Namibia is a country on the south-west coast of Africa. It is one of the driest and most sparsely populated countries on earth. The Namib Desert in the west and the Kalahari Desert in the east are separated by the Central Plateau.
The Nkasa Lupala National Park (also known as Nkasa Rupara) is a small park, covering only 320 square kilometres, but has the distinction of being the largest wetland area with conservation status in Namibia.
Our two-week journey through Namibia started in the Caprivi Strip, or German Caprivi Zipfel. This is a long, narrow extension of Namibia, running about 280 miles (450 km) from the northeast corner of the main block of the country eastward to the Zambezi River. Angola borders the area on the north, and the Okavango River traverses the strip in the west. Part of German Southwest Africa during 1884–1919, the strip was ceded by Britain to give the German colony riparian access to the Zambezi and was named for Leo, Graf von Caprivi, German chancellor during 1890–94. After World War I, the strip became part of Southwest Africa/Namibia, then under the mandate of the Union (now the Republic) of South Africa.
We crossed here from Botswana at the Ngoma Bridge border gate, but you could also drive here from Windhoek, Namibia’s capital. At the border, we were met by a representative of the outfitters who were supplying the car we were driving through Namibia. This was a Toyota Fortuner, a step up from the Land Cruiser we had driven through Botswana. It was comfortable and had all the extras, but we wondered how it would cope with the sandy roads we would encounter later in our Namibian adventure.
We were driven to the busy town of Katima Mulilo, the regional capital. Here we picked up some food, money from the ATM and a local SIM card. It was also time to say goodbye to our driver and we were let loose in Namibia for the first time.
For the next two days, we would be staying near Nkasa Rupula National Park, which is about 110km southwest of Katima Mulio.
We were staying at the Nkasa Lupala Tented Lodge, which is built on one of the many channels of the Kwando–Linyanti river system. The lodge is located on the northern unfenced park border, in the Wuparo Conservancy which is part of the successful and award-winning Namibian conservation program followed by IRDNC and WWF.
The lodge building itself is small with a bar and a restaurant, a seating area and a small plunge pool. The building overlooks a channel of the river, where they used to be able to launch boat trips. In recent years the channel had completely dried up, but after some good rains, it was once again full.
The tents in the camp are raised on platforms and overlook the river channel. Our tent had a very large bed and a private bathroom. Outside the front of the tent was a small deck with chairs and a small table where we could look out across the marshland.
In the afternoon we booked onto a boat cruise on the Harubandi Channel part of the Kwando-Linyanti system. Six of us set out in a game drive vehicle from the lodge to the river where we would be taking to the water on a small boat. As we travelled through the park, we got to see some of the wildlife, including zebra, giraffe, and long-tailed magpies.
The area is dominated by marshes with narrow channels and shallow waters, so our boat was a tiny, flat-bottomed affair, with a roof to protect you from the sun or rain. The roof was strong, with chairs on it, so you could go up there to get a better viewing of wildlife. The boat launched out into the narrow channels, winding its way through the reeds and papyrus grass. Close by we could hear an elephant in the water, but it was hidden by the tall grasses. We hoped that it didn’t decide to come crashing through where we were passing. Eventually, we reached a more open stretch of water. In the distance, we could see a group of elephants on the banks of the river, which was apparently in Botswana. Another boat began to approach them, but got too close, causing the elephants to get agitated, There was a lot of trumpeting, flapping ears, waving of trunks and even a mock charge. Luckily for the boat, the elephants backed off. The incident left us frustrated with the driver of that boat, who should have known better about approaching too close to these elephants who were not as used to people as in another park.
Our cruise continued. On the trees by the river, we spotted a majestic African fish eagle, and, on the bushes, there were many birds, including pied kingfishers. Small groups of lechwe antelope patrolled the banks, grazing on the lush grass.
Suddenly, we happened on a pod of hippos. A bit too close for comfort. A large hippo could have easily tipped our boat if it came up underneath. Our driver quickly moved passed and we all gave a collective sigh of relief.
The main attraction of this tour is undoubtedly the elephants. We came across a small herd of females, juvenile males, and young calves. When we first encountered them, they were about 200 metres away feeding on some bushes. Our boat pulled to so we could get a better view. We sat there watching them for ages, and the sundowner drinks were broken out to add to an already perfect experience.
As we looked on the elephants got closer and closer. Then a couple of juvenile males decided they didn’t like us being that close, even though we hadn’t moved for about 30 minutes. So, there was some ear flapping going on and our guide decided to retreat. Unfortunately, we’d got a bit stuck on reeds. It took a bit of manoeuvring and pushing with legs to get us off the banks and into the open water.
By now the sun was setting. We got some beautiful views of the elephants standing with the red sun as a backdrop.
The elephants then decided it was time to cross the river. As we had already discovered elephants are pretty good swimmers, so the fact the water was deeper here in the river didn’t bother them. Even one of the baby elephants made the crossing, bobbing up and down in the water and using his trunk as a snorkel.
It was now time to head back to the lodge before darkness fell completely, which happens quickly in those parts. We once again had to run the gauntlet of the hippos in the channel, before finally making it back to the game driver vehicle. By the time we got back to camp (due to two flat tyres), it was dark.
Dinner at the lodge is served on one large table, which is a great opportunity to meet our fellow travellers. Most of the people staying this night were one large group from Belgium. They were a jolly crew, and many spoke great English, so we had a lovely time chatting with them.
We had signed up for an early morning game drive. On the drive, we were joined by a young couple from the Netherlands, Marc and Alexandra. Despite being in the African southern hemisphere it was a bit nippy. We hadn’t gone far before we came across a pair of large male kudus with massive, curly horns.
Just then we heard the calls of some lions and off we went. It wasn’t long before we came across four, juvenile male lions who were lying down but looking very alert. As we watched the bachelor party of lions a warthog gaily traipsed by, oblivious to the presence of the lions. I try to avoid casting aspersions on a complete species, but when it comes to intelligence, warthogs are not the sharpest tools in the shed! It was only when one of the lions started to stalk the warthog that it realised something was up and it charged off at speed. Luckily, for the warthog, the lions were preoccupied by the call of the male lion in the distance. The warthog disappeared. The four lions were getting increasingly agitated, and then quick as a flash they decided to move as the dominant males were coming their way, and we saw them disappear off into the bush. A few minutes later an older larger male lion appeared followed by a lioness. This was the king of this jungle. The pair decided to stop not too far from when the four male lions had been. They had obviously recently fed and were not too interested in heading out anywhere – they just plopped on the ground, oblivious to us being there and started to nap.
Eventually, we had to let the sleeping lions be and head back to the lodge. There were no more lions or big cats to see but we did see a jackal, and rather lovely owl, antelope, and zebras before we returned to the lodge.
About Nkasa Rupara National Park
Nkasa Rupula National Park. also known at Nkasa Lupala National Park, and formerly Mamili National Park. It is centred on the Nkasa and Rupara islands on the Kwando/Linyanti River in the southwestern corner of East Caprivi. Botswana lies to the west, south, and east, and Sangwali village to the north. Established in 1990, it is Namibia’s largest formally protected wetland area and one of Namibia’s protected areas that benefit local communities surrounding parks. When the flood waters from the Kwando River are high, the park becomes like a mini-Okavango Delta. The unfenced park forms a transboundary link for wildlife migration between Angola, Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia. Nkasa Rupara is part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area.
Most of the park consists of channels of reed beds, lagoons and termitaria islands. The Kwando River forms the western boundary and the Linyanti River its south-eastern border. Much of the park is a savannah covered in trees and shrubs, and along the river’s edge there are tall trees and dense beds of reeds and papyrus. Wildlife found here includes hippo, crocodiles, elephant, buffalos, lion, leopard, hyaena, African wild dog, and many antelope. There are close to 1,000 buffalo in Mamili, the largest concentration in the country. It is also an important corridor for elephants moving from Botswana to Angola and Zambia and is considered a core breeding area for wildlife that can disperse into neighbouring conservancies. Also, 430 species of birds recorded have been recorded in the park.
Planning your visit to Nkasa Rupara National Park
Nkasa Rupara National Park is a 1,200km drive from Windhoek in the Zambezi Region. Most often embarked upon as a self-drive African safari, visitors are advised to drive in convoy with at least two robust 4×4’s, as the park is very remote.
Roads are often very bad and inaccessible during the Wet season.
Domestic flights are usually by way of Eros Airport (ERS) in Windhoek and provided by Air Namibia.
Those who want to travel to Nkasa Rupara by air independently can fly to Katima Mulilo on a scheduled flight from Windhoek. The park is located about 130km / 81mi southwest of Katima Mulilo.
|Hours:||The park is open from 6 am–6.30 pm|
|Fees:||N$100 (USD $6.72 for park entrance and conservation fees).|
Things to bring:
|Two spare tires||Seed net/grill||Puncture repair kit||Sand tracks|
|Spade/shovel||High-lift jack||Kinetic strap/rope||Compressor|
|Tire pressure gauge||Car tools and spares|
|Water and food||Fuel||Braai Wood||Flashlight|
|Headlamp||First Aid Kit||Camera||Binoculars|
|Wide-brimmed hat||Sunscreen||Mosquito spray|
Best time to visit Nkasa Rupara National Park
Nkasa Rupara National Park (formerly Mamili NP) is a wetland reserve and the roads become virtually impassable in the wet summer months, from November to April. The best months for wildlife viewing are in the dry winter months from July to September.
The winter months from May to October are predominantly dry, with bitterly cold morning temperatures.
The summer months of November to April represent the Wet season. Rainfall isn’t very high and usually falls in the form of afternoon showers. It is mostly sunny and hot.
Where to stay
NKASA LUPALA TENTED LODGE
Nkasa Lupala tented lodge is built on the banks of one of the many channels of the Kwando-Linyanti river system. This unique Namibian wetland paradise in the Zambezi Region (Caprivi), is commonly known as Mamili and was recently renamed Nkasa Lupala National Park.
The lodge and the Wuparo Conservancy are part of the successful and award-winning Namibian Conservancy program.
Nkasa Lupala Tented Lodge is a joint venture between the private sector and the Wuparo Conservancy that is part of the successful and award-winning Namibian conservancies program followed by IRDNC and WWF.
RUPARA REST CAMP
The RestCamp is located on the southern boundary of the Wuparo Conservancy.
The conservancy was started by the Mayeyi Traditional Authority after they found that the community was not reaping the benefits of the natural resources found between the Nkasa Rupara (Mamili) and Mudumu NP.
The RestCamp is located on the banks of one of the many channels of the Kwando-Linyanti river system of this unique Namibian wetland paradise in the eastern Zambezi Region (Caprivi).
The RestCamp is managed on behalf of the community by Wildest Logistics a sister company of Nkasa Lupala Tented Lodge that is located 3km away from the RestCamp