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Zambezi Region

What can I expect from the Zambezi Region?

The Zambezi Region is that unusual protrusion in the northeast of Namibia.  Previously called the ‘Caprivi Strip’ after a German chancellor who cunningly negotiated to exchange the strip of land for Zanzibar.  The reason for this swap had lots to do with imperial ambitions. Germany came very late to the colonial party and was trying to link Africa from east (Tanzania) to west (Namibia). Simultaneously the British were trying to connect from Cape Town to Cairo.

The new name is a better fit as the main feature of the area is the mighty Zambezi River.   Namibia starts to become tropical, the Kalahari and Namib Desert give way to more lush vegetation.  There are several major rivers in this area, the Chobe (or Linyanti), Kwando. Kavango and the Zambezi.  Unlike nearly all the other rivers in Namibia, these rivers contain water.

The main reasons for visiting the Zambezi Region are the fantastic game viewing, fishing opportunities and some of the best bird watching in the world. Large herds of elephant roam the region traversing ancient paths from the Okavango Delta in Botswana, through Namibia and into Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola.  Pods of hippos and lazy crocodiles can be found in the waterways – while puku, buffalo and waterbuck come to the river to drink.

Birders are in for a treat, with over 450 recorded bird species in the Zambezi Region. These range from pretty little carmine-bee eaters to fish-eagles. If you’re into this sort of thing, it is possible to spend weeks searching for some of the more elusive species. Those of us with a more casual approach to birdwatching can enjoy the bright colours and calls from the comfort of a relaxing boat trip (Windhoek lager in hand!) Many of the photos in our Birds of Namibia Gallery were taken on these trips.

Giraffe silhouette at sunset, Zambezi

Typical Zambezi sunset

Mokoro boat activity

Mokoro trip

Crocodile along the Chobe River

My…what big teeth you have!

The fishing is also spectacular – the wonderfully named Tiger Fish is the main reason for getting your rod wet.  It’s a tough fighter with sharp teeth; even a small one provides a fun fight. There are other fish in the rivers, and some people may know what they are called!  Don’t worry everyone in Namibian tourism promotes catch-and-release fishing.

There are officially five game parks here. But wildlife roams freely – and elephant frequently can be seen crossing the main road.  The fantastic thing about the game parks here is the lack of tourists. The parks have the feel of Botswana’s Chobe Park, but with a tiny fraction of the tourists. Recently on entering Nkasa Rupara Park, our undisputed favourite park in Namibia, we noticed that no other tourists had visited for three days.

We often combine a day of fishing (for Aulden), birdwatching (for Rachael), game viewing (for Rachael) and beer/gin/wine drinking (for both of us). These are some of the most relaxing and memorable experiences we’ve had. Even as I write, I’m yearning to return to the Zambezi.

Woodland kingfisher near Chobe River

Woodland kingfisher

Catching my first tigerfish

Tigerfish

Lilac-breasted roller on Chobe River

Lilac-breasted roller

Things to See and Do in the Kalahari

Wildlife – hippo, elephant, buffalo, crocs & lion
Visit the Livingstone museum (the famous explorer settled here)
Go birding – over 450 species to be found
Enjoy the quietness. Time flows gently on the banks of the Zambezi

The Basics

Accommodation – The majority of lodges can be found in three areas:  in the west along the Kavango River (south of Divundu); along the Kwando River & then along the Zambezi River (heading east out of Katima). The three rivers are very different and if time allows allow time on each.

Food – As with most of Namibia you will probably end up eating at your lodge. Provisions can be purchased in Katima and there is a reasonably stocked general store in Divundu (only expect basics here)

Drink – The one thing about Namibia is that alcohol is available in the most remote areas.  The Zambezi Region is no exception you will find numerous cuca shops/shebeens (bars or pubs) along the main roads and in villages.

Transportation – Mini-bus taxis and the Intercape bus travel into the Zambezi Region, but getting from these routes into the parks is not possible without your own vehicle.  The best way to visit the area is self-driving (we do recommend a 4×4 as there is deep sand in some of the parks ).  Rental vehicles are sometimes available in Katima, but it is usually a cheaper idea to rent in Windhoek and drive a loop through northern Namibia (including Etosha Park), the Zambezi  Region and Botswana.

Hippo in Mahango Park

Yawning hippo

Fish eagle, Zambezi region

Fish eagle

Elephants in Bwabwata Park, Kwando

Elephants in Bwabwata Park

Local Tips

1
Fishing Even if you are not a keen fisherman arrange to go tiger fishing, it’s a great way to spend time on the river – and gets the adrenaline pumping. On a recent trip Rachael ‘I don’t want to catch a fish, but I will join you to look at the birds’ hooked a mid-sized tiger and on landing it jumped around the boat with such vigour the crocodiles began licking their lips in anticipation of us capsizing.
2
Boat cruises Get on a boat every opportunity you can. Wildlife & bird viewing is best from the rivers
3
Katima Katima Mulilo is the only town of any size here. It has petrol stations, a supermarket and bottle stores. The town is not of much interest otherwise – give it a skip if you can.
4
Nkasa Rupara Park (previously Mamili) Our very favourite park is the Nkasa Rupara park. There are no facilities, an unmarked network of roads, and it always feels like you are the only people there. Take it slow, with your windows down and enjoy the sounds & smells of nature. It is like a beautiful unvisited (and much cheaper) version of the famous Chobe Park.
5
Nambwa Nambwa Park (on the Kwando River) is also spectacular, and horse-shoe bend is one of Africa’s premier elephant viewing locations. The Nambwa Lodge is luxurious and for those on a smaller budget offers a spectacular campsite.
6
Up Close & Personal Expect close encounters with animals, unlike Etosha and other Namibian Parks, lodges & campsites are not fenced. You are likely to wake up to find an elephant grazing above your room, hear a hippo farting meters from your tent or get the fright of your life when walking back from the bar you hear a lion roaring in the bush next to you!
White-fronted bee-eater, Zambezi Region

White-fronted bee-eater

Books & Maps

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