If you’re looking for somewhere off the beaten track, you could do worse than the Mahango game area in the north-eastern Caprivi/Zambezi region of Namibia, bordering on Botswana. The Mahango is part of the greater Bwabwata National Park.
What we found was an attractive blend of river courses and broad flood plains as well as forest and wooded areas full of acacias, bushwillows, Zambezi teak and wild seringa trees. But king of the heap, of course, was the fabulous baobab. We followed the signs to Mahango’s giant baobab, which has an impressive girth, but there were other baobabs of a more youthful size dotted around the area too.
On a bank near a pool of waterlilies we saw spurwing geese, blackwinged stilt and African jacana. Other bright spots for us were African fish eagle, wheatear, lilac-breasted roller, longtailed starling and blue waxbill.
June is, of course, dry season, so even if birding wasn’t at its peak, our chances of spotting animals were much better – anything from hippo and croc, buffalo, and a richness of antelope like bushbuck, reedbuck, waterbuck, red lechwe, tsessebe, sitatunga, and the endangered roan and sable antelope. We were lucky enough to see two herds of roan – 28 animals in the larger herd – as well as lots of kudu, warthogs and hippo, a few elephant feeding at the river’s edge, and an endlessly entertaining baboon troupe foraging for munchies in a water seep.
There isn’t much in the way of development here, but that was fine with me. If I’m surrounded by attractive bush and wild animals, I certainly don’t need five-star lodges and nouvelle cuisine at every bend in the road. Apart from the main tar road linking Namibia to Botswana – which runs smack-dab through the middle of the park – there were only two other tracks. One of about 15 kilometres followed the river and was suitable for normal cars, especially in the dry season – perfect for slow driving and many stops.
Kwetche ‘picnic site’ was just a big shady tree where you could get out and admire the view along the river. Bits of grass and mud quite high up on the bark of the tree hinted that elephants had been using it as a rubbing post, but we had it to ourselves that morning. A great place to bring a simple picnic you can eat out the boot of your car.
Need to know
1. Mahango is open for day visitors only; there’s no overnight accommodation in the park.
2. It makes a perfect day outing from Ngepi camp about 15 kilometres away.
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