The lure of the area is its wild and untamed quality, which gives visitors a peek into authentic African lifestyles. Perennial rivers and expansive floodplains, lush subtropical vegetation, an abundance of game and birds, and scattered settlements provide a complete change of scenery from the rest of the Namibian landscape. The 575-kilometre tarred Trans-Caprivi Highway provides easy access to the region.
THE KAVANGO EAST AND KAVANGO WEST REGIONS
The Okavango River and its broad floodplains make the Kavango East and Kavango West regions considerably greener than the rest of Namibia. The river forms a natural boundary between Namibia and Angola for more than 400 km and is the lifeline for the Kavango people, who make a living from fishing, tending cattle and cultivating sorghum, millet and maize.
THE ZAMBEZI REGION
Formerly referred to as the Caprivi, the Zambezi Region is a fertile wilderness of riverine forests, flood plains, swamps and open woodland created by a complex network of rivers and relatively high summer rainfall. For freshwater angling enthusiasts, canoeists and white-river rafters, Zambezi offers much excitement and challenge.
Well over 400 of Namibia’s bird species occur in this part of the country, and the region is steadily gaining a reputation as a retreat for bird-watchers, nature lovers and specialist travellers. It is also of growing interest to scientists studying the wetlands system and its flora and fauna.
Zambezi, once known as Itenga, was ruled by the Lozi kings until it became part of the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland, today’s Botswana. In 1890, at the Berlin Conference, Germany acquired the territory, named it after the Chancellor, Count Georg Leo von Caprivi, and added it to German South West Africa. The capital of Caprivi was Schuckmannsburg (renamed Luhonono in 2013) until 1935, when it was moved to Katima Mulilo, a name that means ‘put out the fire’. Katima Mulilo has since become a busy tourist centre and gateway to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe and Chobe National Park in Botswana.
Travelling from Katima Mulilo on the B8, you cross into Botswana at the Ngoma border post. The road then traverses Chobe National Park to Kasane, the springboard to Impalila Island where Namibia borders on Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The link to these attractions is the 575-kilometre long Trans-Caprivi Highway, a wide tarred road that has replaced the dusty gravel tracks of the past. The route runs through a region of which one third is a floodplain, and where the population is small and the human impact limited. Providing access to three state- protected game reserves, it lies in the geographic heart of the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area.
PARKS OF THE NORTHEAST
These national parks are well-worth a visit on your journey through north-eastern Namibia. They play host to an abundance of wildlife and beautiful natural scenery:
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MANGETTI NATIONAL PARK:
Situated some 100 km southwest of Rundu in the Kavango Region, the park extends over some 420 km2 and is managed jointly by the Ukwangali Traditional Authority and the MEFT. Animals seen there include eland, blue wildebeest, African wild dog, leopard and hyaena.
KHAUDUM NATIONAL PARK:
a densely wooded wilderness reserve that borders Botswana in the east and can be explored only in 4×4 vehicles. It is the only conservation area in Namibia where the northern Kalahari sandveld biome is protected. The wilderness harbours several big game species and a multitude of birds. Large animals found throughout the park are elephant and giraffe, while predators are lion, leopard, spotted hyaena, and side-striped and black-backed jackal.
MUDUMU NATIONAL PARK:
Centred on the Mudumu Mulapo fossil river course, this vast 1 010 km2 expanse of dense savannah and mopane woodlands bordered in the west by the Kwando River, was proclaimed a national park in 1990. The mopane woodlands are at the core of Mudumu, the combination of forest and water sustaining a wealth of wildlife.
BWABWATA NATIONAL PARK:
In 2007 the former Caprivi Game Park, proclaimed in 1968, was incorporated into the 6 100 km2 Bwabwata National Park, including the Kwando or Golden Triangle, and the Buffalo and Mahango (the former Mahango Game Park) core areas. This heralded a new generation of parks in terms of an integrated approach towards park management. Bwabwata was designed not only to protect the environment, but also to accommodate the people living in the park.
NKASA RUPARA NATIONAL PARK:
The 320 km2 Nkasa Rupara National Park, proclaimed in 1990, has the distinction of being Namibia’s largest wetland area with conservation status. The park is characterised by a complex network of channels, reed beds, oxbow lakes and islands, with the focal point on Nkasa and Lupala, two large elevated areas that punctuate the floodplains.