The AfriCat Foundation
Founded in 1991, The AfriCat Foundation is a family-run, non-profit organisation in central Namibia. Their mandate is to assist with the long term conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores: that magnificent creature, the cheetah; the beautiful leopard; the fascinating brown hyena and of course the icon of Africa: the lion.
Wildlife and the Namibian Farmers
The Hanssen family settled here in the 1970s, and during their farming years were exposed to extreme cattle loss as cheetahs and other predators took their livestock. Hunting, trapping and shooting these predators didn't alleviate the problem in any way, so, thinking, "if you can't beat 'em..." they switched to conserving these fine animals instead.
Enter AfriCat. AfriCat provides solutions to the clash between Namibia's farmers and predators through farmer assistance, education, research and welfare. Working closely with communal and commercial livestock farmers, they introduce diverse and effective farm management techniques to protect both livestock and large predators simultaneously.
About 3,000 cheetahs - a third of the world's population lives in Namibia and their genes are considered the purest. So when your grandkids' grandkids see a cheetah in full sprint gasping in awe, chances are its continuing survival was due in no small part to the cheetahs of Namibia and the Hanssen family.
With a dwindling global population of lions, these predators have been declared a protected species in Namibia with an estimated total between 600 to 1000 in the whole country. AfriCat North, bordering on Etosha National Park has been set up to protect, research and rehabilitate lions into the global gene pool, again, their disease-free genes make the Etosha lions particularly attractive to conservationists.
The youth education programme run by AfriCat creates a greater understanding of the importance of wildlife conservation, which is essential in the younger generations – this program to date has reached around 20,000 children. Ongoing research for the long term conservation of Namibia's predators in their natural habitat is done in close collaboration with the conservation authorities, scientists, researchers and farming communities.
AfriCat rehabilitates orphaned or injured animals at Okonjima until they can be released back into the wild. Over 1,000 predators have been saved since 1993, and 86% have been released back into the wild.
Combining Tourism and Conservation
With tourism and conservation having such a good relationship in Africa, AfriCat have embraced tourism firstly for its conservation strategy, and secondly as a business model which is sustainable. You are therefore able to visit and stay on the family farm which is AfriCat's base.
Okonjima's 22,000 hectare private nature reserve, the home of The AfriCat Foundation, is surrounded by the the Omboroko Mountains, 50km south of Otjiwarongo in central Namibia.
You can choose from a range of activities during your stay at Okonjima - leopards in the reserve are radio-tracked from AfriCat's game viewing vehicles as they roam freely and catch their own prey. Nocturnal wildlife such as porcupine, honey-badgers and caracal can be seen from a hide specifically designed for these animals, and you'll get valuable insight into AfriCat's work at the Carnivore Care Centre. You can join a Bushman Trail which is easy walking and very informative, and you can learn how traditional weapons and tools were made, and how the San people survive in the unforgiving environment. There are also self-guided walking trails, cycling trails and radio-tracking on-foot of the rehabilitated cheetah, wild dog and hyena.
Other wildlife at Okonjima includes jackal, aardwolf, bat-eared fox, aardvark, pangolin, genet, polecat, kudu, oryx, red hartebeest, gnu or blue wildebeest, eland, impala, giraffe, zebra, steenbok, duiker, warthog, baboon, rock hyrax, red rock rabbit, hare, ground squirrel, mongoose, and over 250 bird species.
Each year, AfriCat holds their Annual Big Cat Health Examination weekend, which tourists are allowed to join in on specific tours. This is a rare opportunity for remarkable up-close access to cheetahs over the two days, assisting the vets with vaccinations, health examinations, weighing, blood sampling and the administering of contraceptive implants where applicable.
Among some of the celebrities who have visited Okonjima are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, Joanna Lumley, Wesley Snipes and family, Linford Christie and Ian Wright.
A visit to The AfriCat Foundation will certainly give you a fascinating and unique insight into predator and big cat conservation in Namibia.
“I highly recommend you use Namibia Tours & Safaris if you're planning a visit to this country. Great logistics, great value, really personal service. Very fun to work with!”
“I feel that Edward is honest, extremely helpful, and a true professional. I will recommend this company and Edward's expertise to anyone heading to Africa. A perfect trip!!”
“We had an 18-day private guided tour (Namibia, Botswana and Vic Falls) organised by the NTS team. Our consultant Wilmari was amazing both in preparation to and during our travel. Responsive, personable and diligent she put together an excellent itinerary.”
“Our fly-in safari was a life experience we treasure. The scenery, people and arrangements were all outstanding. Bianca of Namibia Tours & Safaris put together the trip of our dreams. We highly recommend her!”
“Namibia Tours and Safaris and their consultants are the best. Ulrike, our consultant, helped us over a 2 year period to plan our 4x4 Safari details. She had the patience of a saint and the insight and knowledge of a true local.”
“Chantelle did a fantastic job in organizing our self-drive trip through Namibia. Nothing was too much hassle and Chantelle was so helpful and responsive throughout the whole process.”
“Having tried to organise this trip myself I was very appreciative of the knowledge and support given by Ashlee who could not have been more supportive.”
“The organisation and response from the initial contact was fast and flawless thanks to Bonique our tour consultant. Her recommendations were perfectly tailored to our needs with a lot of foresight and local knowledge.”
“The service and help we got from Tessa was fantastic, as a result we had a tremendous trip and loved everything in Namibia.”
“Janine from NTS proposed us a great trip that suited our needs and wishes finding the right accommodation and great places. We had a wonderful stay and it was nice to meet with her in Swakop. Definitely recommend!”
“I have no words to express my gratitude to Carmen Scott and all the NTS team for their excellent work. Keep it up and all the best!”
“I cannot find any hassle or negative point for the organisation of this trip. Outstanding material, good accommodation, simply perfect. What a great company!”