Caprivi 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. 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. Its largest settlement is Katima Mulilo, a lively commercial town on the banks of the Zambezi.
The area is incredibly rich in wildlife, and has recently become an ecotourism hotspot, with massive growth potential still to be realised. National parks currently found in the Caprivi Strip are Bwabwatwa, Mudumu and Nkasa Rupara National Parks. They all offer pristine woodland with huge trees, as well as riverine floodplains, with reedbeds and swampland, all teeming with abundant resident and migrant wildlife. Accommodation ranges from rustic campsites to ultra-luxury lodges.
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. Other important mammals in the Caprivi include Hippopotamus, African Buffalo, Common Eland, Roan and Sable Antelope, Topi (Tsessebe), Southern Lechwe, Puku and Sitatunga. Main predators are Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and Spotted Hyaena. Many smaller species of mammal also occur, along with big numbers of amphibian, fish and insect species.
Birdwatchers will also not be disappointed, with the Caprivi providing some of the best birding in all of southern Africa, with almost 500 species having been recorded. Specials include Wattled Crane, African Skimmer, Slaty Egret, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Western Banded Snake Eagle, African Wood Owl, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Narina Trogon, Coppery-tailed Coucal and Brown-necked Parrot to name just a few.
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.
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