I have found my happy place! It is at the Okonjima Nature Reserve in Namibia. This is where I spent six nights of my honeymoon. Now you might be wondering who opts for a honeymoon in Namibia and what this has to do with a science blog. Well, the Okonjima Nature Reserve happens to be home to the Africat Foundation, a not for profit organisation committed to the conservation of Namibia’s large carnivores.
Science lovers, animal lovers, and travellers of all kinds NEED to travel here at some point in their lives. First off, the accommodations are top-notch (just check out the Tripadvisor reviews). The staff have to be some of the most helpful and friendly people I have ever met (and I am Canadian; we are proud of our long-standing, widely accepted stereotype as a friendly and helpful culture.) Now, Husband and I were there for 6 nights during our entire time in Namibia. Apparently this is super rare. Most visitors only stay a couple of nights, which is NOT what I would advise. Yes, all of Namibia is beautiful and there is plenty to see, but you are doing yourself a disservice not to spend several days at Okonjima. You have the opportunity to go out tracking the large predators on the reserve, and while the guides (who are just tremendous) will do their absolute best to ensure that you see a leopard (or cheetah, hyaena, or wild dog) there is no guarantee.
Anyone who has ever owned a cat will understand how uncooperative they can be. The more time you spend there, the more chances you have to see a leopard. It was a pleasure to accompany our designated guide, Richard Zaayman. He worked tirelessly with the rest of the staff to give us the most unforgettable honeymoon. But what his work really did was create two lifelong supporters of Africat.
Conservation: we, as a species, should perhaps see ourselves more as guardians and stewards of the Earth, rather than those exalted and meant to take from the Earth to serve our own needs. As an Albertan working in the environmental field (an environmental chemist specifically), much of my focus is on pollution and the impact that oil mining has on our environment and our health. But we are part of an ecosystem. Other creatures are depending on the environment. We have heard that wolves change rivers, and no doubt so do the cheetahs, leopards, and lions of Namibia. What I love about Africat, and how I know that I found a group of kindred spirits, is that their motto is “conservation through education”. By focusing on educating the next generation on the importance of conservation and why Namibia’s large carnivores play an important role in the ecosystem it is hoped that a sustainable solution for the future can be made. The concept of education and curiosity is why I write this blog. By giving everyone the opportunity to explore science, making it accessible to all, hopefully we can give the next generation the opportunity to explore the mysteries and wonders of nature, whether they are exploring the spaces between atoms, the spaces between continents, or the spaces between planets.
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” -Nelson Mandela
Thank you Richard, everyone at Okonjima and Africat for making our honeymoon so perfect!