Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

In a three part blog series, Alan is highlighting obscure, off-the-beaten-track safari destinations. Places often overlooked by the crowds that are better off for their anonymity. In this, his second, he looks at safari possibilities in Namibia.

Heard of Etosha National Park? Ok. Is it awesome – yes, it really is. But there is a lot more to going on safari and wildlife watching in Namibia than it’s flagship park. Showy Etosha tends to get all the attention.

The Caprivi Strip
Caprivi Strip – cool name. But where is it? It’s that funny little wiggle of land in the northeast of Namibia. It provides access to Victoria Falls in neighbouring Zambia and Botswana’s Chobe National Park.  But it is more than just a thoroughfare. Much more.

There are a number of national parks and reserves here that form wildlife corridors with neighbouring countries. Elephants don’t recognise borders. A history of conflict in the region (it also borders Angola) has meant rampant poaching. But that’s all in the past and a decade of peace has given everyone some confidence – especially the animals.

Off the Beaten Track
In Bwabwata National Park, poaching pretty much wiped out the local wildlife. However, as peace has returned, so has the wildlife. The park is a large area and very off the beaten track – there’s plenty waiting to be discovered in here. This includes the Mahango Game Reserve which is where you’ll find most wildlife.

Not far from where Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana meet is Mpalila Island. In the far flung east of the Caprivi Strip. There are some pretty exclusive outfits operating on the island. It’s kinda like getting off the beaten path for the well-heeled. A secret type of luxury... A cruise on the Chobe River with its wildlife-packed banks is a highlight.

Mudumu National Park up here was once one of the country’s most outstanding habitats for wildlife. Tragically a combination of unrestricted hunting and neglect decimated local wildlife populations. But now the animals are slowly returning. There are also good possibilities for cultural interactions with local communities.

Travel in remote Mamili National Park should really be as part of a convoy – be it independently or with a safari operator. When the rains come, this place resembles the Okavango Delta in neighbouring Botswana. Birdwatching is particularly fruitful. You’ll likely have the place to yourself. Poaching is an ongoing problem but wildlife such as hippos, crocs, lechwes and otters are highlights.

The Future
Namibia is still coming to terms with the Caprivi Strip and its natural heritage. Large scale conservation plans have been mooted. But for the time being the animals are wandering back. And most human interaction means shooting film rather than guns. If you’re looking for a ‘wild’ adventure in Namibia - look no further.

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