The wild and remote Nkasa Rupara National Park (Mamili NP) is one of five parks in north-eastern Namibia. It is managed as a unit with Bwabwata, Khaudum, Mangetti and Mudumu National Parks, in a joint effort contributing to the KaZa TFCA.
The Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KaZa TCFA) is managed in aggrement with Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe to provide a safe and unimpeded passage for animals. Namibia’s Nkasa Rupara National Park can be found right in the middle of it.
Named for two Islands found on the Kwando/Linyanti River, this unhibited park is the largest wetland area with conservation status in Namibia. A definite haven for wetland species and when the flood waters from the river are high, the park turns into a mini Okavango Delta. There are close to 1 000 buffalo in Nkasa Rupara, the largest concentration in the whole country.
Being completely inaccassible in the wet season, it seldom sees more than 200 vistors annually. Indeed with no facilities or accommodations within the park, it is a true unbridled paradise. However those that do make the effort, do so for exact that reason. They are rewarded by a low density but great variety of species of animal, bird and botanical the like in an almost unspoilt environment.
Nkasa Rupara National Park is 1,200km from Windhoek in the Caprivi Region making it an incredibly remote destination. Prebooked as part of a package, travellers will generally land in Windhoek International airport, then take a smaller charter plane to Katima Mulilo, about 100kms from the park.
Self-drivers have a long way to go as the only car hire would be in Windhoek. They will need to have 4×4 experience, be completely equipped with food and water, know about wildlife and have a healthy dose of adventurous spirit, to embark on the journey!
Most trips (either self-drive or organized tours) begin in Windhoek by way of Hosea Kutako International Airport (WDH) located 40km/25mi to the east of the city. Some visitors elect a ‘fly-in’ experience using charter flights between parks and lodges.
Charter flights will generally be booked by your tour operator as part of your tour package. Domestic flights are usually by way of Eros Airport (ERS) in Windhoek and provided by Air Namibia. Those who want to travel to Nkasa Rupara by air independently can fly to Katima Mulilo on a scheduled flight from Windhoek. The park is located about 130km / 81mi southwest of Katima Mulilo.
Although the park is quite inaccessible, there is a good variety of wildlife present for those that make the effort. Elephants and buffalo can be found wallowing in the marshes. Lion, wild dog and spotted hyena are the main predators, although sightings are rare. Hippo and Nile crocodile are abundant in the reed-lined channels.
Water-loving antelope that can be found wading through marshy areas are the red lechwe and the rare semi-aquatic sitatunga. The park is also a stronghold for the country’s last population of puku antelope.
With over 400 species recorded, Nkasa Rupara National Park is Namibia’s best birding area. The year-round marshes create a great habitat for a large variety of species and migrants. Some interesting species to look out for are breeding pairs of wattled cranes, Denham’s bustard, coppery-tailed coucal and rosy-throated longclaw.
The Dry season (May to October) is the best time for wildlife viewing. The roads become extremely rough to traverse, if not completely impassable, during the Wet season, from November to April. In years of good rains, 80% of the park can become flooded.
Malaria could be a risk when visiting this area so all travellers are advised to take precautions.
For those booked in one of the two nearby private lodges, guests will have access to a guide conducting private safaris into the park. The area is fantastic for birding and photography the like. Those wanting to have these safari types as a focus, will be able to do so there.
The most common form of safari in area is self-drive and like all areas in the Caprivi strip, it comes with a firm warning. Nkasa Rupara National Park, like Khaudum and its neighbours are unfenced, untarred, no infrastructure and incredibly remote. Self-drivers will need to travel in convoys of at least two vehicles. Getting stuck in soft sand or mud, is highly likely in this wild terrain. 4x4 experience is essential. Wildlife experience is advised.
There are no accommodations or campsites inside the park itself, however in nearby villages one will be able to find a few options. The villages of Ruparo and Sangwali, 5kms and 20kms outside the park respectively, are the best bet as the closest hop off for exploring the park.
There are rough and ready campsites that reflect the unkempt and wild area that they are in. But with no amenities, visitors to this area must be completely prepared and well equipped.
Two incredibly beautiful, Robinson Crusoe style private lodges can also be found in theses villages. The lodges need to be booked in advance and you will have a private guide and be catered for during your stay there. This is wild Africa in a very real sense and the stunning camps are oasis like hideaways.