We were lucky to see quite a lot of animals during our time in Namibia. There were warthogs and baboons along the roads. In Etosha National Park we encountered rhinos, oryx and elephants around the waterholes. But nowhere did we get as close to the animals as we did during our visit to the Cheetah Conservation Fund outside of Otjiwarongo.
Changed Plans #1
We woke up early in the morning after our first night at the Bush Pillow Guest House in Otjiwarongo. It was just after 5 p.m. and the plan for the day was a safari tour to the Etosha National Park a bit more than an hour’s drive to the north. We had prearranged a tour with the owner of the guest house and he was going to be our guide for the day. Leaving the room we were met by his wife and some sad news. Our guide was sick and was not able to drive us that morning. So what to do? We decided to give it a try the next morning instead, as we really did not want to drive ourselves to the park in the early morning. This time it was back in bed to get a few more hours of sleep.
Changed Plans #2
After a small breakfast at the guest house we set off to our new destination. Our plan was to go to the Waterberg Plateau National Park as we had been recommended the place by the tourist office in Otjiwarongo the previous evening.
We set of south along the B1 highway and turned to the east along the C22 road. Both of these were fine paved (tarred) roads. After about an hour’s drive it was time to turn onto road D2512 leading up to the park. We knew that it was going to be about 40 kilometers left on a gravel road and expected it to take some time. After just a few hundred meters we had to slow down. The road was immensely corrugated. We did decide to give it a try to see if it would get any better further ahead, but after 2-3 kilometers we gave up. It was not possible for us to drive on this road with our rental car. An SUV would have been needed. We decided to head back to the guest house to rethink our plan for the day.
Cheetah Conservation Fund
Our choice for the day fell instead on cheetahs, or more specifically the Cheetah Conservation Fund. We did actually call them to ask about the road conditions before heading out again and this time we were quite certain that we would make it all the way.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund or CCF describes itself as “the global leader in research and conservation of cheetahs”. The organization was founded in Namibia in 1990 and is dedicated to saving the cheetah in the wild.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund has its International Research and Education Center just outside of Otjiwarongo. Here it is possible to view the feeding of the cheetahs, arrange tours to see other wild game and to have a close up encounter with one of the cheetahs.
Find out more about the Cheetah Conservation Fund on their homepage >>
Another Gravel Road
We set off once more from the guest house and it wasn’t long until we were on the gravel road leading up to the Cheetah Conservation Fund. The first thing we noticed was that the road was corrugated. Luckily it was a lot less so than the previous road. The road was more made from sand than gravel and it did take time to drive. According to Google Maps we should have been there in no time at all. But we had the estimate from Cheetah Conservation Fund that said around 45 minutes to better guide us. It took us around an hour, but we were happy to have gotten all the way. Better, the clock was only 1 p.m.
Feeding the Cheetahs
The first thing we did was to go and pay the entrance fee. We opted for an option that also included a cheetah drive through two of the enclosures. Once it was all done and we had about 30 minutes before it was time for the feeding of the cheetahs at 2 p.m. Before that we really needed some lunch ourselves. Luckily the cafe had some nice toasts and some drinks. So we did not need to compete with a full grown cheetah for some food.
Then it was finally time for the highlight of our visit. It was time for the staff to feed some of the cheetahs that stayed in the enclosures closest to the main center. The staff picked up a bowl each of meat and went into some smaller enclosures that had a gate closed for the cheetahs. They then put the bowls down, left and closed the two doors that led to the outside world. Once safely on the outside they pulled a rope to open the gate for the cheetahs.
There were some kind of fascinating behaviors these large cats had when eating. First of all, they are as picky as most of us humans. The food needed to stay in the bowl, it is not fun to get sand in your food. They were also animals of habit. There were specific spots for each cheetah to eat and the would make sure to always eat at their spot.
The Cheetah Drive
Once the feeding was over it was time for our booked Cheetah Drive. Together with a few other guests we boarded one of the safari cars and it set off to one enclosure nearby. The first enclosure we entered contained four female cheetahs and all of them were laying down under the small bushes and trees to get some protection from the sun. The driver made sure to park just a few meters away from them, which made it possible to see them close by. The guide really seemed to know each one of the cheetahs by name, which was quite impressive.
We also visited the enclosure next door that contained four male cheetahs. These were also laying down resting. But they did seem to be more relaxed with being closer together than the females. Actually the guide told us that male cheetahs in the wild live in groups, while females are on their own.
Back To The Guest House
After the drive our visit to the cheetahs had come to an end and we decided that it was time to go back to the guest house. So we made sure to fill the car with a few more water bottles from the small store and set off. We wouldn’t dare to go out on these roads without sufficient amount of water in the car.
The road seemed a bit shorter on the way back and we were soon back at the guest house. We even had time to stop at the supermarket as well as KFC for some dinner. Our hopes for the following morning was to receive better news about our safari tour.
How close have you been to a cheetah?
This post belongs to a series about our trip to South Africa and Namibia. Read the previous parts by clicking on the links below: