The stately animals make their way through the marshes. Slowly but surely they navigate the wet ground underfoot. Among them, barely sticking out above the tall grasses, you can make out the backs of young calves. They weave their way through their mothers’ legs. Hiding from the big world they haven’t quite gotten a grasp on yet. We are treading the off-road track that leads from the entrance gate of Bwabwata National Park to Nambwa Tented Lodge, when a herd of about 50 elephants crosses our path. We wait patiently as they pass, one by one, the sound of twigs and branches crushing underfoot as they make their way to the Kwando River not too far away.
In 2007 the former Caprivi Game Park, proclaimed in 1966, was incorporated into the 6 100 km2 Bwabwata National Park, together with the Kwando – or Golden Triangle – and the Buffalo and Mahango (the former Mahango Game Park) core areas. The park is a sanctuary for 35 large game species – including elephant, buffalo, impala, reedbuck, red lechwe, sitatunga, hippo, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, Chobe bushbuck, tsessebe, sable and roan antelope – and numerous small game species. Predators such as lion, leopard, cheetah and African wild dog can also be found in the park. Most of these species congregate along the Okavango and Kwando riverbanks and at the Malombe and Ndwasa pans in the northeast. The Okavango and Kwando rivers and their respective floodplains are important habitats for wetland bird species such as wattled cranes and African skimmers. Over 400 bird species have been recorded here. Crocodiles and hippo flourish in the rivers, so beware. Bwabwata takes its name, which refers to the sound of bubbling water, from a village in the park. It forms part of the 278 132 km2 Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area, the world’s largest conservation area.
Nambwa Tented Lodge, on the Kwando River, is the only lodge inside Bwabwata National Park. The spacious tented suites are connected with walkways raised high enough for elephants to pass underneath, honouring their right of way. Upon arrival at the lodge we were met by managers Juan and Bertha and our guide for the duration of our stay, Beaven. Welcome drinks and excited conversation quickly ensued and we set off to explore this unique location.