Caprivi’s hidden secret, is the sheer bounty offered by flood time. By far  the most interesting and rewarding time to visit is during the season, when the rivers rise in conjunction with the rainy season of neighbouring countries which give them birth. Sadly this is a time when most guests refrain from visiting, but we believe this is a big mistake.

Namibia is well known for its vast contrasting landscapes, and the Kavango & Caprivi regions are no exception. Abundance of water, perhaps more than anything else, sets them apart.

Here three rivers flow permanently, the Kavango (Okavango) Kwando and Zambezi, (with the Chobe and Linyanti, being extensions to the Kwando and  Zambezi respectively), each with its own seasons of low water to turgid flood periods after the rainy season.  This period generally begins in December, however, for the last few years the rains have begun in mid-November and lasted until mid-March.

It is said that the catchment areas of the three rivers is the size of Namibia and could fill all Namibia dams within an hour. The sight of the fast moving swollen waters is one never to be forgotten, while the flood plains created by rivers’ excess spillage offer a truly unique opportunity to spotlight what is often the hidden side of life in this region.

The watery wonderlands created in these areas by this seasonal flooding, are a sight to behold. Once sun-baked, the lands adjacent to the rivers now shimmer with water teeming with fish, and the most wonderfully diverse vegetation, abounding with wildlife and myriads of birds drawn to share the abundance gifted by the rivers.

The Zambezi has a vast flood plain reaching a distance of up to 72km on the Namibian side at its widest point.   During this period of full flood it first swells the estuaries and then gradually overflows its banks, creating the floodplains. Covering areas that are relatively flat, once the water has moved into these plains, it covers huge areas of land. 

When the river recedes after the floods, pans or “Malapas” are left behind, and since the soil is almost impervious, the water often stands until being replenished by the following years’ flood. This of course is a boon for animals, both wild and domestic and some really exceptional birdlife can be seen during these months.

When the water is high, fish know that they must go right into the floodplains to breed. The “Malapas come alive with water, fish, carpets of delicate waterlilies which suddenly appear from nowhere and the flourishing vegetation. It’s a time of plenty for all.

While flooded ground presents somewhat of a challenge for lodges, guests and the local folk, ecologically it is sheer magic for the area.  Most lodges located along the rivers, offer special provision for guests’ vehicles to be safeguarded and guests are brought in by boat during this season, offering them a unique and stupendous experience.

Boating leisurely through these transitory watery wonderlands, is often the major highlight of their holiday - if not their lives.  This rare and special privilege of experiencing Nature rejuvenating, replenishing and recreating, up really close and personal, takes one’s breath away..

Local folk, especially fisherman, generally have two homes.  Living and fishing on the river banks during the low water, once the water starts to rise they return to their permanent homes on higher ground. Here they keep their cattle and cultivate their lands. The Namibian Government does a sterling job of making sure that the people in the flooded areas are evacuated to higher ground.

During flooded times, the main B8 Caprivi Highway which stretches from Rundu through to Ngoma border Post with Botswana is not affected at ALL. No regional rivers run next to this road,  the only roads being affected are gravel roads in the rural areas, seldom used by Tourists. 

The Caprivi is a very popular destination for visitors from all over the world, providing links to popular attractions in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, where one can experience the sheer power of one of the seven wonders of the world  - Victoria Falls, which is full to bursting at flood time.

The average tourist, having little idea of  the secrets the mighty rivers themselves have to offer, spends only three or four nights in the Caprivi, and includes a visit to one or more destinations in the area. It is the rare and discerning visitor, however, who chooses to visit the Caprivi at flood time, and who makes the river his main focus. Photographers, birdwatchers, ecologists and anyone intrigued by the wonders of Nature should avail themselves of this treasure waiting to be discovered and take advantage of this incredible opportunity not offered at any other times.

by Val Sparg
Kalizo Lodge in the Caprivi
www.kalizolodge.com ,   bruno@iway.na   or kalizo@mighty.co.za

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By Val Sparg, Kalizo Lodge