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The main road through Caprivi (B8) - the Trans-Caprivi Highway from Ngoma to Katima Mulilo and then westwards towards Rundu - is tarred and forms a major trade route between Namibia and other southern African states. The other major road that links Kongola to Sangwali and Linyanti is gravel-surfaced and can be trying after heavy rainfall (Dec-April).
Cell phone (mobile/handy) coverage is limited to Katima Mulilo, Bukalo, Ngoma and Kongola. Divundu, on the western side of the Caprivi Game Park, also has cell phone coverage. For internet facilities, try Tutwa Travel in Katima. Public telephones are scattered throughout the Caprivi and can by found at most rural settlements. It is advisable to always carry a Telecom phone-card or ‘flexi-card’ as coin operated phones are limited.
There are three state protected game reserves in Caprivi Wetland Paradise (see map for location). They are: The Mamili, Mudumu and the Caprivi/Bwabwata National Park National Game Parks. Here, the limited road and infrastructural development adds a sense of adventure and wilderness-feel, reminiscent of wild Africa. In the dry season (May-Nov), these parks are home to large herds of migratory buffalo and elephant. Attractions in the wet season (Dec-April) include bird-filled pans fringed by water lilies and inhabited by hippos. Look out for the water loving antelope - Lechwe, Reed- and water buck - in the floodplains. You may even be lucky enough to have sightings of Roan and Sable antelope or a glimpse of the rare, semi-aquatic Sitatunga found in the dense papyrus reed beds.
The Caprivi Game Park/ Bwabwata National Park is located in the 200km stretch from the Kavango River to the Kwando River. Nambwa- and Bum Hill campsites are located along the Kwando River in this park and have set a precedence in Namibia by being the first conservancy-owned and -managed tourist facilities in state protected areas.
Mudumu and Mamili National Parks were proclaimed at Namibia’s Independence in 1990 and are located south of Kongola. A Ministry of Environment and Tourism initiative called “Support for Protected Area Network” or SPAN is using funds from the Global Environment Facility to bring infrastructural development to all three parks.
Because the Caprivi is “Namibia’s Wetland Paradise”, it makes it Namibia’s bird paradise. The Caprivi has varied habitats including broad-leafed and acacia woodlands, mopane forests, riverine forests, grasslands and floodplains and therefore boasts more than 400 species of birds. The eastern floodplains and ‘grassveld’ are accessible by 4x4 vehicles, however, only at certain times of the year (May-Nov). During the high waters of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers you can visit parts of this area by contacting one of the lodges on Impalila Island or the staff from Impalila or Kasika Conservancies for a local guide.
Places to go for Birding and What to Expect:
Impalila Island offers fantastic birding which include the highly sought after Pels Fishing Owl and if you are really lucky the Crested Guinea Fowl. The eastern floodplains have many ‘grasveld’ species including the Rosy Throated Long Claw and many water birds found in the Malapos (pools) during the rainy season and after the Zambezi and Chobe River waters recede. Specials in this area include Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron and Coppery Tailed Coucal.
Closer to Katima Mulilo town the habitat changes to Mopane Woodlands where you can expect to find Arnots Chat, White breasted Cuckoo shrike and many species of woodpeckers. After the rains these forests are really exciting when pools of water gather in the black sticky cotton soils and attract numerous water birds, including migrants such as Lesser Moorhen, Black tailed Godwit, Great Snipe and many more. About 20 km east of Katima Mulilo take the Kalembeza road north towards Kalizo and Island View Lodges on the Zambezi River. You can expect to see many raptors and grassveld species in this area, including Dickinson’s Kestrel and Yellow Throated Sand Grouse. On the banks of the Zambezi river between the two lodges is a breeding site for Carmine Bee-eaters. Thousands of these birds gather annually from September to November. What a splendor to witness!
Kalizo Lodge is privileged to have resident Brown Fire finches, White crowned Lapwings, and a pair of seasonal breeding Shelley’s Sunbirds. Birding in and around Katima Mulilo is brilliant. One can expect to see, amongst many others, African Finfoot, African Skimmers, African Fish Eagles and if you are lucky, Bat Hawk on the Zambezi River. Birding in the gardens of the Zambezi Fish Farm, Caprivi River Lodge and around Katima Mulilo should produce specials like the Schalows Turaco, Trumpeter Hornbill, Coppery Sunbird, Eastern Nicator, Eastern Bearded Robin, Hartlaubs Babblers and Western Banded Snake Eagle. Night specials include Pennant Winged Nightjars, Wood Owls, Barred Owlets and Three Banded Courser.
As one leaves Katima Mulilo towards the west the State Forests host some exciting birds too. These teak forests (Baikea Plurijuga) host at least eight species of sunbirds, including Shelley’s and Purple Banded. You may also be lucky enough to see the Stierlings Wren Warbler, Black-Eared Seed-Eater (Canary), Broad-Tailed Paradise Whydah and the Northern Grey Headed Sparrow. Traveling south-west from Katima Mulilo on the gravel road (C49) to the Mamili Game Park is a 4x4 adventure of its own. The Mamili Game Park borders Botswana and is a swampland with copses of large trees. The swamplands are filled by local rains and overflow from the Linyanti River. Due to this special environment, birding is very exciting. You can expect to see large numbers of pygmy geese amongst hundreds of water birds. This park also hosts a few pairs of resident Wattled Cranes and, if you are lucky, you may get a sighting of the uncommon Denham’s Bustard.
Once you leave the Mamili Game Park, over either the rather precarious tin bridge or the slightly more stable wooden bridge, continue west along the gravel road to one of the lodges or camps on the Kwando River. All these establishments produce fantastic birding opportunities. You can expect to see at least one of the four species of Coucals, including the special summer visiting Black Coucal. The papyrus and reed beds that line this interesting river, teem with warblers and weavers. Once you cross the Kwando River (at Kongola) and enter the Bwabwata National Park (West Caprivi National Park), you really should consider staying at either one of the community campsites (Bum Hill, Nambwa or N\\Goabacha on the Kavango River) or, if your
budget allows, at the stunning Susuwe Island Lodge. Once again you will have a brilliant birding experience with specials such as the Racket Tailed Roller and Narina Trogon. As with everything natural, certain times of the year are better than others.
Birding in the Caprivi from September to April is excellent, but so too is the rainfall. Please remember to take this into consideration when planning your birding trip. In conclusion, to have a great birding trip to this fantastic part of Namibia, don’t rush!! There is so much to be seen and great adventures to be had.
It is very important when traveling in Caprivi to take medication to prevent you from getting this disease that is transmitted by the nocturnal Anopheles mosquito. Speak to your pharmacist or doctor about the appropriate medicine. Always use mosquito repellent at night and sleep under a mosquito net.
·Driving tips: 4x4 Vehicles:
The majority of Caprivi is accessible by 2x4 vehicle. This is the case until you turn off the main tar (B8) and secondary (C & D) gravel roads. Remember that the Caprivi is predominately rural communal land, therefore there is a lot of cattle, goats and people on the roads, so take care whilst driving. Travel with great care on the gravel roads (maximum 80 km/h) as these roads are often very sandy or slippery and one can suddenly loose control of the vehicle. There are many potholes under the loose sand that may cause your vehicle to swerve unexpectedly.
NB: Should this happen to you, DO NOT brake, swerve or try and correct the vehicle. Hold the steering wheel tightly, release the accelerator and let the vehicle correct itself.
Courtesy of Open Africa, the following info about Malaria, Birding, Road Networks & Telecommunications, and Game Reserves are available: