Day 7: Caprivi Strip (known as Zambezi Region since August 2013)

‘Hot water is a blessed thing!’  These words had new meaning for me when we stayed at Ngepi Camp in the Caprivi area of Namibia in mid-winter.

It was June and we were staying in reed huts on the banks of the Okavango River.  Ngepi Camp is very eco friendly and uses solar energy,  however in winter the sun does not reach the solar panels until about 11 am so there is not much time for the sun to do its work.  Also the solar panels were covered with dust which blocked the rays of the sun.  A bucket of water tossed over them improved matters vastly………….

On the morning of  13 June 2012 we visited the Mohango Game Reserve.  A few startled kudu darted across the road.  This park is known for Roan and Sable antelope herds and has four of the big five.  Over 300 bird species have been recorded.

We stopped to admire an enornmous baobab in the park.

Baobab trees can live for thousands of years.

While Vermaak, our chef,  made us a hearty brunch under the trees, Marion and I explored the river bank and saw an African Jacana which is sometimes known as the ‘Jesus bird’ because it appears to walk on water while it trots over the lilies, its long toes and nails spreading its weight.

We were lucky enough to see the rare Reedbuck.

Later that afternoon we travelled back to Bagani to find the site of the old pont that had been the only way over the Okavango before the Bagani bridge was built.  We were told to make enquiries at the local clinic.  Les had been stationed here with the South African Police during the late 60’s and was keen to re-visit the site.

This photo of the old pont was taken by Les in the 1960’s.

Trenches were dug by the SAP members to protect their camp.

They had to guard the pont as this was the only way across the river.  Here is a young Les in uniform.

The pont was guarded as it was a strategic crossing for the military and local community.

There was lots of time for fun and the pont made a good diving platform.

Anyone watching out for crocodiles?

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The remants of the old pont can still be seen on the opposite bank.

The SAP camp was under an enornmous tree in this wooded area.

This was the local shebeen or ‘kuka’ shop.  We gave our kind guide a lift back to the clinic and thanked him for showing us where the old pont had been.

Back at Ngepi Camp we studied the board showing the many activities that are available.  If you are a keen bird watcher there are many birds in grounds of the camp so there is never a dull moment.

These upside down mokoros make wonderful seats for sitting around the pub area.

At night a fire is built for guests.

Botswana to Caprivi: Day 6

It was almost mid winter and the temperature had dropped below zero during the night.  We were staying at Ngepi Camp in a reed treehouse on the banks of the Okavango River, in the Caprivi Strip, Namibia.  On the morning of Tuesday 12 June, we woke up to find the river covered with mist.  Nothing was stirring.  The morning was still and quiet and very cold.  The hippos that had been very vocal during the night, were now silent.  We heard an owl calling in the distance.

Gradually the mist lifted.  Making our way towards the camp where Vermaak of Mpafa Tours always had a hot pot of coffee brewing, we stopped to listen to the sounds of birds.  Even though it was winter and not the bird season, there were many birds around.  This area has over 500 species of birds and is a haunt of bird lovers from all over the world.  The best time for bird watching is from September to March.

The grass was still covered with frost.

We were enjoying the first rays of the sun and admiring the vegetation.  On a branch high above the ground were three Verreaux’s Eagle Owls.

The owls were awake and alert and we enjoying the warmth of the winter sun.  The birders among us were very excited as no one had ever seen three owls sitting on one branch before.

After breakfast prepared by the staff at Ngepi, we decided to explore the area.  We stopped to watch some local children dancing and to purchase some miniature mokoros as momentos.

We crossed the bridge over the Okavango River.  We were on our way to see the remnants of Battalion 32 or ‘Buffalo Battalion’ .  This battalion of the SA Army was stationed in the Caprivi in the 70’s and 80’s until it was disbanded in the 90’s.

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This map shows the Bwabwata National Park and the Popa Falls.

A boom gate blocked our journey.  We enquired at the office nearby and were told we had to buy a permit to enter Buffalo Camp.  Fortunately South African rands are accepted in Namibia (N$1 = R1) so we handed over about R100 and continued on our journey.

We passed through the old South African Army camp that was known as Battalion 32.  This is now part of the Bwabwata National Park in an area called Buffalo Camp.  The road in this area are very sandy and in parts the sand is very deep.  It is not advisable to go there without a 4.x 4.

Remnants of the old army site.

This cross was probably put here by someone who lost a loved one during the war years.

The old army buildings are now overgrown by the vegetation.

There are plenty of buffalo near the river.

This magnificent kudu kept an eye on us.

We stopped to watch a lilac breasted roller.  Reluctantly leaving this reserve we headed out to find Popa Falls that we had heard were more like rapids than a waterfall.

After driving up and down the road for a while and after asking some pedestrians for directions, we eventually found the small dirt road leading to the falls.  The road is next to a prison and is unmarked.  Litter is scattered all over.  The area looked very neglected and unappealing, but we carried on, determined to see the falls.

On the road near the falls we stopped at this office and made enquiries.  The young woman behind the counter took R10 from each of us and we continued to the falls.  Not expecting much, we continued along the narrow sandy road.

The sound of roaring water filled the air.  The Popa Falls were a wonderful sight.  People who visited the falls on the side of the river where the popular lodges are, said it was not as impressive as the view from the neglected side that we visited.

Kim and Bronwyn were amazed at the speed and roar of the flowing water.  The sand on the small beach is clean and squeaks as you walk on it.   The power and size of the Okavango River is very impressive from this vantage point.

Had we known what a lovely spot this was, we would have brought a picnic basket.  We walked up river for a while and then decided that we would head back to Ngepi for some lunch.

We left the falls and crossed over the bridge again.  We travelled through the small village of Bagani back to Ngepi Camp.

On our return trip we stopped to support another group of children singing and dancing to attract the tourists and earn a bit of pocket money.

We were entranced by the sight of some drums being transported on a sled drawn by oxen.

That night we heard drums been beaten all night.  We thought back to the oxen drawing the sled with two large drums.

That afternoon we went for a cruise on the river.  We were surprised to see Vermaak in the open air bathroom.  He was waiting to wave as we went past.

While travelling in the boat we passed some of the various reed houses alongside the river.

We saw a diverse selection of birds such as the Little Bee-eater.

The little egret has black legs and yellow feet.  This makes him different to all the other white herons in this area.

As the sun slowly set, the birds settled for the night.

The river banks and sandbanks were alive with birds.

The golden sky formed a perfect backdrop for the birds, reeds and papyrus.

We watched in silence as the sun sank slowly into the Okavango and then turned the boat and headed back to Ngepi Camp.