Introducing Bwabwata National Park
Only recently recognised as a national park, Bwabwata was established to rehabilitate local wildlife populations. Prior to the 2002 Angolan ceasefire, this area saw almost no visitors, and wildlife populations had been virtually wiped out by rampant poaching instigated by ongoing conflict. Now that a decade of peace has returned, the animals are miraculously back again, and tourism is starting to pick up once more.
If you come here expecting Etosha, you’ll be severely disappointed, though if you’re looking to get off the beaten path, this is a great area to explore while it’s still relatively undiscovered.
Bwabwata includes five main zones: the Divundu area, the West Caprivi Triangle, the Mahango Game Reserve, Popa Falls and the now-defunct West Caprivi Game Reserve. The Mahango Game Reserve presently has the largest concentrations of wildlife, and is therefore the focus of most safaris in the area.
Divundu, with two (nominally) 24-hour petrol stations and a relatively well stocked supermarket, is merely a product of the road junction. The real population centres are the neighbouring villages of Mukwe, Andara and Bagani. Divundu is marked as Bagani on some maps and road signs, though technically they’re separate places about 2km apart.
The West Caprivi Triangle, the wedge bounded by Angola to the north, Botswana to the south and the Kwando River to the east, was formerly the richest wildlife area in the Caprivi. Poaching, bush clearing, burning and human settlement have greatly reduced wildlife, though you can still access the area via the road along the western bank of the Kwando River near Kongola.
Finally, the Golden Hwy between Rundu and Katima Mulilo traverses the former West Caprivi Game Reserve. Although this was once a haven for large herds of elephants, it served as a pantry for local hunters and poachers for decades, and is now largely devoid of wildlife.