Kavango Open Africa Route
Total distance: 383km
Suggested time period: 1½ - 3 days
The Kavango Open Africa Route is based on the riverine landscapes of the Kavango, its people, birds and wildlife. This unique travel route is situated in north-eastern Namibia. The route roughly stretches from Nkurunkuru in the west to Divundu in the east. This route also provides access to Mahango and Khaudum National Parks on the border of Botswana. The beauty of this area was only discovered by explorers in the late nineteenth century and is still being discovered by tourists today.
The route offers an array of attractions, a diversity of culture and is a renowned birding hotspot.
Mbunza Living Museum:
The Living Museum is a community concept to preserve local traditions and customs for generations to come. Supported by the Living Culture Foundation Namibia, the Kavango people have created a traditional school for culture and at the same time, established a social business for the community. The main focus of the Mbunza Living Museum is to provide visitors to the museum with a detailed and authentic insight into the traditional, pre-colonial culture. The Living Museum, situated at the Samsitu Lake, is a traditional village of the Kavango, who have lived in this area for centuries.
The traditional presentation covers everything from everyday life (traditional cuisine, fire making, basket and mat weaving) to bushwalks and fishing and finally to highly specialised techniques like blacksmithing, pottery and drum-making.
Khaudum National Park:
The arduous 4x4 access road makes reaching the Park an experience not for the faint-hearted. This unfenced park is a corridor for wildlife movement between Botswana and Namibia and provides an exhilarating experience for the adventurous traveller.
Khaudum National Park has two basic overnight camps, and a trip to this remote, yet worthwhile park, requires some prior planning and preparation before an extended excursion should be attempted. Being a large, extensive park with many unmarked routes between water points it is advisable to consider a guide. The authorities also insist that each party is required to have no less than two vehicles for safety reasons.
This mission was the first Roman Catholic Mission to be founded in Kavango. Named after the Gciriku King, Thomas Nyangana (1879 to 1924), the mission was founded on the 21st May 1909 by Joseph Gotthardt. The mission is located on the south bank of the Okavango River in Kavango East. The mission is now linked to the Kavango Community Development Foundation and is supported by the Kayova River Lodge. Social upliftment programmes include, the construction of nurseries and kindergartens, water projects to supply villages with clean water, and the establishment of an AIDS orphanage for children left destitute due to the loss of their parents through HIV/AIDS.
Visits to the community support small businesses and help the locals generate an income for their families and also help subsistence farmers in their supply of vegetables and produce to the lodge.
Andara Mission Station:
Andara is a village in Mukwe Constituency, Kavango Region. Located 200km east of Rundu, it is inhabited primarily by the Hambukushu people. It is the home of the Holy Family Parish, a Roman Catholic mission. The first missionaries arrived in 1909 during the German colonial era, but a mission station was only established in 1913 under the leadership of missionaries and later Archbishop Joseph Gotthardt. In the 1960's the Andara Catholic Hospital and a youth hostel were built. The Andara Catholic Hospital continues to run to this day with the hostel housing up to 130 students.
Mahango National Park:
Mahango National Park, renowned for its baobab trees, is situated south of Divundu on the Botswana border. Mahango covers an area of about 250km² and is separated from Bwabwata National Park by the Okavango River. Two game viewing roads provide the opportunity to view the diverse wildlife along the waterways. Only 4x4 should be used when accessing the park and at least two vehicles should travel together. Guided tours can be arranged.
The dry season is better for game-viewing since the riverfront has a larger concentration of animals coming to drink water. The dry season occurs from June to October. Bird-watching is better in the wetter months of November to March. Mahango National Park is open throughout the year and is open to day visitors only. Being a small reserve with good species diversity the visitor can usually have a satisfying day's excursion.
Okavango River System and Popa Falls:
The Okavango River is the fourth-longest river system in southern Africa, running southeastward for 1 600km (990 miles). It begins in Angola, where it is known as the Cubango River. Further south it forms part of the border between Angola and Namibia, and then flows into Botswana, draining into the Moremi Game Reserve.
The name is derived from Kavango people living along the river. The river is the only perennial river in Africa that flows eastward without reaching the sea. The Okavango river system is arguably one of the last near-pristine ecosystems in Africa. Before the river enters Botswana the river drops 4m across the full 1.2km-width of the river in a series of rapids known as Popa Falls, visible when the river is low, such as during the dry season. The Popa Falls are an important habitat for two rare fish species; broadhead catfish and ocellated spinyeel.
32 Batallion Military Base:
The 32 Batallion Military Base is located within the Buffalo Core Area of Bwabwata National Park; hence the nickname Buffalos. Although the base is largely in ruin, a drive down the large sand dunes towards the Kwando River takes one back to the independence struggle. Although the battalion was disbanded in 1993 as part of the negotiations with the African National Congress (ANC); following 20 years of military operations in the area, the wildlife in the area was largely depleted. Since the park was proclaimed in 2007, wildlife numbers have steadily increased as result of effective co-management between MET and communities living in the park (see Caprivi Wetlands Paradise Experience).
Located in north-west Botswana near the Namibian border, the Tsodilo Hills are a small area of massive quartzite rock formations that rise from ancient sand dunes to the east and a dry fossil lake bed to the west in the Kalahari Desert. With one of the highest concentrations of rock art in the world, Tsodilo has been called the 'Louvre of the Desert'. More than 4 500 paintings are preserved in an area of only 10km2. The local communities revere Tsodilo as a place of worship and as a home for ancestral spirits. Its water holes and hills are revered as a sacred cultural landscape by the Hambukushu and San communities.
Three basic long-term facts have contributed to Tsodilo's outstanding state of preservation: its remoteness, its low population density and the high degree of resistance to erosion of its quartzitic rock. The rock-art paintings are executed in red ochre derived from hematite occurring in the local rock [this same ochre is used by the Himba women in the Kunene Region - see the Arid Eden Route].