Opuwo Country Lodge: First Night

The first night at Opuwo was when I really got to know everyone else on the trip, and where I made my friends from other schools. We set up our tents (by now we had gotten the hang of this) and walked down to the pool for a swim. Now I was expecting an average hotel pool, but instead, the lodge had an infinity pool looking out off of a clip. I had never seen anything like it. The pool was freezing cold, but we braved the ice-cold water in order to get a better view of the valley. We hung out around the pool for the entire afternoon, and enjoyed the most beautiful sunset that I had ever seen. To quote a famous, modern philosopher (@pwithers): "It's impossible to caputure the beatury of an African sunset. But you can try your best."

After the pool, we had an exception dinner, cooked my the master chef (Colleen). All the students played our own version of "never have I ever", without drinks of course. Later, I went with four of my friends back to the pool to look at the African night sky (one of the best views of the trip).

Etosha National Park

Wow, there is absolutely no way that I am going to be able to accurately capture the experience of Etosha, but all I can do is try my best. After a (relatively) short drive, we arrived at the huge, stone gates of Etosha. Upon arrival, we were disinfected for "foot and mouth disease." Then, we set off for our camp. Almost immediately, we saw herds of different types of antelope, zebra, and birds. It wasn't too far to our camp once we were in Etosha. The drive was entertaining, what with all of the animals, but everyone was exhausted from waking up early. Finally, out of nowhere, we saw the camp in the distance. The camp was fairly large, maybe the size of the Collegiate campus. There was an observation tower, a curio shop, a general store, and my favorite feature of the entire trip: a watering hole. The watering hole was just outside of the walls, about twenty feet out. there was an electric fence separating us from the animals, but they didn't pay any attention to us anyways. My favorite memories of the trip were  made staying up until the late hours of the night with my group of new friends, silently observing the watering hole. During our three nights there, we saw: giraffe, elephant, white rhino, black rhino, jackal, hyena, and many different types of small game.

The next three days were spent doing game drives with our excellent field guides where we saw: giraffe, elephant, rhino, jackal, bat eared fox, antelope, zebra, lions, wildebeest, and more! Rob (the chaperone of Head-Royce) even saw a caracal! Our favorite pastime was playing hacky sack at bushy-bushy stops.

Etosha was undoubtedly the highlight of my trip, and I hope I will one day be able to return!

Reflective Quote:

"Westerners arriving in Africa for the first time are always struck by its beauty and size - even the sky seems higher. And they often find themselves suddenly cracked open. They lose inhibitions, feel more alive, more themselves, and they begin to understand why, until then, they have only half lived. In Africa the essentials of existence - light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, death - are all more immediate, more intense. Visitors suddenly realize what life is for. To risk a huge generalization: amid our wasteful wealth and time-pressed lives we have lost human values that still abound in Africa" - R. Dowden

CCF Lectures: Poaching

While at CCF, we were given multiple lectures to help educate us not only about the cheetah, but also about big, current issues in Namibia. The lecture that I found most interesting was about the poaching problem that is highly affecting wildlife and livestock in Africa. We learned that there are two different types of poaching: subsistence and commercial. Subsistence poaching is small scale and often intended to provide food for a family, while commercial poaching is large scale and performed for economic benefit. Both types of poaching are growing increasingly problematic, but for different reasons. Subsistence poaching is becoming more and more popular around CCF land because of hard times in town and a lack of livestock on other farms. Commercial poaching is affecting both South Africa and Namibia greatly, and many elephants and and rhinos are being killed for their tusks and horns. In South Africa, everything is so corrupt that it is bad for someone witnessing a poaching to call the authorities because they have then given the location of valuable wildlife. Namibia had always been an a country "untouched" by poachers, but in the last two years the poaching rates have increased severely. The worst part about the entire poaching process is that the poachers, especially commercial, are rarely caught because they have extremely advanced tools to assist them. These tools include helicopters (for use in national parks), drones, airplanes, night vision goggles, heavy weaponry, inside intelligence, and sometimes even laws that work in favor of the poacher. Poaching is so hard to control not only because the poachers possess these tools and advantages, but also because of the money they make. A kilogram of rhino horn is worth approximately $60,000, and approximately $3,000 per kilogram of ivory (elephant tusk). Poaching has been such a massive problem that there are only 300,000 elephants left in the entirety of Africa! People around the world need to be educated that poaching is an increasing problem in Africa, and that animals like the rhino do not need to be killed for their horns. Awareness of the issue is key in prevention, and CCF is making efforts to increase anti-poaching education throughout Namibia.

Himba School and Village

Our fourth day in Namibia was probably my favorite of all. After breakfast, we left our campsite in Opuwo to go visit the Orotjitombo Primary School and the Himba village. At the school, we learned how to say several words in the Himba language, including "moro" for "hello," "perivi" for "how are you," and "nawa" for "I am well." After greeting the children, we proceeded to take lots and lots of pictures of and with them. They really liked to see the pictures after we took them, and they would always point themselves and their friends out in a large group photo. The girls at the school loved to play a game called Net Ball, which was basically keep-away. It surprised me how athletic and fit they all were; we played the game non-stop for such a long time and they never showed signs of being tired. Mind you, I was panting and gasping for water. After visiting the school, we had the privilege of traveling to the nearby Himba village where we got to learn about their traditions and lifestyle. It was amazing to see how content the Himba people were with their lives, and my initial pity for them transformed into utmost respect by the end of our visit. Overall, it was extremely fun to get to hang out and play with the school children, learn all about the Himba tribe, and get to experience a different culture.

Otjitongwe Cheetah Farm

When we first arrived at the Otjitongwe cheetah farm, I was thrilled. It was our first chance to see a real cheetah, and we were told that we would be able to pet them and take pictures with them. As we stepped off the truck, I saw my first cheetah lying behind a fence, lounging in the shade. It looked lazy and uninterested with us. The owner of the farm came out to greet us and open the gates. A few rules and guidelines were shared with us along with the knowledge that one cheetah is attracted to flip flops. As soon as the gates began to open, we frantically shuffled inside. Everyone wanted to touch a cheetah! I walked over to one and pet its head with caution. I am allergic to domestic cats so I was worried that I might be allergic to cheetahs. With minimal physical contact I strolled through the pen looking at the cheetahs and taking pictures. After a short while, Will walked up to me and showed me a selfie he had taken with a cheetah. It looked hilarious so I decided to try taking one myself; it turned out great. The cheetahs seemed slightly annoyed with us petting them but mostly tame. After about 25 minutes, they started to get grumpy and wanted to nip at our hands. One of the cheetahs even took another kid's shoes! He finally got it back, but now the shoe has chew marks all over it. We soon left the cheetahs and went to our campsite. That night, we got to eat roasted sheep which tasted amazing. Attached are a few pictures from dinner that night. The woman holding the sheep leg is Lulu -- one of our tourguides.

CCF Cheetah Day

This day was my favorite of our 2 week trip to Namibia. We began the day by going to CCF's butchery. I was a little worried about what would be inside once we opened the door (thanks to Anna's gory descriptions), but it actually wasn't too bad. At first I only saw a few hooks hanging around, and then as we entered farther into the room our guide opened a freezer room full of bloody warthogs, donkey meat, and unidentifiable game. Our task was to cut the fat and small bones off of a tub's worth of meat, and then distribute it into bowls based on size and tenderness. Some cheetahs at the farm require loose meat that is easy to eat, while others need tough meat so they take longer to eat. Next, we cut up pieces of liver to give to the cheetahs as treats. After finishing the bloody job, we washed our hands off with a little soap and water, and then drove to a cheetah pen. Upon arrival, our guide told us not to be alarmed because one of the cheetahs named Amani only has one eye. I was still shocked when I first saw the cheetah, but it was amazing to learn that Amani is still the dominant female of her group. Next, we were allowed to throw liver treats over the fence to the cheetahs; we quickly learned that they have the worst short-distance eye sight! If a treat isn't thrown directly in front of the cheetah, then they probably won't find it until they accidentally step on it. For the next part of our cheetah day, we stood in the back of a truck and got to race cheetahs in their pen. While the vehicle drove along the outside of their fence, the cheetahs raced along the inside. CCF staff had trained them so that whichever cheetah arrived at the first corner of the pen in first place got their piece of meat first. Then we continued driving to the second corner of the pen to feed the second place cheetah. In this way, the cheetahs got food, activity, and competition. The cheetahs that we fed like this have the best chance of returning to the wild because they have little human contact. When CCF returns cheetahs to the wild, they are collared with a GPS so that CCF can track them. They do this because then they can monitor the cheetah and make sure that it isn't injured or unhealthy. If necessary, CCF can track the cheetah by using its collar's radio transmitter and help it in emergencies. The cheetah day was interesting and informative. I had a great time!

Reflective Quote

When we were on a game drive at CCF, I was intent on looking for animals, but my driver seemed unconcerned. I leaned over and whispered to him, "I can't see anything." He paused for a moment, looked out at the sunset, then replied, "You're missing the view."

Traveling from Hotel Safari to Oppi Koppi restcamp

We woke up quite early at 5:40 to pack our bags, take showers, and put the bags in the truck.  Then we went to the hotel restaurant where we had breakfast.  After breakfast, we had a meeting in which we formerly met the rest of the group and were told rules that we had to follow along the trip.  We also met our Indaba Exploration Guides; Colleen, Lou-Lou, Dylan, and Richard.  After our meeting, we got onto the truck while others like Mrs. Cooke waited to either pick up lost baggage or other people arriving late.  On the trip, we saw a group of baboons on the street and many warthogs on the side of the road.  We were told that if we had to go to the bathroom we would have to take a bushy-bushy on the side of the road.  After about thirty minutes into the trip, we stopped at a large termite mound.  The mound was around ten feet tall and hard as rock.  It comprised of many maze like tunnels where the termites slept and farmed fungi, which is what they ate.  When making the mound, they mix the surrounding dirt and their saliva to make a rock hard material.  After our detour, we stopped at Okahanja, where we took our first toilet stop.  To go to the bathroom we had to pay one ren.  Afterwards, we travelled to the town of Otjiwarongo for another toilet stop.  This town was Lou-Lou's hometown.  Then we travelled to Outjo (pronounced ocho) where we ate steaks and fries at The Farm House restaurant and Beer Garden.  After lunch, we went to the Outjo supermarket.  At the Outjo supermarket, men with strange nuts in their hands approached me and asked my name.  I said Will and then they tried to spell it out on their arm with a pen.  After they perfected it, they picked one of the nuts and began to carve Will into the nut therefore forcing me to buy it.  I learned later that the nuts were the core of the palm tree fruit.  The men would get the palm tree fruit, split it open, and cook the molasses like substance inside of the fruit until the rock-hard core emerged.  On the sides of the nut were elaborate carvings of animals.  After buying a nut for all of my family members, we left the supermarket and journeyed to Kamanjab where we spent our first night in tents at Oppi Koppi rest camp.  That night we heard our first jackal howl.