Kavango Zambezi Wildlife Safari

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AT A GLANCE
For 7 unforgettable days we will enjoy boat cruises and game drives, seeing Africa’s Big Five, beautiful scenery, extraordinary birds and so much more.
ITINERARY – KAVANGO-ZAMBEZI WILDLIFE SAFARI
DAY 1:
Start of safari in Katima Mulilo (Namibia)

Welcome to your fantastic Kavango-Zambezi wildlife safari!
The official starting point for this safari will be the town of Katima Mulilo in the Caprivi Strip of northeastern Namibia. We will organise a transfer for you to the town from one of the international airports in the vicinity. These include airports at Livingstone (Zambia), Kasane (Botswana) and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe).

We will meet up somewhere in town, transfer your bags into our comfortable, airconditioned vehicle and jump in. We are heading to our accommodation for the evening. On the way we will learn a bit about where we are.

Caprivi, or the Caprivi Strip (but officially the “Zambezi Region”) or just “the panhandle”, was named after German Chancellor Leo von Caprivi, who negotiated the acquisition of the land in an 1890 exchange with the United Kingdom at the infamous Berlin Conference. Caprivi arranged for the strip to be annexed to German South West Africa in order to give Germany access to the Zambezi river and a direct route to Africa’s east coast, where the colony of German East Africa (now part of Tanzania) was situated. The river later proved unnavigable and inaccessible to the Indian ocean due to the largest waterfall in the world, the Victoria Falls, being in the way! During the 1970s and 1980s the Caprivi Strip was at the heart of the Namibian war of liberation, with the South African defence force hunkering down along the entire stretch of land. At Namibia’s independence in 1990 it became one of the thirteen regions of the country.

The panhandle protrudes eastward for about 450 km (280 mi) from the northeastern corner of Namibia, and is about 32 km (20 mi) wide on average. Thanks to generous annual rainfall, it is a land of fertile, flat floodplains surrounded by perennial rivers, and something completely different from the arid rest of the country of Namibia. The Caprivi is bordered by Botswana to the south, and by Angola and Zambia to the north, and crossed by the Okavango, Kwando and Zambezi rivers.

The area is incredibly rich in wildlife, and has become an ecotourism hotspot, with massive growth potential still to be realised. Within Namibia the Caprivi Strip provides by far the most significant habitat for the critically endangered African Wild Dog. It is also an important corridor for African Elephant herds moving from Botswana and Namibia into Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Apart from wildlife viewing, other Caprivi activities include angling for Tiger Fish, boat cruises and canoe trips on the rivers, while other attractions include Popa Falls and Impalila Island.
Most of the Caprivi is flat and lacks any mountains, deep valleys or other prominent features. Instead, the wide rivers, such as the Kwando and the Zambezi, form the main landmarks. The lush vegetation is beautiful, and there are some magnificent trees lining the waterways. Up to a third of the eastern part of the Caprivi floods during rains, turning it into the “poor man’s” Okavango Delta.

Katima Mulilo is the strip’s largest settlement, and is our home for the night. It is a lively commercial town right on the banks of the mighty Zambezi. The name of the town comes from the SiLozi language, meaning “quench the fire”, referring to the nearby rapids in the Zambezi.
We will reach our lodge after a short road transfer and check in. The lodge is situated along a small riverine forest on the banks of a tranquil backwater lake of the Zambezi river, with lush gardens and a beautiful pool. Once we have settled in, we will depart for a late afternoon sunset boat cruise to welcome you to this beautiful area, to get to know each other a bit better and to welcome you on your fantastic safari!
Dinner will be served back at the lodge on a deck overlooking the tranquil water. What a great way to say “Hallo Africa”!

DAY 2:
Kwando River and Bwabwata National Park

After breakfast we will check out and jump into the vehicle, and start heading west.
We will make our way towards to beautiful Kwando river. The Kwando, also spelled Cuando sometimes, is 731 km (454 mi) long and runs from the central plateau in Angola into the Linyanti swamp in the north of Botswana. Below the swamp, the river is called the Linyanti river and, further east, the Chobe river, before it flows into the mighty Zambezi river.

We will go straight to one of the cultural villages in the area where, during a short visit, we will gain a better insight to the lives of the local people. From here we will go our lodge where lunch will be waiting. Our chosen lodge is situated right on the Kwando, with huge trees, wide expanses of green lawn and a myriad of small mammals and birds to entertain us. After a short break to relax and settle in we will depart for an afternoon game drive in nearby Bwabwata National Park. Excitingly, we first have to do a short boat cruise to get to the game drive vehicle!

Bwabwata National Park (a recent merger of the Caprivi Game Park and Mahango Game Reserve) or just “Buffalo” to the locals, is named after a village in the reserve and means ‘the sound of bubbling water’, and was established in 2007. The park is 6,100km² (2,350 sq2 miles) in size and extends for about 180km from the Okavango river in the west to the Kwando river in the east, with Angola to the north and Botswana to the south. It is one of the most scenic parks in the area, and the habitat varies between floodplains, deciduous seringa and Acacia woodland, and Zambezi teak forests. It is still properly wild here, off the beaten tourist track and one of our favourite parks in the region!

A favourite and famous spot in Bwabwata is Horseshoe; as the name suggests, a large oxbow lake on the Kwando river with picturesque white-sand beaches, surrounded by beautiful Zambezi teak woodlands. A special spot indeed!

The park is great for game viewing and although there are no rhinos here, the park has the highest African Elephant concentration in the Caprivi. Other game that are found here are Spotted Hyaena, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Tsessebe, Sable and Roan Antelope, Greater Kudu, Southern Lechwe, Sitatunga, Plains Zebra, Common Wildebeest and many others. Although present, it is rare to see Giraffe, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and African Wild Dog.

Bwabwata is also known for its prolific birdlife, with almost 350 species already recorded, and we will look for all the local specials and some of the 35 possible birds of prey. Likely birds to tick include Dickinson’s Kestrel, Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-backed Night Heron, African Skimmer, African Pygmy Goose, Allen’s Gallinule, Black-winged Pratincole, African Wood Owl, African Barred Owlet, Southern Ground Hornbill, Black-faced Babbler, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Swamp Boubou, Collared Palm Thrush, Meves’s Starling, Bennett’s Woodpecker and many more. We will return to the beautiful lodge for dinner and a good night’s rest.

DAY 3:
Mudumu and Mamili National Parks

We will start our day with breakfast and then check out. We will make our way down to Mudumu National Park for a morning game drive.

Mudumu, together with Bwabwata, form the “Mahango Core Area”, as well as being part of the much larger Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA) that incorporates 16 parks in 5 countries over its vast 520,000 km2 (201,000 sq mi) area. Mudumu has in the past unfortunately suffered from heavy poaching, but is slowly making a recovery, and a good variety of animals make it a great place to visit. Just like in Bwabwata yesterday, you will see that it is wild out here, with limited facilities and the roads often in dubious condition; a proper safari then!
It is a flat region of grassland, swamps, shrubland, floodplains and riverine woodland, with a few sand dunes on the horizon. The deciduous woodlands are dominated by trees such as wild seringa, false mopane, camelthorns and Zambezi teak.

The parks are home to almost 100 large and numerous small mammal species, including African Elephant, big herds of African Buffalo, plenty of Hippopotamus, Giraffe, the rare Roan and Sable Antelopes, Plains Zebra, Common Wildebeest, Greater Kudu, Southern Lechwe, Sitatunga, Lion, Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena, the vulnerable Spotted-necked Otter and many more. Leopard and African Wild Dog are very rare, but you never know…
Almost 450 bird species have been recorded in these two parks and surrounds, including regional specials like Western Banded Snake Eagle, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Wattled Crane, Slaty Egret, African Skimmer, African Pygmy Goose, African and Lesser Jacana, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-backed Night Heron, Allen’s Gallinule, Three-banded Courser, Black-winged Pratincole, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Swamp Boubou, Collared Palm Thrush, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Bearded Scrub Robin, Grey-backed Cisticola, Brown Firefinch and many others. The area is recognised as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International.

The parks also contain almost 1,000 flora species in 88 different families, along with many reptiles (including Nile Crocodiles), amphibians and fish species.

Once we exit this park we will continue on a short drive to Mamili National Park (also called Nkasa Rupara) where we will spend the night camping. When we arrive at our carefully chosen campsite, everything will be ready, with separate tents for ablutions and a dedicated dining tent. We guarantee it will be an unforgettable experience! We will have a late lunch and get used to our stunning surroundings. Mamili is a beautiful, adventurous, undeveloped destination that is only accessible in the dry season. The park is basically a swamp between the Kwando and Linyanti rivers. It becomes Namibia’s smaller version of Botswana’s famed Okavango Delta when it is flooded; a paradise of islands and waterways.

Mudumu and Mamili are two of the hidden secrets in the Caprivi. Since both are accessible to 4×4 vehicles only, we include them in this itinerary to give people the opportunity to experience a sense of exploring. You almost never encounter other tourists and vehicles in these parks.
We will depart for an afternoon boat cruise or game drive depending on the season, water levels and which one is better for game viewing. Mamili is known for sightings of Hippopotamus, African Elephant, Lion, big African Buffalo herds, Greater Kudu, Southern Lechwe, Sitatunga, Puku, Waterbuck and its prolific birdlife. We will return to camp after our game viewing activity and have dinner together under a million stars. They really are spectacular out here in the middle of nowhere!

DAY 4:
Mamili NP and Chobe NP

Today we will be up early and into the game drive vehicles for an early morning game drive in Mamili national park.
The Lions in this amazing park are often active early in the mornings and we will hopefully be lucky enough to find them. We could also get lucky and see some African Wild Dog. Overall we will have to work for our sightings here, but the real “bush” vibe will make up for it.

From a birding perspective, some people reckon that Mamili is Namibia’s best birding park. Some of the interesting and special species we will look for here include Wattled Crane, Denham’s Bustard, Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Jacana, African Pygmy Goose, Allen’s Gallinule, Long-toed Lapwing, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Coppery-tailed and Black Coucal, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Rosy-throated Longclaw and many others.
Once we return to camp we will enjoy a big breakfast and pack up before departing to Botswana where we will spend the next two nights.

We will stop for lunch in Katima Mulilo before crossing the border into Botswana at one of the most scenic border posts anywhere! It overlooks the Chobe river and is set amongst huge Baobab trees. The Chobe really is one of Africa’s magical rivers, and it defines the Chobe National Park, as it lazily meanders through the woodland and savannah. From Katima we drive for 60km through Chobe National Park stopping at any worthwhile sightings before arriving at our lodge in Kasane.

Chobe National Park covers an incredible diversity of ecosystems, ranging from arid plains and dry channels to fertile grasslands, dense woodland and watery swamps. Apart from the Chobe river, another key feature of the park is the Savuti marsh that is mostly dry and sometimes conjuring up memories of the Serengeti. Chobe’s diverse habitats support a high density and rich variety of animals and birds (over 500 species). It was Botswana’s first national park, established in 1967, and covers an area of 12,000 km².

The abundance of wildlife, the moderate weather and the incredible sunsets makes Chobe arguably the most photo-friendly game park in Africa. Professional wildlife photographers from all over the world have been known to shoot documentaries in Chobe, so keep your cameras ready!

Our lodge tonight is situated high over the banks of the Chobe river, and what better way to welcome you to Botswana than with a sundowner drink in your hand watching the sun set over the river and the distant landscapes. If we get to Kasane early enough we can try and organise an extra afternoon boat cruise or game drive.

DAY 5:
Chobe National Park

This morning we will again rise early and head to Chobe. We will explore this area with game drive in the morning and a fantastic boat cruise on the river in the afternoon.

Chobe is famous for the large number of animals (especially African Elephants and African Buffaloes) along the riverbanks, especially in the early mornings and late afternoons. Besides the pods of Hippopotamus and huge Nile Crocodiles that are always around we should also see massive numbers of Plains Zebra. And where there is food, there are predators; the area has some big Lion prides, along with Leopard, Cheetah, Spotted Hyaena and even African Wild Dog.

The Chobe river is obviously the greatest attraction of the park; nowhere in Africa is better for viewing and photographing African Elephants, as the park has the highest population of these amazing pachyderms in the world. Forming the northern boundary of the park, the vital Chobe waterway attracts animals in great numbers during the dry season when water in the interior of northern Botswana is scarce. The river provides water for drinking, cooling off and even for play for these African giants, while the grass on the floodplains is a vital source of nourishment for them and other animals.

In season, the riverfront is also teeming with thousands of zebras. They spend most of the dry season by the river, attracted by the guarantee of water and good grazing. Hearing the zebras’ far-reaching calls during the night while tucked up safely in your room is one of Africa’s most memorable experiences. Other ungulates present in smaller numbers include Sable and Roan Antelope, Greater Kudu, Bushbuck, Southern Lechwe and other water-loving species. Smaller mammals include Serval, Selous’s Mongoose and African Wildcat.

Incredible birdlife can also be found here. Over 450 species have been recorded in the Chobe National Park. We will keep an eye out for all the impressive species we may have seen so far on the trip, but also look out for Western Banded Snake Eagle, African Marsh Harrier, Red-necked Falcon, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Saddle-billed Stork, Slaty Egret, Squacco and Rufous-bellied Heron, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Trumpeter Hornbill, Allen’s Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, Greater Painted-snipe, African Darter, White-crowned and Long-toed Lapwing, Collared and Black-winged Pratincole, African Finfoot, Purple-banded Sunbird, Racket-tailed Roller, Swamp Boubou, Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Brown Firefinch, Chirping, Red-faced and Luapula Cisticola, Greater Swamp Warbler and many others.

We will return to our lodge in the afternoon to freshen up and have dinner together. We will sit on the deck overlooking the river, marvelling at the wonderful scenery around us. Then we are off to bed for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we head to our final attraction on this fantastic safari.

DAY 6:
Chobe to Victoria Falls

We will be up early for another morning game drive in a 4×4 vehicle in Chobe after which we will be back at the lodge for breakfast. From here we will cross the border into Zimbabwe which will be our third and last country that we visit on this safari. It is a short drive of about 70 km and we will continue to keep an eye open for wildlife along the way.

After arriving in Victoria Falls town we will continue straight to the falls which is also known as ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ – The Smoke that Thunders. It is one of the most beautiful and most majestic waterfalls in the world and it is not difficult to see why the Victoria Falls are one of the 7 natural wonders of the world as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. No amount of cold facts can prepare you for the sight of the unfathomably vast and powerful falls. It truly is majestic, and a must-see for adventure and wildlife travellers from all over the globe.

We will enjoy a guided walk in the small park adjoining the falls, looking not only at the majestic waterfall, but also ticking special bird species like the beautiful Schalow’s Turaco, loud Trumpeter Hornbill and quite rare Collared Palm Thrush.
After lunch somewhere in town and settling into our guesthouse or small hotel, you will have the afternoon open for relaxing, shopping at one of the curio markets, or any of the following additional (optional) activities:

• Helicopter flights over the falls and surrounding area (highly recommended)
• Bungee jumping and ziplining at the Zambezi gorge
• Sundowner boat cruise on the Zambezi river
• Half-day birding trip around town and the falls
• White-river rafting on the Zambezi river (water level dependent)

Dinner tonight is for your own account, but we can gladly assist in suggesting one of the many excellent hotel restaurants in town. We will enjoy each other’s company for a final evening, chatting about our wonderful river-filled safari, exchanging photos and contact details, having made friends for life.

DAY 7:
Departure or onward travel

Unfortunately our KAZA wildlife adventure has come to an end.
After a relaxing breakfast at the guesthouse or hotel you will be transferred to the nearby Victoria Falls International Airport for your onward or homeward flight.

*Please note: we tried to keep this safari fairly short to enable you to do a possible extension of your choice. We recommend a few days on a houseboat in Chobe National Park or spoil yourself with a fly-in safari to the famous Okavango Delta. Otherwise we can continue the safari to include Hwange and/or Mana Pools National Parks in Zimbabwe or you can do a pre-safari extension to Etosha National Park in Namibia. A trip to Kafue or Liuwa Plains National Park in Zambia is also definitely worth considering. Please contact us to assist with an questions you may have and we will gladly assist.

Do you have a quick question about this safari? Speak to a specialist at
info@naturetravelafrica.com  

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