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. But the wildlife is making a slow but spectacular comeback. If you come here expecting Etosha, you’ll be disappointed. But you might very well see lions, elephants, African wild dogs, perhaps even the sable antelope and some fabulous birdlife.
Bwabwata includes a number of zones: the Divundu area, the West Caprivi Triangle, the Mahango Game Reserve, Popa Falls, former West Caprivi Game Reserve and the Kwando Core Area. The Mahango Game Reserve presently has the largest concentrations of wildlife, while the Kwando Core Area is where the repopulation of carnivores is really taking off.
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 was for too long largely devoid of wildlife. But this zone is becoming an important corridor for wildlife from northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip and the hitherto-threatened wildlife of southeastern Angola.