01 of 09
Extending from the northeast corner of Namibia like an alien limb, the Caprivi Strip feels as far removed from the rest of the country as it looks on the map. Four of Southern Africa’s most impressive rivers (the Kavango, the Chobe, the Zambezi and the Cuando) run through the region at various points, transforming the Caprivi into a lush green oasis.
Namibia may be most famous for the ochre dunes of Sossusvlei, or for the arid valleys and granite koppies of Damaraland, but it is in the verdant heart of the Caprivi that the country’s beauty is most tangible.Continue to 2 of 9 below.
02 of 09
Life on the River
Here, life revolves around the water. The bustling town of Rundu lies along the banks of the Kavango River and constitutes the westernmost gateway to the Caprivi. Nearby, several lodges offering varying degrees of luxury provide an insight into the lives of the local people, for whom the Kavango is an essential resource.
At Hakusembe River Lodge, one can watch from the restaurant’s sun-drenched deck as residents of the Angolan villages on the opposite bank come down to the water to fish, bathe, wash their clothes and water their multi-colored herds of Nguni cattle.Continue to 3 of 9 below.
03 of 09
A Green Oasis
Further into the Caprivi, several lodges run tours that take visitors into the local settlements, allowing them to experience Caprivian culture for themselves. The abundance of water in a country otherwise plagued by drought also serves to make the region a hotspot for eco-tourists, with several game parks offering a greener alternative to the famous (yet often waterless) plains of more southerly Etosha National Park. Mahango Game Reserve is one such place, with dusty self-drive roads that unravel alongside waterlogged floodplains and offer glimpses of spectacular river panoramas.Continue to 4 of 9 below.
04 of 09
Thanks to their ability to sustain a greater variety of life, parks like Mahango yield different sightings to those further south.
Here, it is possible to spot rare antelope species including the red lechwe, the tsessebe, and the sitatunga. Great herds of African elephant play frivolously in the shallows, transforming water into curtains of falling diamonds as they spray it into the air and across their dark gray backs. In the open expanse of deeper water, floating logs metamorphose into the sinister shapes of Nile crocodiles, while herds of hippo serenade the oncoming evening with a cacophony of harrumphing snorts.Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09
A Birder's Paradise
In particular, the Caprivi is known for its birdlife. Its riverine habitats support over 500 resident and migratory species, including some area specials that are typically found only in the Caprivi and Okavango regions.
Amongst these are the coppery-tailed coucal, the slaty egret, and the brown firefinch; while birding trips like those offered at Nunda River Lodge offer the opportunity to see the magnificent African skimmer up close and personal. Although less rare, bee-eaters are a highlight of any Caprivi River trip. The ruby-colored carmine bee-eater is particularly impressive, nesting in great colonies along the chalky riverbanks.Continue to 6 of 9 below.
06 of 09
Off the Beaten Track
Above all, the Caprivi is worth visiting for its innate sense of adventure. Conflict, both during colonial times and more recently, defines the region’s history, thanks to its strategic importance in providing access from Namibia to the mighty Zambezi River.
Between 2000 and 2002, unrest in bordering Angola meant that tourists could only traverse the Caprivi as part of a military convoy. Today, the region is considered stable, and a sense of peace has descended upon its idyllic waterways. Nevertheless, the thrilling impression of stepping off the beaten track and into the unpredictable heart of Africa remains.Continue to 7 of 9 below.
07 of 09
The Magic of the Wild
It’s a feeling that starts to seep into the bloodstream as soon as the tourist vehicles that overrun southern Namibia are replaced by local taxis on the road northwards. It’s the expansion of the soul that comes with the soft glimmer of sunset on the still waters of the Chobe River; or with the explosion of stars across a sky untainted by light pollution.
Despite the Caprivi’s wildness, it remains surprisingly accessible. Several tour companies offer excursions into the region; while self-drive itineraries are perfect for the more adventurous. The roads are good (although often busy with both people and animals).Continue to 8 of 9 below.
08 of 09
When to Visit
In terms of season, the best time to go depends on what one wants from a visit to the Caprivi. Weather-wise, the southern hemisphere winter (June - August) offers cooler temperatures and drier days, while the rainy summer months (November - January) are best for birding. Game-viewing is at its best in September and October, when the lack of water elsewhere forces wildlife to flock to the rivers for survival.
Fishing is another key pastime in the Caprivi, with anglers trying their luck for catfish and tilapia. The most sought-after catch is the ferocious tigerfish, and chances for success improve during the dry months when the water is low.Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09
It is important to note that malaria is a problem throughout the Caprivi region, especially during the summer months when precautions should be taken to avoid infection. However, don’t let the practical side of preparing for a trip to Africa’s wild side put you off. After all, it’s this wildness that makes the Caprivi so special and ensures that whatever time of year you choose to visit, you’ll be glad that you did.