Caprivi Strip


In the far northeast of Namibia, the land gives way to the great Zambezi. Here, in the peninsula known as the Caprivi Strip, run the wide tropical Zambezi, Okavango, Chobe and Linyanti Rivers. The lush vegetation supports a quite dense population, making this a unique corner of Namibia feels more like a part of Northern Botswana or Zambia than it does the generally dry and arid Namibia.

A trip across the Caprivi passes many small local villages. Children herding goats wander back and forth across the road, women sell fruits, carvings, pots and pans from makeshift stalls, and a warm welcome to visitors. Even the Strip's main town, Katima Mulilo, is fairly small.

There are five protected areas within the Caprivi Strip. Each area boasts big game including hippo, crocodile, sable, waterbuck, reedbuck and Cape buffalo – heavily water-reliant creatures which are largely absent from the rest of Namibia.

Popa Falls Reserve is located where the Okavango River breaks up and drops 2.5m over a rocky section which was a result of the first of five geological faults. Essentially they are a series of rapids, known more for their beauty rather than being spectacular so far as falls go. Beyond the falls, the Okavango begins gradually to spread out across the Kalahari desert in Botswana.

The area by the riverside at Popa Falls is thickly vegetated with tall riverine trees and lush green shrubs, which encourage waterbirds and a variety of small reptiles. Footbridges have been built between some of the islands, and it's worth an hour's stop to spend hopping among the rushing channels, or walking upstream a little where there's a great views of the river before it plunges over the rapids. The entirety of the reserve can be seen in just a few hours and leguvaan (water monitor), a snake or two, and many different frogs are often spotted.

Mahango National Park is another area of the Caprivi Strip. The eastern boundary of the park is the Okavango River, which is also the reserve's focus. Here the river forms channels between huge, permanent papyrus reedbeds. Adjacent are extensive floodplain areas, where it's likely to spot red lechwe or sable.

Beside these, on the higher and drier land of the bank, are wide belts of wild date palm-forest, as well as the lush riverine vegetation. Further from the river are dry woodlands and acacia thickets, dotted with a few large baobabs. This rich variety of greenery attracts an impressive range of animals including buffalo, elephant, sable, reedbuck, bushbuck and waterbuck and the more specialist red lechwe and sitatunga. Good numbers of hippo and crocodile are also present.

Mahango is a great destination for a birding safari. More species can be found here than in any other park in Namibia. Many ducks, geese, herons, plovers, egrets, kingfishers and various waders occur here, along with the dry-country birds found in the rest of Namibia. Okavango specialities like the slaty egret can sometimes be spotted, and for many birds – including the lesser jacana, coppery-tailed coucal and racket-tailed roller – Mahango marks the western limit of their distributions.

Bwabwata National Park (frequently pronounced 'Babatwa') covers a large chunk of the Caprivi Strip. This is a largely undeveloped park which, whilst home to much wildlife, has few facilities and little in the way of game-viewing access roads. Most visitors just pass through along the way to the other parks.

The more northerly of Eastern Caprivi's two reserves, Mudumu National Park, covers 850km² of riverine forest and is bordered by the Kwando River on the west. This reserve has a good populations of a large variety of wildlife. Together with Mamili and the Triangle, Mudumu is notable for its Cape buffalo (otherwise uncommon in Namibia), roan and sable antelope, lechwe and sitatunga, and often large herds of elephant.

Mamili National Park is an unfenced swampland reserve of about 350km² created shortly before Namibia's independence and consists largely of marshland, veined by a network of reed-lined channels. It includes two large islands: Nkasa and Lupala. Together with Mudumu National Park, it has the vast majority of Namibia's population of sitatunga, red lechwe and puku, as well as large herds of buffalo, and a recorded 430 bird species.

Caprivi Strip is a wonderful collection of parks and reserves to visit on either a Namibia safari or Botswana safari, particularly for keen fishers and birders!


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