Bwabwata National Park

I n 2007 the former Caprivi Game Park, proclaimed in 1966, was incorporated into the 6 100-km2 Bwabwata National Park, inclusive of the Kwando or Golden Triangle, and the Buffalo and Mahango (the former Mahango Game Park) core areas.

This heralds a new generation of parks in terms of an integrated approach towards park management. Bwabwata was designed not only to protect the environment, but also to generate income for the country.

The central area of the park is being zoned for community-based tourism, including trophy hunting, human settlement, and development. Cattle movement is controlled to prevent the spread of diseases, and communities living in the park or neighbouring areas are given conditional tourism rights to establish – either on their own or in joint ventures – tourism facilities within the park confines.

Bwabwata has three distinct areas: the perennial Okavango and Kwando rivers, their riparian vegetation and floodplains characterised by reedbeds, floating grass mats and woodlands with jackal-berry, mangosteen, apple-leaf, knob-thorn and wild-date palm; a parallel system of drainage lines (omuramba) that run west-north-west or east-south-west; and deep windblown Kalahari sands that form dunes between 20 to 60 metres high and support deciduous woodlands dominated by seringa, Zambezi teak, wild teak and several wild raisin and bushwillow species.

The park is sanctuary to 35 large game species – including elephant, buffalo, impala, reedbuck, red lechwe, sitatunga, hippo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, Chobe bushbuck, tsessebe, and sable and roan antelope – and numerous small-game species. Predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and African wild dog also occur in Bwabwata. Because there is no surface water, most species congregate along the Okavango and Kwando riverbanks and at the Malombe and Ndwasa pans in the north-east. The Okavango and Kwando rivers and their associated floodplains are important habitats for wetland bird species, such as wattled cranes and African skimmers.

Over 400 bird species have been recorded here, conspicuous examples being kingfishers, herons, cormorants, African skimmers, wattled cranes, pygmy geese and African fish-eagles. Visitors are cautioned that there are crocodiles and hippos in the river.

Bwabwata takes its name from a village in the park, and refers to the sound of bubbling water. It forms part of the 278 132 km2 KavangoZambezi (KaZa) Transfrontier Conservation Area, the world’s largest conservation area. The infrastructure and facilities of the park were upgraded in 2012.

African elephant. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk

Buffalo. Photo ©Paul van Schalkwyk

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