The Bwabwata National Park in the northeastern Caprivi strip of Namibia is what is known as ‘a people’s park’ as it supports both large wildlife numbers and a population of about 5,500 people. This unique and special arrangement benefits the local people and the wildlife of the area equally, with conservation and rural community development both coming out as winners from sharing this spectacular area.
Bwabwata is named after a village in the reserve and means ‘the sound of bubbling water’, and was established in 2007 after the merging of the Caprivi Game Park and the Mahango Game Reserve. The park is 6,100km² (2,350 sq2 miles) in size and extends for about 180km from the Kavango River in the west to the Kwando River in the east, with Angola to the north and Botswana to the south.
It is a flat region of swamps, 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. Bwabwata forms a crucial trans-boundary link for wildlife movement (especially African Elephants) between Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.
The park is home to 35 large and numerous small mammal species, including African Elephant, African Buffalo, Hippopotamus, Roan Antelope, Sable Antelope, Greater Kudu, Red Lechwe, Sitatunga, Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and Spotted Hyaena.
Almost 450 bird species have been recorded in the park and surrounds, including regional specials like Black-winged Pratincole, Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane, Western banded Snake Eagle, African Skimmer, African Pygmy Goose, Coppery-tailed Coucal, White-backed Night Heron, Allen’s Gallinule and Dickinson’s Kestrel.
A favourite and famous spot in the park 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.
Bwabwata has three community-operated campsites within the park, and several lodges are situated outside Bwabwata on its borders. Tour operators offer game drives, boat trips and walks in the Park.
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