d already bookmarked as a potential lunch stop. It’s here that the Nile crocodile is bred for the production of a variety of items made from its skin; the meat sold locally for consumption. You can pay to be escorted around the crocodile enclosures, but we were sniffing about to check out the menu at its restaurant.
The restaurant is built in an open-air pavilion surrounded by lush greenery and koi-filled ponds; clearly only frequented by tourists, but we didn’t care about that. I only had eyes for one thing, and it wasn’t a live crocodile.
As the better half tucked into some slow-roasted pork neck (90) with spätzle – which got the thumbs up – I rather audibly got my chops around some crocodile spare ribs (125). There’s just enough sweet and smokey sauce going on – not in an American bbq kind of way – more like tamarind and other flavours. Absolutely loved it. As for the croc meat, it couldn’t have been more succulent and tender. Even those buttery roast potatoes and onion were to die for.
I may have eaten a blue version a couple of days prior in Outjo, but nothing was holding me back from downing a good wedge of red velvet cake (30) at the crocodile farm. Delish!
Crocodile Ranch – Hage Geingob St, Otjiwarongo
Barely an hour down the highway from Otjiwarongo was the turn-off for our next bed for the night.
The 20, 000 hectare Okonjima Nature Reserve is the home of The AfriCat Foundation, an establishment that provides an environment to orphaned, injured and rehabilitated carnivores like cheetahs and leopards. They also make it their mission to find workable solutions to the lion-farmer conflict.
These guys have rescued and rehabilitated over 1000 injured and troubled cats over the past 20 years, with almost 90% of them released back into the wild. Pretty good going, really.
Lodging in the reserve offers a bunch of accommodation types – a basic campsite, a family-friendly camp, luxury bush camp chalets, private bush suites and a grand African villa.
I had no idea what the camp or our accommodation was going to look like, thanks to the better half not giving any clues to the situation. All I knew was we’d be staying in a camp. Such a broad term, really.
On arrival we’re met at the main lodge and swiftly escorted down dusty tracks through the bush; following our “maid” on her quad bike, with us in our 4×4.
And then we arrive at this.
This is the Bush Suite, a sprawling thatch-roofed dwelling with an entrance that resembles something you’d see in Hobbiton. The moment you step into the wide hallway you spot the kitchen to your right; a fully functioning space complete with stocked bar and climate-controlled wine cabinet – most of which is complimentary, of course. You even get your own personal chef, should you need one.
The hallway leads into the dining room – to the left is one of the bedrooms, complete with two queen beds and en-suite with indoor and outdoor shower. To the right is the same bedroom and bathroom set-up; collectively enough space to sleep two couples very comfortably. One of the beds can even be wheeled outside for a night beneath the stars!
In the centre of the suite is a large sunken lounge, with stereo system, leather lounges and fireplace. Outside on the rear terrace are seating areas beneath acacia trees, a 13 metre swimming pool and a small watering hole where wildlife come to get their fill. Probably a good thing that the wild cats live in another part of the reserve.
I’m liking this camp already!
We didn’t have a great deal of time to sit and relax in our luxurious digs as there was an afternoon safari drive planned. Damn!
Along with another couple we piled into the safari 4×4, stopping briefly to hook up the receiver and check the signal. All cats in the reserve wear collars, so locating them is a little easier than searching for them without the contraptions.
The signal led us down into the plains and along a dry riverbed.
Nope, those giraffe don’t wear collars, but they always are fascinating to watch.
The beeping signal became very strong and we were all asked to keep our eyes very open and point out a cat if we spot one.
And then I did!
This gorgeous lady was wandering about on her own, walking along the riverbed and up to the carcass she had wedged high up in one of the acacia trees. If I had a telephoto lens you’d be seeing pics of her crunching into a wild boar, but you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Image courtesy of Okinjima Lodge
Image courtesy of Okinjima Lodge
Image courtesy of Okinjima Lodge
Unlike all the other safari drives we did in other places, there was no sundowner in the veld at Okonjima. The temperature dropped as soon as the sun set, so it was back to camp for a few drinks by the fire and dinner in the restaurant.
The dinner menu was a simple affair of 1 starter, 1 main and 1 dessert. A beautiful stuffed brown mushroom to begin with, accompanied by a South African red, of course.
Main course was an eland steak with onion marmalade and vegetables, and a lovely orange pudding for dessert.
We were up bright and early the following morning for another drive into the reserve, in search of more cats. It wasn’t long before we crossed paths with a gorgeous little cub and its mother crossing the road and disappearing into the grass and shrubbery.
Well hello there, Mr Zebra!
Another signal led us to the electrified boundary where we parked the 4×4, jumped out and searched for a wild cat on foot. We were desperately hoping to spot a cheetah as close as we possibly could.
And there she was, basking in the warm morning sun just 8 metres away from us. This girl was raised by people so she was used to being gawked at from a close range, but we were warned she was still far from being tame. All she was interested in was scanning the surrounding plains with her sharp gaze and casually rolling around in the dirt, yawning incessantly.
Our time in Okonjima was much shorter than we would have liked, so we were on the road one final time making our way south back to Windhoek.
This was the end of our journey!
The small town of Okahandja served us well when it came to stopping for lunch. Most tourists seem to drop by to pick up wood carvings at one of the designated markets, but for us it was a quick feed at Rhinos Restaurant.
American country music drifted from the stereo, giving the feeling we were somewhere in Nevada, not Namibia. Even the menu has a bit of a steakhouse vibe about it, with many pizza and burger options up for grabs.
A very firm warning came from the lovely young girl serving us when I ordered the chicken livers in chilli sauce (25.95). She was so concerned! I got them anyway, ignoring the fact they could have knocked me around with each bite.
Well I must say they did pack a bit of a punch, and I also must say they were some of the best livers I’ve eaten. Perfectly cooked, juicy, and absolutely packed with flavour – not just chilli.
The chicken wings (39.95) paled in comparison. Just wings, chips and no marinade flavours to speak of. The other winner on our lunch table was the pork schnitzel (92.95). A beautiful golden crumb harboured juicy meat that was also full of flavour. And so big! You’ve gotta love those German-style sizes.
Rhinos Restaurant – Martin Neib Street, Okahandja
Special mention needs to be made about the tour company we used for our entire Namibian adventure. Had it not been for the folks at Bench International, our itinerary may not have covered as many wonderful places had we done it ourselves. For those of us that want a Namibian experience without roughing it too much, I’d say look ’em up!