The Caprivi Strip and Western Botswana (August 2015)

 

After Etosha National Park we wanted to explore Namibia’s Caprivi Strip, a narrow strip of territory extending 450km to the east and giving the country access to the Zambezi. The first nights were spent at two different locations along the Okavango River and we enjoyed the much greener surroundings in contrast to the rest of the country. We spent a lovely evening with Jean and Julien from South Africa and natur guide Stix from Namibia before taking the long straight drive through the Caprivis narrowest part and the magnificent Bwabwata National Park. Here we followed the narrow deep sand tracks along the Kwando River and spotted plenty of hippos, elephants, warthogs, impala and crocodiles. In the far south of the park the landscape changed to open savannah with tsessebes, zebras and buffalos. Close to dawn we wanted to head back to the little campsite in the reserve but the elephants decided to have a party and large mixed herds blocked every track we wanted to take clearly reacting defensively to any close approach. Due to the deep sand a flight in case of a charge was pretty much impossible so we sat it out and made it back just as the sun had set. The following day we explored the park a bit more and were lucky to spot a rare group of sable antelopes including their passenger birds.

 

The night was spent at the peaceful Kwando River outside the park followed by a bit of culture the next morning in form of a visit to a cultural village. These community projects aim to give an insight into traditional living and techniques in form of reeanactment. Normally we dislike tradition reduced to entertainment for tourists but this place was very low key and informative. The medicine man had very tradtional tattoos including a marihuana leaf and “Thug Life”.

 

We took a drive through Mudumu National Park on the way to the Strip’s southern tip but weren’t so lucky as our sightings were limited to elephants, kudus and hippos. After another night camping right next to a river at a nice community campsite we visited Mamili National Park. There was barely another soul in the area and the park’s wetlands give refuge to a myriad of birds as well as different kinds of antelopes. At a beautiful lagoon bordering Botswana we even spotted our first red lechwe antelopes.

 

At Katima Mulilo, the region’s largest town, the atmosphere was decidedly more African again with music playing, fresh produce for sale on markets and people everywhere. We spent some awesome days camping at Caprivi House Boat right at the Zambezi. The terrassed bar was used extensively and we went for a sunset boat trip on the river. It was just us and the guide who drank more beer than the both of us, stopped at the bank for some flirting with local women and almost got us stranded in shallow waters. That’s not mentioning the hippo pod we accidentally found ourselves in with angry heads sticking out of the water everywhere. That said it was all fun and games and we saw many hippos, crocodiles, fish eagles and an otter which repeatedly attacked a swimming crocodile just to retreat before the latter could take revenge.

 

Backtracking on the long tar road through the Caprivi we tried to find a place to spend the night before entering Botswana. This was made difficult by South African school holidays and only the 5th place or so had some campsites left. We spent a beautiful afternoon at the Okavango River and explored yet another national park the following day – Mahango. Sitatungas, zebras, gigantic marabou storks, blue wildebeest, buffalos, hippos, baboons and elephants gave us the honour of their presence. Crossing into Botswana was as easy as it gets in Africa and we followed the road east of the Okavango Delta to the Tsodilo Hills. Here you find a myriad of rock paintings left by the bushmen many years ago. We spent the afternoon with terribly thirsty goats and hundreds of flies and mosquitoes before setting off on a beautiful hike the following morning. The guide was enthusiastic and gave us plenty of insight into the life of the bushmen. With pit stops at Guma Lagoon, the delta’s largest water body, in Ghanzi and Gobabis back in Namibia we made it back to Windhoek to catch up with Marc & Doro who had just flown back in from Germany. After some nice evenings with braai and potje (cast iron stew) we headed once more to the Omaruru region to spend the last nights in total solitude in the mountains before flying back to Europe. We had one more season of working in Norway ahead of us before finally being able to continue our circumnavigation of Africa.

 

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