Mamili National Park

Mamili National Park  ( Nkasa Lupala )

Mamili National Park was proclaimed on 1 March 1990.The area has the largest wetland area with reed beds, oxbow lakes and tree-covered islands and two large islands in the Kwando/Linyanti River. Same bird and animal species occur as in Mudumu National Park. Visitors have to be completely self-sufficient in terms of water, food, fuel, etc no facilities are provide at the campsites.
Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park is located within a high-risk malaria area. Precautions are necessary.

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Discover the Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park
Wild – that’s the one word that best describes Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park. There is nothing prissy about it, it doesn’t have fancy campsites and offers no guided tours. But it is an extraordinary iece of wilderness, waiting to be explored. Lush marshes, dense savannah and high river reeds mean that travelling through the area is a dream for 4x4 enthusiasts. During the dry winter months, large herds of elephant congregate on Nkasa and Lupala islands. But for much of the year, the park is awash with floodwater. Drive slowly through deep pools and avoid rivers where crocodiles lie in wait. Slip through thick black mud, so soft it is called cotton, and dice with the odds of getting stuck! If you have to wait while someone else digs the vehicle out, listen carefully. Nearby buffalo or elephant may be crossing the river. For anyone who relishes the adventures of raw, real Africa, Mamili (Nkasa Lupala)
National Park is the place to be.

Namibia’s largest wet wonderland
In a vast arid country, Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park holds the distinction of being the largest wetland area with conservation status in Namibia. The Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) was proclaimed in 1990, shortly before Namibia’s Independence. And there is much to celebrate about this wet wonderland. The 318-km2 Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park protects the flora and fauna living within a complex channel of reed beds, lakes and islands that make up the Linyanti swamps. Spectacular herds of elephant, buffalo, red lechwe and reedbuck are among the highlights of any game-viewing experience. But be careful, the waters are also home to five-metre-long crocodiles and families of hippopotamus, which venture onto the floodplains at night to feed. During the rainy season, as much as 80% of the park can become flooded and inaccessible, and yet it remains a sanctuary for birds. With more species of birds recorded here than anywhere else in Namibia, Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park is a bird-watcher’s paradise.

A uniquely Namibian edge
The Kwando River cuts a wide, wild path through Southern Africa.From its source in the Angolan highlands, the Kwando flows for 1 000 km before it changes direction sharply, turning south-west at the border between Namibia and Botswana, to become the Linyanti River. At the southern edge of Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park, it is possible to straddle the banks of the Kwando and Linyanti rivers. Sound odd? That’s just the beginning. The change in the river’s course heralds many other surprises in this dynamic environmental system. The park is dominated by wetlands, with shifting channels and floodplains. Several ‘islands,’ including Nkasa and Lupala, rise gently above the wetlands. The combination of water, reeds, trees and dense grass attracts wildlife in abundance. Lightning from thunderstorms literally ignites the ground, sparking fires that temporarily burn above and below the earth. Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park beautifully mirrors Botswana’s Okavangostyle wetland wilderness with an edge that is uniquely Namibian.

Cross-border conservation efforts
Although you seldom encounter other tourists in the Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park, the visit is a shared experience. Along with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, local conservancies play a vital role in protecting this stunning park. The Caprivi and Kavango regions are the geographical heart of the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area, a five-country initiative, involving Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Angola, which is aimed at broadening the protected areas network, thus increasing biodiversity, expanding historical game migration routes and drawing more tourists into the area. In a place where local people often bear the costs of living with wildlife, KAZA will help make the protection of wildlife more economically viable for rural communities. The Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park is part of a web of 22 protected areas which cover 80 000 square kilometres that have the potential to be transformed into a transfrontier conservation area.

How to get there
Turn off the B8, the Trans-Caprivi Highway, onto the D3511 after the Kongola Bridge to reach the Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park. Four-wheeldrive vehicles are required as the terrain can be muddy and waterlogged. Travelling in groups with at least two vehicles is advised.

Rainfall: Average annual rainfall is between 550 mm and 700 mm per year, with the peak rainy period in January and February. In years of heavy rainfall, flooding can be extensive.

Due to extensive flooding in the Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park, camping is not advised within the park. Community-based campsites are available in the surrounding area. Visitors must be completely self-sufficient in terms of water, food and fuel. Entry permits for the park are obtainable at the Ministry of Environment and Tourism offices in Katima Mulilo and Windhoek or from the field offices at Susuwe, Nakatwa and Shisinze, the northern gate of Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) National Park, where reference maps are also available.

An astonishing variety of birds.
The Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) and Mudumu National Parks are at the heart of Namibia’s Caprivi Region, home to more than 450 species of birds. But where are they most at home? Check out these areas:

The skies
This is the domain of the raptors, such as the long-crested eagle, distinguished by the striking plumage on its head, and the agile bateleur, whose name means ‘acrobat’ in French. Above swampy areas look out for the African marsh-harrier, or a rare sighting of the western banded snake-eagle, a predatory bird which frequents the mainstream fringes. Perhaps the bird whose sight and sound is most synonymous with the area is the African fish-eagle.

Backwater birds
These tranquil waters are home to many different species of ducks and geese, including the fulvous duck and the African pygmy-goose. The African jacana and the uncommon lesser jacana move between water lilies in search of food. Their exceedingly long toes allow for such a wide distribution of weight that these birds appear to walk on water. The vibrant purple gallinule is seen alone or in pairs, while the lesser gallinule is an uncommon and irregular resident, but a great ‘tick’ for bird watchers.

The lapwings, terns and collared and black-winged pratincoles are at home on the beaches. With hippos, buffaloes and elephants milling about, it is also a rather dangerous breeding ground for African skimmers. Whitefaced ducks are seen in large flocks on the few sandbanks in the area, while other common residents, the sacred and glossy ibis, are seen singly or in flocks.

Several different herons are found in the mainstream. The Goliath heron, the largest of the species, may stand motionless for hours as it fishes in deeper waters. The purple heron, with its slender, strikingly coloured neck, is somewhat reclusive. The rufous-bellied heron, an uncommon summer resident, is a must for any bird watcher.

The swamps are the domain of the pied, malachite, giant and half-collared kingfishers. The black and white pied kingfisher hovers over water before plunging headfirst into the water on a targeted fish. Green-backed herons also feed along these channels. Diminutive dwarf and little bitterns are also found here. Sometimes mistaken for a white cattle egret, especially when in flight, the squacco heron is also at home in the channels.

The murky swamps are home to a variety of ducks, rails, weavers (including thick-billed), red-headed quelea, redshouldered and white-winged widows and a number of firefinch species. The slaty egret with its distinctive green eyes is a much sought-after sight for birders. African openbills flock in large numbers. In shallow waters, black egrets and black herons hunt by spreading their wings like an umbrella that casts shadows across the water where unsuspecting fish swim in search of shelter, only to meet a dubious end.

Southern carmine, white-fronted, little and blue-cheeked bee-eaters are often found along the rivers. Small birds with stunning plumage, all the species mingle along the water’s edge but nest separately. Carmine bee-eaters breed in colonies, flying in and out of small holes in sandy cliffs along the water’s edge to feed their young. It is a stunning sight, but intensive nesting also draws predatory birds and snakes to the colonies.

During drier periods, the Denham’s and kori bustard, as well as black-bellied bustard and ostriches are drawn to the area’s grassland. Birds that come with the rains include the kurrichane buttonquail, harlequin and common quail, rufous-naped lark and red-faced cisticola. When they have been flooded, these grasslands are excellent for pink-throated longclaw, wattled crane, slaty egret and black coucal. But be warned: they may be difficult to find and extreme caution is advised, as crocodiles and hippos also come up into these flooded areas to feed.

A long list of birds that includes the pale and southern black flycatchers, long-billed (wood) pipit, white-breasted cuckooshrike, green-capped eremomela, grey cisticola, African golden oriole, trumpeter hornbill, African goshawk, African little sparrowhawk, crested barbet, African emerald cuckoo, white-browed and red-capped robin-chats, coppery sunbird and grey tit-flycatcher, orange-breasted bush shrike, black-crowned tchagra and grey-headed bush shrike, inhabit the woodlands.

Found perched in trees along the water’s edge or in woodlands nearby during the day, owls come into their own at night. The prized sighting for most birders is Pel’s fishing-owl, a large, cinnamon-coloured bird that dives feet first into the water after its prey. The African woodowls, African barred owlets and barn owls are much more common residents. Black-crowned and white-backed night herons, secretive birds that hide in dense waterside vegetation, also appear only at night. Look out for the southern long-tailed starling, narina trogon, red-capped robin-chat, grey-headed bush shrike, African emerald cuckoo, ashy flycatcher, white-rumped babblers, greater swamp warblers, cisticolas, black coucals, coppery-tailed and senegal coucals, wattled cranes, pinkthroated longclaws and knob-billed duck. The list goes on and on. Grab your binoculars, a bird book and start counting!

Just add water
In an arid country like Namibia, an abundance of fresh water is the part of the recipe that makes the Mamili (Nkasa Lupala) and Mudumu national parks special. Flowing rivers and a mosaic of flooded grasslands, braided flood-plain channels, extensive reedbeds and papyrus swamps, heavily wooded islands and open-water habitats constitute a wet world that attracts a special variety of animals you won’t find in the country’s drier places.

Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius)
Are considered by many to be the most dangerous animal for humans in Africa. These huge (2 000 kg) semi-aquatic creatures emerge at dust to graze on grass, and while they aren’t territorial on land, do not put yourself between a hippo and the water; you will be in a hippo’s territory and security zone. A hippo will run right through you to get to the water. Hippopotamus get their name from the Greek word ‘hippo’
meaning ‘horse’ and ‘potamus’ meaning ‘river’. They are most at home in the water where pods or family groups of between 5–30 live together in a defined and defended territory. During the day they remain cool by staying in the water or mud. Watching them emerge, blow and snort and then descend back into the water is one of nature’s most peaceful offerings. Reproduction and childbirth both occur in water, where territorial bulls preside over a stretch of river. Bulls will attack boats, mokoros and fishermen if threatened, so it is best to give them a wide berth in the water as well as on land. Despite the physical resemblance of hippos to pigs, their closest living relatives are cetaceans (whales, porpoises, etc). Their stocky shape and short legs belie their speed. Hippos can easily outrun a human and have been clocked at 30 mph (48 km/h) while running short distances, faster than an Olympic sprinter. While there are an estimated 125 000 to 150 000 hippos remaining throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, in some places they are still threatened by habitat loss and by poaching for their meat and ivory canine teeth. IUCN Conservation status – Vulnerable

Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)
Is a species that looks as prehistoric as it is. Crocodiles are believed to have been on earth for 200 million years, surviving long after dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. A male crocodile may weigh well over 600 kilograms and reach five metres in length. Given their size, powerful tails, scaly hide, strong jaws and rows of sharp teeth, crocodiles are dangerous predators. Yet they are surprisingly
tender parents. About two months after mating, females lay their eggs, burying them up to 500 mm deep on sandy shores. Females lay between 25 and 80 eggs and then guard them over the three-month incubation period. The father-tobe often stays nearby, and both parents fiercely attack anything that approaches their eggs. The hatchlings start to make a high-pitched chirping noise before hatching, which is the signal for the mother to rip open the nest. To release their offspring, both the mother and father may pick up the eggs in their mouths, and roll them gently between their tongue and palate to help crack the shell. Once they are hatched, the female may lead the hatchlings to water, or even carry them there, in her mouth. There are an estimated 250 000 to 500 000 individuals in the wild.
IUCN Conservation status – lower risk in Namibia, that allows for some ranching or sets an annual quota of skins taken from the wild.

Sitatunga (Tragelaphus spekii)
A shy swampdwelling antelope that ranges from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to Botswana and Namibia, is rarely seen and beautiful to behold. Its water-resistant reddish brown coat is marked with white strips and spots, with the pattern continuing on its face with more spots and a white strip running across its nose. Males have a small mane of hair and horns that can reach almost a metre in length. Both males and females have long, narrow hoofs with extended false hoofs to help them move through their swampy lairs. Sitatunga are excellent swimmers. When threatened by predators such as wild dog and leopard, they flee into deep water. They may also hide by submerging themselves almost completely underwater, with only their nostrils above the waterline. While sitatunga are both nocturnal and diurnal, they are most active at dawn and dusk, and may move onto marshy land at night.
IUCN Conservation status – lower risk, near threatened

Lechwe (Kobus leche)
Is another antelope that is adept in the water. They often graze in shoulder-deep waters, but rest on dry land. Like the sitatunga, their hoofs are long, narrow and soft, making it easier to move in the marshes. They can be distinguished from the other marsh antelope by their beautiful lyre-shaped horns. Generally, females and their young are found in groups of up to 400 strong and in the wetter areas, where they are
safer from predators such as lion, leopard and hyaena. But they have no strict social system, and often the only lasting bonds are between a mother and her recent offspring. Males tend to be solitary or live in bachelor herds and do not have extended territories. Instead 20–200 males defend small patches (15–200 metres in diameter) within a common ‘arena’ associated with a large herd of females.This behaviour, known as ‘lekking’, is intensely competitive.
IUCN Conservation status – lower risk, conservation depende