Travel in Namibia: Otjitotongwe Cheetah Park

This may go down in the books as one of the most bizarre places I’ve been on this trip.Â đŸ†Â đŸ€”Â đŸ’œ

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Now I’ll begin with some background information on the relationship locals have with cheetahs, which helps to explain how the Otjitongwe Cheetah Farm came to be.DSC_0943 - Edited

Now as visitor in Africa, I have had brief, yet wondrous encounters with these exotic cats. ❀

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For that reason, hearing the history behind the cheetah park was eye-opening to me, since it gave me a different perspective of this exotic cat, and also an up-close encounter with a wild animal, in a truly other-worldly environment.

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cheetah selfie 😉

One of the first things I learned is that, in a local’s eyes, cheetahs can be seen as quite mischievous. Essentially, cheetahs commonly get into farmer’s pastures and kill their livestock. This puts the farmer’s livelihood at risk, which creates tensions between animal and man. DSC_0996Many local farmers resort to killing the cheetahs; however, one farmer decided to keep the cheetahs in a spacious enclosure instead.

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cheetah farm enclosure

That farmer was Marco, owner of Otjitongwe Cheetah Farm, who now provides a safe haven for 17 cheetahs, three of which are tame.DSC_0976 - EditedThe three tame cheetahs were spotted for being weak when they were young, so Marco decided to hand raise them, and now keeps them in his backyard.

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the tame cheetah is best friends with the house pet ❀

The non-tame cheetahs, on the other hand, have an over 200-acre property to run on, plus he feeds them donkey meat on a daily basis.IMG_0798 - EditedHe also has a vet visit regularly, to keep up with their vaccinations and check on their overall body condition.
IMG_0802 - EditedSince this can get quite expensive, Marco decided to generate income from tourists by providing daily encounters with his cheetahs. Visitors meet the tame cats, then watch Marco feed the non-tame cheetahs from the back of his pickup truck.

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wild cheetahs

Personally his farm seemed like a scene straight out of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hah! 😛DSC_0917 - EditedThe lawn looked like a junkyard, with broken-down vehicles, old farm equipment, and even racks of rusty hooks used for hanging animal carcasses.DSC_0919 - EditedDSC_0915Additionally, the knowledge that there are 17 cheetahs on the property is nothing short of frightening! 😼DSC_0842Now before our group entered the fenced-in property to meet the tame cheetahs, Marco gave us a short briefing. Basically, he said that wild animals are never really tame. They can still claw at you, bite you, and jump on you. He said their behavior is quite similar to a typical house cat. They can go from purring one minute to bating at you the next. That being said, animals always show warning signs when they are getting agitated, so he asked us not to push their buttons. After the talk, we were allowed through the gates.DSC_0844We also signed no liability waiver. I’ve decided these are things that can only happen in Africa. 😼DSC_0872Now in the beginning, the cheetahs were very friendly. They loved being pet, and were purring like crazy.DSC_0850

After a while though, the flies started to agitate them, and you could one was getting annoyed. Here’s a short video of the cheetah trying to bite the flies off his tail.

Pretty soon one lunged at a girl’s ankle to grab her flip flop, thinking it was a toy. As a safe suggestion, Marco told her to step out of the shoe. He then attempted to grab it from the cheetah. This scenario started out as funny, since the cheetah was making such cute noises, reluctant to release the sandal from its grasp.

Then things turned awry. :/

Basically, someone got the ‘smart’ idea to throw another sandal down as a distraction, and try to grab the original shoe. This ended in her being shanked in the arm by the cheetah. The gash cut through her skin and adipose tissue. Luckily, we have three nurses on tour with us who were more than willing to apply temporary sutures and clean the wound. In the end, she was very proud to have a cheetah scar. Hah!

Side note: As an observer in the situation, this event appeared avoidable. This was also the first time that something bad happened with one of their cheetahs.wound

Anyway, we ended our visit with the tame cheetahs by watching them chow on some meat.

DSC_0904The family’s dogs got all the leftovers. 🙂DSC_0914Full belly. 😛DSC_0880Afterwards, Marco loaded us up in his pickup truck and took us to feed the wild cheetahs some donkey meat.DSC_0840You could tell the cheetahs anticipated a feeding, as they started following our car as soon as we entered the enclosure.DSC_0991

They even started to fight with each other, as to establish who would be getting first dibs on the meat. 😼

It was a wild experience to watch the cheetahs show their power and strength as they ran for their chow. It was also adorable to admire the cheetah cubs, trying to stand their own against the adults.
DSC_0983 - EditedMarco himself showed an overt confidence as well. He daringly walked out in the field, carrying only a long stick, to pick up some wild mushrooms in the enclosure. He said the tasty fungus was worth the risky venture. :/DSC_1000Overall, this experience was crazy and unique. It’s unfortunate that the cheetahs need to be enclosed, but the property was stunning, and a beautiful space to safely house these animals.DSC_0941 - EditedDSC_0959 - EditedFor this reason, I would recommend visiting the cheetah park. This is a once-in-a-lifetime encounter, only available here.DSC_0897 - Edited

http://www.cheetahparknamibia.com/wmenu.php

Accommodation

The camping grounds at the cheetah park were rustic, but quite peaceful. They had no electricity, but had a beautiful infinity pool surrounded by unique African trees, and a lookout tower to oversee the surrounding landscape.DSC_0838DSC_0837

hostel
lodge with animal door carvings; infinity pool near native trees
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lookout tower and porcupine quill light fixture

In the evening we played cards while the crew cooked up some pork chops and veg.camp1 DSC_1009In the morning, we were off to Spitzkoppe, an vastly different landscape, which showcases the incredible biodiversity of Namibia. Stay tuned to hear all about it. Until then. 🙂

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