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Deck of one of RiverDance's rooms overlooking the Kavango River

As Namibia crept towards its driest months, we once again started to dream of rivers and trees. And so plans began for a jaunt up to the Zambezi Strip (a term I find better fits the area around the Kavango and Kwando rivers, rather than just the ‘Zambezi’). We settled on three main areas – the Kavango River close to Divundu, Nkasa Rupara Park and the Kwando River (which later becomes the Linyanti and then the Chobe).

To keep costs down, we decided to mainly camp but did include a little luxury at the start of the trip with three nights at RiverDance Lodge, a long-time favourite of ours. To maximise our nights, we decided to do two long drives, both from Windhoek and on our return. Like many Namibians, we are used to driving great distances, so the roughly 9-hour drive was not too daunting. It meant we could really relax once we arrived, knowing we did not have far to travel for the next nine days. We also spent the last night at Ndhovu Lodge to make an early departure back to Windhoek easier.

Female kudu, Baffalo Park

Female kudu in Buffalo Park

Tawny eagle

Tawny eagle near Okahandja

Kudu bull, Buffalo Park

Kudu bull in Baffalo Park

The beginning of September is still cool enough to make such a trip comfortable, even if setting up camp needs to be delayed till late afternoon. By staying close to rivers, nights were pleasantly cold and cooking around a campfire an enjoyable experience.

So even before sunrise, we snuck out of the capital and hit the road, heading due north. Between Windhoek and Otjiwarongo we saw an amazing number of eagles, we think all of them tawnies and often in pairs.

One of the tragic effects of the decent rains in 2020 has been the devastating bush fires. This was very evident throughout most of our drive, the air constantly hazy from smoke. The obscured visibility marred even the normally beautiful mountains around Kombat.

Ah, the joy of making it to RiverDance after the bum-numbing drive! Time to relax on the deck while watching the river gently flow past and sipping an ice-cold beer. There is something extremely soothing about being near water, especially when you live in a very arid environment.

Room at RiverDance

Room view at RiverDance

Veggie garden at RiverDance

The amazing veggie garden at RiverDance

The rooms at RiverDance are very special. Nearly Scandinavian in design, the wooden structures nestle under a thick canopy of trees and overlook the Kavango River. One night we heard rustling beneath our room and discovered two otters roaming around. Another night we saw an owl, although it flew off before we could identify it.

Certain sounds are so synonymous with this region and really make me feel we’re on holiday – the sonorous hoots of a copper-tailed coucal; the deep grunting of hippos; the high-pitched cry of a fish eagle; and the tinkling ‘plink plink’ of bell frogs.

Hippos in the Kavango River

Hippos seen on boat cruise from RiverDance

Crocodile, Kavango River

Crocodile basking in the morning light

We spent our first day in the Kavango region leisurely exploring Buffalo Core Area, east of the more popular Mahango Game Reserve. This small park is home to numerous game, including elephant, buffalo, sable, roan, kudu, impala, lechwe, hippos, crocs, warthog, lion, leopard. However, we have never seen so much evidence of elephants without seeing a single one. This was simply bad luck as when we returned to this area on our last night we saw hundreds of them!

Warthog, Buffalo Park

Warthog seen in Buffalo Park

Sable, Buffalo Park

A rare sighting of a sable

Impala, Buffalo Park

Impala in Buffalo Park

Unfortunately, our trip to Buffalo was not all good. Turning down what looked like an ordinary park track, we discovered a recently abandoned hunting camp. Numerous elephant skulls littered the area, along with a line of antelope skulls strung up among the trees. The smell of rotting meat was disgusting, and the only way to retrace our steps was to drive straight through the camp. Whatever one thinks of hunting in general, we strongly feel that this kind of activity should not be allowed within a national park.

Skulls in a hunting camp in Buffalo Park

Rotting skulls at hunting camp, Buffalo Park

Elephant skull in Buffalo Park

Old elephant skull

Although not part of the trip plans, we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in true style. Our travelling companions and RiverDance organised a special morning boat cruise that finished with breakfast on one of the nearby sandy islands. What a fantastic experience! As the sun rose over the water, we gently went downstream, witnessing all manner of beautiful scenery, including a large pod (bloat?) of hippos, rock pratincoles and a young crocodile basking in the first rays of sunlight. We then dined like kings in magical surroundings, a channel of the river on either side of us.

Special breakfast at RiverDance

Special breakfast at RiverDance

Sunrise over the Kavango River

Sunrise on the Kavango River

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