Anyone who has been to Bwabwata National Park or any lesser-known park for that matter, will agree that Namibia is so much more than Etosha and Sossusvlei. Although the latter two destinations are undoubtedly worthy to feature in almost every itinerary, there are many places in Namibia that also deserve the spotlight. Bwabwata on the banks of the Okavango River is one such a place that should feature high on your bliss list if you’re a nature and wildlife lover.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of 5 reasons to visit this lush green corner in Namibia:
- The sweet taste of wild Africa
Unlike some of the other national parks, such as Etosha, Bwabwata does not feature on every travel itinerary. The furthest north that a lot of itineraries lead, mostly due to time constrictions, is Etosha, but a world full of wild wonders awaits those who venture further.
If you desire a taste of the untamed, the real and the raw, a trip to Bwabwata is highly recommended. Are you concerned about the logistics? Contact The Cardboard Box Travel Shop to help you put the puzzle pieces together for an unforgettable trip.
*Side note: Etosha King Nehale is considered a trailblazer by paving the way from Etosha to the rural north from where travellers can continue to the perennial rivers of the north.
- Riveting wildlife encounters
Bwabwata plays a pivotal role in the protection of Namibia’s elephant population. Over a third of the 22,000 elephants estimated for Namibia can be found here. Travellers can look forward to the seasonal movement of elephants across the Kwando into Bwabwata when herds of elephant wade through the river.
The park is similarly important for the conservation of many other species, such as wild dog, sable, tsessebe, roan and red lechwe. Both crocodile and hippo sightings are common in this area.
Here you can also meet the buffalo – one of the famous Big 5. Waterberg is the only other destination in Namibia where you can see this gigantic mammal.
The lucky traveller might spot a cheetah or a leopard. The Kwando Core Area is also one of the best places in Namibia to see African wild dogs, although they occur across the park and adjacent lands. Encounters with lions are also possible in any of the core areas, and there are usually resident lions in Mahango.
- Co-existence between humans and wildlife
Bwabwata is considered to be a model park, where conservation approaches are used to balance the needs of rural communities with those of the environment. Co-existence between man and wildlife might sound like something that should exist without saying, but it is a major concern in many areas in Namibia, which requires a delicate balance.
Continuously growing villages on the park’s borders suffer major losses due to wildlife. Elephants and other herbivores often destroy crops and fields, while predators such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, spotted hyenas, wild dogs and crocodiles kill livestock. This poses a constant threat to the conservation of these species.
Wildlife must be an asset and of benefit to everyone. Enter conservancies who actively mitigate conflict, for example by strategically fencing croplands to create corridors for wildlife movement, the use of chilli-bombs (chilli-infused elephant dung set alight) as an elephant deterrent, crocodile fences that create safe river access for people and livestock, and monitoring of lions and other predators.
- Part of a bigger picture – international conservation
As a 32-km wedge in between Botswana and Angola, Bwabwata is very small, but it is part of a large-scale picture called KAZA TFCA – Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area. Five countries - Namibia, Angola, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe – are part of this conservation initiative, creating an immense wildlife landscape that consists of different ecosystems and tourist attractions such as the Victoria Falls.
KAZA is vital to the protection of Bwabwata’s natural wealth and animal kingdom. The riverfront and small strip of woodlands in Namibia’s conservation area alone wouldn’t have offered enough space for wildlife if the protected landscape did not extend far beyond Namibia’s borders into KAZA. The entire area is larger than Austria and Germany combined!
- Birding hotspot
Mahango has the highest diversity of birds recorded in Namibia, although the Kwando also offers great birding opportunities. Keep those binoculars handy to spot and identify interesting raptors including the Western Banded Snake-eagle, African Marsh-harrier and Pel’s Fishing Owl. Bee-eaters and Kingfishers are abundant, and great flocks of waterfowl on the wetlands comprise ducks, geese, egrets, cranes, pratincoles, ibises and more.
Bwabwata has been recognised as a RAMSAR site (Bwabwata–Okavango Ramsar Site), and Mahango is additionally listed as an internationally Important Bird and Biodiversity Area.
Where to stay in Bwabwata National Park:
Wondering where to stay while exploring the area? Find refuge and warm hospitality at Namushasha River Lodge, Namushasha River Camping2Go, Namushasha River Campsite or opt for Namushasha River Villa for a more romantic or exclusive stay.
Author – Annelien Murray is an avid wordsmith who turns her pen to all things travel, culture and lifestyle. She was born in a small town called Otjiwarongo and grew up on a farm nearby. Creativity, nature, animals and travelling make her happy.