These predators don't come from Etosha, but the surrounding areas, totally wild.
On the Eldorado farm they will hunt these predators and instead of killing them, they will capture them and cage them for the public to view. I suppose a bit like a zoo.
With our guide and meat in tow, we walked down to the cages. On our way down we saw Eland, Kudu, and wildebeest at his little watering hole. We saw hyenas, leopards, caracal and got to feed the cheetahs. All these animals are absolutely stunning when you get to see them up close. And we were surprised to hear the cheetahs sound like house cats, just with a much larger and louder purr and meow. But I did feel a little sad to see them all caged up.
We headed for a town called Outjo where we would meet Andi, from Wheelie Adventurous. He travelled down the west coast of Africa on his BMW GS1200 and we had met him in Togo along the way. He was staying with a local farmer he had met and said we were welcome to join them. That night we stayed in Ombinda Lodge where Rob could get a bit of car maintenance done (another wheel bearing!) before meeting Andi the next day.
We arrived onto the farm and waited for them to return from tracking poachers. It was great to see Andi again, who introduced us to Achi (an Israely girl travelling southern and Eastern Africa on her own on a BMW GS700) and Jasper (the local farmer). We sat enjoying a cold beer and all got acquainted. It was almost time for the gorgeous sunset, so we headed of to the camp which was set up on his farm for hunters. We climbed on the rocks and the drinking began. We got to know Jasper a bit and we soon learnt that he was an amazing story teller and had us all hooked on the tails of the bush.
The next day we set off into the bush for a game drive around his farm. When arriving at a view point, Jasper saw a fire pit with his eagle like eyes, so we headed to the area to track the poachers that were causing extensive disruption to his farms. With rifles in tow, we started making our way through the thorny bush. The poachers would hide out in the bush trapping and killing the animals and drying them for biltong to sell on the black market. We started tracking the bush while Jasper was noticing all the signs. There was no shoe spore, but just a large flat surface that only a keen eye would notice. Jasper explained that they wear bags over their feet to hide their tracks. Eventually we arrived at a camp, but it seemed old, and this was not the one Jasper had noticed. So we marched on. We did eventually find the camp Jasper had seen. With bones lying everywhere, big Kudu horns hung in the trees and stollen wire lying on the ground. Wire was connected to trees where they would usually hang the meat to dry. Jasper was furious! We dismantled the wires and with nothing more to be done, we headed back to the car.
That night we ate like kings with a huge abundance of meat to keep our energy levels going. Jasper told us about the difficulties he faces being a farmer in Namibia. Ultimately he lived an amazing life, but it came with a number of issues he had to face daily and we had only the scraped the surface by experiencing one of them that day. He explained he had to go out searching for poachers at least twice a week as they were not only effecting the number of cows, but also the game on his land. And ultimately the livelihood of his business.
And then there were the predators, that Namibia seems to have in abundance. Jasper explained that the predators no longer go for the game as they are a difficult kill, but would rather go for the easy kill being the cows, putting a real strain on his business and the welfare of the 50 odd employees and their large families he needs to protect. A lot of these predators, like those at the Aldorado farm outside of Etosha, would kill for fun, killing between 20-30 cows in 1day. They don't eat them, just kill them. As a farmer, this would kill his business and therefore uses his legal right to take matters into his own hands.
Even after contacting the animal conservation companies, alerting them of the presence of these preditors and the need to have them relocated. He gets no help and they are not interested, or arrive months after being alerted, which is too late. So unfortunately he has to hunt them. He explained how he hated this part of his job, but unfortunately it came with the territory.
The other side of his business is hunting. He is a professional hunter and has all the legal requirements to host hunting experiences on his farm. People will travel from all over the world and pay to have a hunting experience. Jasper monitors the animals on his farm every year with the help of the conservation companies and makes sure the levels of animals on his farm are adequate for the space. If there are too many animals, this too is detrimental as it means there will not be enough food or water and most will die of starvation anyways. Namibia has been in a huge drought for many years and looking at the land you'd never think anything could survive out here. The conservation companies give him a quota as to how many animals he can and should kill. There is no grass, the leaves are brown and there is a real lack of water. So offering a hunting experience serves many purposes. It brings in a lot of money for the animal conservation in Namibia, it helps bring tourism, and it helps Jasper keep the numbers down.
The next morning he let Rob get a bit of target practice in and shot a 306 rifle at rocks. This was so that if we came across anything in the bush he would know how to use it correctly. He shot well and was really accurate with it. I have to admit as I stood watching I was not expecting such a loud bang and it felt like it had rattled my insides, giving me the fright of my life. I didn't feel comfortable handling it so I left to the others, while I just tagged along.
That day we went out tracking a lion as Jasper had word that there was one on his farm and already had killed a fair number of his cattle. We found the spore and tracked it for some time with no result. (I have to admit, I was pretty relieved we didn't get to see it). But it was great walking through the bush with Jasper as he pointed out all the different spore and seemed to notice things that we would never. The bush came alive as he explained everything.
After leaving we enjoyed a lovely game drive and saw all the beautiful animals on his farm. Zebras, kudu's, gemsbok, disk-dik's and steenboks. His passion for these animals was amazing, and it was this part of his job that I envied so much. Part of his job was to drive around his extensive land regularly to monitor the amount of game on his farm, and ensure the levels weren't dropping. Totally amazing!
We continued to be fed and looked after for the whole week, truly getting a taste of Namibia through such an inspirational man. He took us out in Outjo for lunch and we all enjoyed delicious pizzas, wine and don pedros for desert. The locals started arriving at the pub and they all insisted we stayed for a braai. That night turned out to be a very drunken affair. The locals are amazing and so welcoming, and Namibia is continuing to really capture our hearts.
Shot after shot, drink after drink, we were getting rather mellow! I even found some confidence deep down to start practicing my limited Afrikaans with the locals, and in my drunkenness surprised myself as to how much I actually knew.
We eventually pulled Rob away from the bar and drove the hour or so back to the farm with Rob snoring in the front seat. As we drove through the night the roads were alive with wildlife! Jasper was doing great at giving me the most amazing night drive as he angled the car so I could see all the animals in the spot lights. Gemsbok, zebras, jackals, kangaroo like squirrels.... Absolutely beautiful!
The next morning we enjoyed a proper Namibian breakfast! Gemsbok steaks, scrambled eggs and beer! All before 9am in the morning. We were having a ball and being treated like royalty! We couldn't have asked for a more amazing experience!
After breakfast, and in true Namibian style it was time for more target practice. We got to shoot a hand gun and the boys more rifles. I didn't chicken out of the shotgun this time and gave it good go, hitting two of the targets (beer cans!!). It was actually so much fun, and I was buzzing afterward. Then the boys tried the rifles and Rob did so well, shooting the beer cans and sending them sky hi. This time sticking bullets in my ears to absorb the massive blow.
It's safe to say that day was incredibly drunken and we spent the day getting highly intoxicated and enjoying the company and more amazing stories from Jasper. We ended up swimming in one of the boreholes on his farm. As slimy and cold as it was, we were having the time of our lives!
After our swim we headed back out for another game drive and to catch the beautiful sunset on the farm. We even stopped and got to stroke a zebra that seemed to be a bit tame.
Jaspers meat supply was running a bit low and he needed to supply his workers with food. So it was time to hunt either a zebra or gemsbok on his farm. This was the part Jasper was not fond of, but it needed doing. Rob, myself and Jasper went out to the waterhole just before the moon rose to get us all in position. We settled in a small wooden built hide where we could view the animals quietly and discreetly. We sat incredibly still with the rifles ready. I sat scared and nervous. I did not want to see an animal get shot, but I now had a new understanding of the need for it. I am very squeamish when it comes to things like this, so this was a big deal sat there and witnessing how things are done.
Jasper made it very clear what could and what couldn't be shot. He would only allow old animals that had been pushed out of a herd and were alone. The kudu's on his farm had suffered rabies and he was trying to increase the numbers, so kudu's were out. He would give the yes or no, making sure the right animal was shot. And if the right animal didn't come down for a drink, it would need to wait till the next day. I liked how strategic he was, reducing any unnecessary killing and ensuring he was not affecting the young herds or reproduction. As crazy as it sounds, he truly cared about the future of these animals and effecting them as little as possible.
In the total silence when you could hear your heart beating, the sounds of the bush came alive. The smallest rustle in the bushes made you jump, and Jaspers amazing eye sight once again caught sight of a lone zebra, an old stallion. It was time to get the rifles ready and as Rob lined the rifle up, he was not comfortable as the scope was not letting in enough light and meant he couldn't see clearly. Jasper had given Rob the low down before getting to the hide and one of the rules was that if you weren't comfortable with the shot, don't do it. Rob whispered that he could not see clearly, so Jasper handed him the 308 with a different, more clearer scope. The zebra had turned to look at us hearing the movement inside our hide. A few seconds later I jumped with the incredibly loud sound of the shot. It felt like my stomach had jolted into my mouth and I was in shock. My body shook and I tears burned my eyes as I tried to hold them back. But Rob had shot the zebra with complete accuracy and the zebra was down as quickly as could have been possible.
We gave it a few minutes before going to see that everything was OK. We approached the zebra and I couldn't hold back any longer, the tears poured down my cheeks. Seeing this beautiful animal lying motionless on the ground had almost crippled me.
It is something I never want to witness again, but I was glad it had been done quickly and as humanly as possible. I am not a vegetarian, and still, this experience has not made me change and I will forever enjoy eating meat. It's just something me as a person can't handle seeing, but I am glad that Jasper was so professional about it and was strict about how it needed to be done. There was no ruthlessness about it.
After we winched the zebra onto the pickup, we went back to the farmhouse where the zebra would be gutted and hung, before given to his workers for food. Jasper reassured me during our trip back, telling me I should never feel ashamed about how I was feeling. He hoped that I understood why it needed to be done. I truly did! I just couldn't control my emotions.
Once at the farmhouse, Jasper pulled Rob to the zebra to give him a serious talk about what he had done. Almost like a ceremony or ritual. The blood of the zebra would be smeared on his cheeks, forehead and nose to symbolise his first kill. To ensure he had respect and understanding of what that meant. Jasper spoke to him in a hushed tone, making him really think about what was sacrificed and to ensure he understood that life is a privilege.
Putting aside everything, this was an incredibly special moment!!
Later, Rob told me he too felt incredibly emotional about what he had done, but that he felt privileged he was given the opportunity to do it and experience hunting in such a controlled manner.
I have a real respect for farmers and even though the experience was difficult for me, I feel it has really educated me about the world of farming and hunting. It is not all bad, if done in the right way.
Our week with Jasper, Andi and Achi, was coming to an end. It felt as though we had all grown together so much over our week together. We had a great time, laughing, joking, chatting, and just getting to know one another.
Jasper is a truly inspirational man and we were so privileged to have had the opportunity to get to know him. We had a true Namibian experience in the bush with a man that felt like family. I don't know if he will ever know how much this week had meant to us!