Into the Wild with Christo Viljoen

By Sophia Perlstein
Jan 15, 2020

Namibia, at once vast and seemingly endless, is home to the largest population of free-roaming cheetah’s and 80 million-year-old dessert. Its open landscapes bring extraordinary experiences to life. Zebras, sable antelopes and giraffes are just a few of the species you might encounter on a savanna excursion or nighttime safari. Its conditions at once raw and ethereal, the Namibian desert breeds resilience. 

Protecting the extraordinary wildlife that call Namibia home and ensuring their survival is part of everyday life for Habitas Namibia General Manager and wildlife expert Christo Viljoen. This personal mission began after a visit to Kruger National Park as a young boy. Overwhelmed by his love of nature, he’d count down the days until he could escape the city and play outdoors. Unsurprisingly, his career took him through a three-year course in wildlife management with additional courses to follow. 

“I think nature and animals taught me a lot in life and on few occasions just spending time outside on my own changed my view on various aspects from my personal life to my views on conservation.” Christo’s work with wildlife also extends to the protection of our planet, another cause which he feels strongly about. “I am inspired by people. People who want to change the world for the better.” This means working closely with local organizations to find sustainable alternatives for negative environmental trends. 

Christo met his partner and Habitas Co-Manager Leah during a volunteer cheetah rehabilitation training program he was managing. Together, they accepted the opportunity to bring Habitas Namibia to life. “Although both Leah and myself can get very caught up with work, we respect each other’s views and decisions. It’s about helping one another grow.” Combining their professional and personal lives has resulted in deeper understanding and awareness. 

If you have a chance to visit Namibia, you may just run into Christo and Leah guiding visitors on safari tours and savanna excursions or hosting discussions on wildlife protection. Their passion for conservation has led them to collaborate with anti-poaching units who train on-site at Habitas Namibia, in addition to work with local farmers who advise on wildlife management. They are redefining how guests interact with their environment and inviting them to participate along the way.