Bwabwata National Park is a large but little-known, sub-tropical game reserve in north-eastern Namibia. The park is an amalgamation of the Mahango and Caprivi Game Reserves and is an exceptional big game and birding safari destination.
Bwabwata National Park occupies a large part of north-eastern Namibia in an area known as the Caprivi, which forms the northern part of Botswana's Okavango Delta and Chobe regions. You can fly to one of two airports: Hosea Kutako Windhoek International Airport or Kasane Airport in Botswana. From there the park can be reached by the B8 Trans-Caprivi Highway where it is located 200 km east of Rundu.
The park is one of five managed as a unit along the famous Caprivi Strip. The other four parks are Mangetti, Khaudom National Park, Mudumu National Park and Nkasa Lupala (previously known as Mamili National Park). This conservation area is sandwiched between the Okavango and Kwando rivers, with the northern border formed by Angola and to the south, Botswana. The park is 40 km wide and 190 km long covering a vast area of 7,600sq km.
The Bwabwata National Park is a sub-tropical climate - it is very hot and humid in summer, with heavy rainfall during the wet season (November to March). The average rainfall is 550 – 600 mm per year, which makes it the wettest region in Namibia. The best time for game viewing is from April to September and it is during this period the weather is at its most pleasant as well. During these dry winter months you can expect comfortable temperatures between 26 – 28°C (79 – 82°F) during the day.
Bwabwata falls into the Tree and Shrub Savanna biome which is known for wetlands, floodplains and woodlands. Not many places allow you to experience the variety of sand dunes, swamps, forest and green river beds that this one does.
The abundance of water in the region supports huge herds of game and bird species. Animals that you will likely come across are elephant, blue wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, a variety of large and small antelope, crocodile and hippopotamus. Predators like lion, cheetah, leopard, spotted hyena and crocodile can also be found but the dense bush and abundant water make this more of a challenge - more like a genuine safari of old where no wildlife sightings are guaranteed and you see and experience nature the way it is meant to be.
The park is very serious about nature conservation and committed to programmes that support it. Bwabwata therefore takes part in a very exciting project that lets them work with neighbouring countries to achieve maximum success. The Kavango–Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KaZa TFCA) is a work agreement between Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe to manage trans-boundary conservation. Bwabwata is situated in the centre of the KaZa TFCA and forms a free roaming passage for elephant movement from Botswana into Angola and Zambia.
Bird watchers will have the most success in spotting endangered species in the west of Bwabwata. The Mahango area and the Kavango River are home to threatened species like the black-winged pratincole, slaty egret and wattled crane. Other species include various warblers and cisticolas, African skimmer, African pygmy-goose and wood owl to name just a few. Serious birders should contact us for a full list of all species in Namibia and where to find them.
Visitors to the park have access to this area's unique biodiversity – self-drives are common on designated roads while an all-wheel drive and professional guide are recommended for authentic game viewing safaris.
Bwabwata is also known as the 'people's park'. The strong focus on rural development assures local communities also benefit from tourist infrastructure. One of these projects is three locally managed camping sites: Ngoabaca, Nambwa and Bum Hill - these campsites are neat and well-organised with private ablutions and spectacular riverside settings that bring you close to nature as well as the hospitality and crafts of the local people.
Accommodation in the form of safari lodges ranging from luxury to low budget can be found just outside Bwabwata's borders. Activities that are available include boat trips, game safaris and walks. Tour operators can arrange guided excursions. It is advisable to take precaution against Malaria and Bilharzia.
We can recommend the following information sources:
Namibia: The Bradt Travel Guide by Bradt Travel Guides
Lonely Planet Namibia by Deanna Swaney
Namibia Travel Pack by Globetrotter
Namibia Space by Chris Marais and Julienne du Toit
Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (Official site)
Caprivi.biz Info Site (unofficial tourism site)
List of National Parks of Namibia (Wikipedia)
Caprivi Region (Wikipedia)