Kavango and Western Caprivi

This exciting national park is 25km south of Divundu. It was first declared a conservation area in 1983 and opened to the public in 1986. It was only officially proclaimed in 1989. Ownership and responsibility for the reserve was given to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) after Namibian Independence in 1990. In 2007 the Mahango National Park and the former Caprivi Game Reserve were combined, and now comprises the protected area between the Okavango and Kwando Rivers.

The river has floating mats of Echinochloa grasses (Hippo Grass), and is flanked by wetlands of Papyrus and Phragmites swamps and flooded grassland. The banks are crowded with riverine forest and woodland. In the north is the Mahango Omuramba and in the south is the Thinderevu Omuramba. In between are vegetated dunes and grasslands holding extensive dry woodlands.

Mahango National Park is listed, with good reason, by Birdlife International as part of the Caprivi Important Bird Area (IBA). The park is home to around two thirds of Namibia’s bird species. The floodplain is vital to rare species including Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane, Rufous-bellied Heron, Pink-backed Pelican, Saddle-billed Stork, Lesser Jacana and Rosy-throated Longclaw. The river banks, rocks and riverine forests are home to White-crowned and Long-toed Lapwing, Collared and Rock Pratincole, African Skimmer, Pel’s Fishing Owl and White-backed Night-Heron. Grassland areas can yield sightings of Palearctic migrants, including Black-winged Pratincole. Summer is the best time (November to March) for birding when many flowers and fruits are out.

Mahango has a wealth of wildlife with good numbers of sable, roan, kudu, red lechwe, reedbuck, waterbuck, tsessebe, Chobe bushbuck, duiker, steenbok and sitatunga. The river teems with hippo and crocodile and sometimes the Cape clawless and spotted-necked otter. A fair number of elephant pass through. Predators include lion, leopard, cheetah and African wild dog. Other species are warthog, baboon and vervet monkey. The winter dry season is the best time for game viewing.

The park is divided by a good wide gravel road that runs north/south to and from Mohembo Boarder Post with Botswana. Leading off this road on the eastern (river side) is a meandering track of about 15km, accessible to 2x4 except when very wet. The western side is a 4x4-only route of about 31km, sandy and dry, slippery in the wet.

All the lodges in the area conduct guided trips to Popa Falls, Mahango and the Buffalo Core area of Bwabwata National Park (across the river).

Weather facts: The summer rainy is usually between November and April, with an annual average of between 550-600mm. The winter dry season is from April to August/September, with temperatures beginning to soar in October during the build-up to the rains.

Places to stay: Nunda River Lodge, Ngepi Camp, Ndhovu Safari Lodge & Mahango River Lodge & a Conservancy Campsite.

Keetmanshoop hotels and lodges. Keetmanshoop is in the south of Namibia and its most famous lodge is Quivertree Rest Camp and its only hotel Canyon Hotel.