Namibia’s Caprivi Strip is often overlooked by visitors due to its remote position in relation to the usual tourist attractions of Sossusvlei, Swakopmund and Etosha. However, it is well worth a look and Mamilli National Park is one of the most beautiful areas offering excellent birding, exciting wildlife and tranquil wilderness campsites.
Namibia may not have the Serengeti or the migrating wildebeest. But what we do have is a gem to be discovered. Remote, untouched and for always to be remembered by the few who dare: Mamilli National Park; Namibia’s forgotten diamond.
Hiding away at the bottom of the Caprivi, off the C49, only the well informed and even better equipped reach its gate, over the rather precarious looking Rupara-Bridge. After paying your bridge toll at a small shack on the banks of the first river, you enter the vast wilderness. Once inside, it’s not difficult to feel like a great explorer. The lack of road signs, people and general civilization, give the swamps a freedom that is not easily achieved elsewhere.
Going with a guide is almost a necessity like the 4×4 vehicle you drive here. Deep rivers and high grass make it difficult to find the good camping sites. These very features also make it easy to miss the wildlife to be found here. It’s also wise to go with at least two or more 4×4’s. Not a lot of people pass through here, and getting stuck in a river is not as much fun as it may sound with a hippo or elephant in the near distance.
Great numbers of elephants, hippos and buffalo roam in the park. The odd crocodile might also be spotted in the sun, shaking off the cold of the night. At night, camping on the doorstop of nature, lions can be heard and even hyena will make themselves heard. Elephants regularly pass through campsites without waking a soul. But it is not just the mammals that catch the eye. Consisting of both woodland and swamp, this is a bird haven. Even with binoculars glued to the eye, you’ll struggle to spot all the bird species in this park.
Although a 4×4 is an absolute in this park, Mamilli is not just for the young and brave. With a balanced group and a guide that knows this park, Mamilli is to be enjoyed by both young and old, though it certainly helps to have at least one brave bone somewhere in you. Respecting the wanderers of Mamilli certainly comes in handy when faced with a sudden appearance of one of the Big Five.
This area can be combined easily with other areas of the country. Ideally we would recommend driving northwards from Windhoek to spend a few days visiting the famous Etosha National Park. You can then travel north to Rundu on the Kavango River, and eastwards through the Caprivi perhaps crossing over into Botswana after your visit to Mamilli. Alternatively the Kaokoland area is another very remote and vast region to the northwest of Namibia, and 4×4 enthusiasts may wish to combine this with Mamilli for an all round wilderness experience!
Witnessing an elephant and a hippo crossing paths, listening to the rustle of leaves outside your tent, wondering what it is, discovering tracks in your campsite, spotting some of the most beautiful birds in Africa and walking through grass so high, you can’t see a thing… is something to be at least experienced once in a lifetime. This is Africa. This is Namibia. Unspoiled, untouched… at its best.