The wild and remote Nkasa Rupara National Park (Mamili NP) is one of five parks in northeastern 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 agreement 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 uninhibited 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 inaccessible in the wet season, it seldom sees more than 200 visitors 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 exactly that reason. They are rewarded by a low-density but great variety of species of animals, birds and botanical wonders 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 at Windhoek International Airport, then take a smaller charter plane to Katima Mulilo, about 100 km 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. Lions, wild dogs and spotted hyenas are the main predators, although sightings are rare. Hippo and Nile's crocodiles 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 the 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, is unfenced, untarred, has no infrastructure and is 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, 5 km and 20 km 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 these 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.