When I first travelled through Namibia?s Caprivi Strip I was struck by how very different the area was to the Namibia that I knew. Driving from the vast Etosha Pan and northwards on an amazingly straight, open road via Grootfontein we stopped first at Nkwazi Camp on the Kavango River. Gone were the rolling, ancient dunes of the Namib, the gaping splendour of the Fish River Canyon and the endless stretches of desolate coastline. We had suddenly been transported to a lush green paradise with a wide, meandering river, hippos grunting in accompaniment to the splendid sunset and well-kept lawns on which to pitch our tent. So much for a desert country!
Ten years on and the Caprivi still holds a very special appeal. The atmosphere is slow-paced and relaxed and the environment reminds us more of Botswana or Zambia than the Namibian interior, with many species present here which are rarely found elsewhere in Namibia. Notably, these include buffalo, hippo, crocodile and many bird species including the Wattled Crane, Racket-tailed Roller, Coppery-tailed Coucal and Slaty Egret. The Eastern Caprivi is home to one of the richest diversities of bird species anywhere in Namibia, this abundant medley arises from the combination of tropical (passerine) and wetland species which extend into this region.
This area has long been protected in the form of the Caprivi and Mahango Game Parks as well as the Mudumu & Mamili National Parks, however conservation in the area has taken a new turn with the recent proclamation of the 6100 km2 Bwabwata National Park which includes the Mahango, Buffalo and Kwando core areas as well as the original Caprivi Game Park.
This exciting development is Namibia’s newest park and it will form part of the 278,132 km2 Kavango Zambezi (Kaza) Transfrontier Conservation Area, the world’s largest conservation area straddling Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In December 2006, ministers of these five countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding and it is expected that Kaza will soon be a legal entity. It is hoped that this Transfrontier area will create wildlife corridors to allow freer movement of a wide variety of species including the many thousands of elephant that are found in the region, most notably in and around Chobe National Park.
It will also provide an exciting and diverse tourism experience with so many attractions within such a short distance of each other. Travellers can enjoy magnificent wildlife viewing and birding within the Bwabwata & Chobe National Parks before hopping across into the northern stretches of Botswana?s Okavango Delta to experience the magic of one of the world’s most important wetlands. Afterwards, they can spend a few days relaxing around the World Heritage site of Victoria Falls, possibly taking part in some of the exhilarating adventure activities such as micro lighting over the Falls, elephant back riding or white water rafting.