The Caprivi Strip is a really odd piece of land. It is like a little lever stretching out from the top right hand corner of Namibia towards Zimbabwe, crossing between Botswana, Angola and Zambia. The land was a gift, well more of an exchange, from the UK to given to Germany in 1890 (who at that time controlled Namibia). Germany had desperately wanted access to the Zambezi river and had even exchanged both Zanzibar and an island in the North Sea for this important stretch of land.
For us, the Caprivi strip was important for an altogether different reason. Two of the men in our group had been members of 32 Battalion – a former light infantry battalion of the South African army. They had both lived and trained in an area known as ‘Buffalo’ in the Caprivi strip from where they were deployed into Angola during the Angolan Civil War. One of the aims of this trip was to return to the area where they had lived and trained for so many years. I think it was a bit of a bitter sweet moment to be back there after so much time had passed. This place held a lot of importance for both men and we could visibly see the memories flooding back about their time there. However, what to them had been a thriving community in the heart of the Namibian bush had now become a series of dilapidated buildings amongst overgrown trees.
We spent the day exploring the area – which is now known as the Bwabwata National Park (formerly the Caprivi Game Park and Mahango Game Reserve). To sound very spoilt, we had been disappointed with our animal viewing so far. Botswana had always been heralded as a game viewing mecca but so far we had seen very little (although, will still had Chobe, Suvuti and Moremi to go so the best was definitely yet to come!). This meant that the animal life in the Caprivi was an absolute delight for us. It started almost the second we drove across the border, with the familiar ‘beware of’ signs. Except, this time, there were no pictures of cows or rock falls but rather elephant, wild dogs and hyena. We stopped to photograph one showing an elephant only to spot an elephant in the distance of the sign. Almost like he knew to be waiting there…
Once in the park we saw some beautiful animals – including a tiny elephant that trumpeted and charged us. Although very cute and possibly harmless against our car, we got out of the way very quickly in case the bigger elephants heard it and came to help it!
There were a few scary moments when the idea of camping in the wild was suggested but common sense (and an acknowledgement that this would be illegal) prevailed and we raced from the park to find a campsite before dark. We ended up in Shametu – a sweet campsite offering a rare luxury – grass! At only R100 per person (R50 per child) it was a real bargain. Each campsite included a kitchen area with lights and electricity and private toilets and showers. It also offers a view of Popa falls. Although, Popa falls will not quickly find itself om my list of favourite waterfalls. In fact. I’m sure you can only count it as rapids rather than falls?