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Namibia. Caprivi (Zambezi province). Nkasa Lupala (Rupala) National Park. Rupara Community Campsite. Campsite no 1. Tuesday 12 May 2015. Week 5, Day 31.

We were up early and before 07H00 we into the park exploring. The habitat is lovely with woodlands and grassy plains and then a lot of greenery when one approaches the floodplains. The map and T4A are reasonably accurate but the exact location of the two track roads obviously varies each season as the floods vary. Although the setting and our first ever view of the Linyanti Swamps made the visit worthwhile, the game viewing and numbers were frankly disappointing. In our two long game drives we have not seen too much in the way of birds or animals, but this was certainly warthog central. Their density was amazing. There were also scattered herds of impala and we saw 2 small zebra herds, the odd greater kudu, baboons and quite a number of impressive elephant breeding herds. Others at another time may experience it differently.

The multichannel waterways make accessibility in this park an issue. On our morning drive we penetrated as deeply into the swamps as possible, right to the tip of the area known as Rupara Island. A new tented lodge is being constructed there and we had a chat to the builder. He reported a large herd of 800 buffalo in the area but that they were at that time on the Botswana side, together with the pride of lions that usually shadowed them. He could hear the roars of the pride most nights. The new lodge, a satellite of the present Nkasa Lupara Lodge, is right on the edge of the waterways overlooking Botswana. To get there, even with the low water levels of the 2015 season, a temporary bridge of sorts had been constructed. Morag, crossing this bridge is what qualifies as intrepid! The builder says he curses every time he crosses it.

It is constructed of 2 metal ladder-like tracks, hardly wider than a tyre, spanning the 20m of water. It was obviously built for vehicles with a narrower track than a Land Cruiser and when crossing, the outer edge of my tyres were just overlapping the edge of the bridge on either side. To make things more difficult the initial approach is at an angle and the bridge tracks have a confusing camber as well. It was the only way to get to the edge of the flood plain so we went for it. First Anne had to walk across the precarious bridge which with her aversion to heights, which took some doing. Then the real marriage tester. Anne was convinced the wheels were going to go over the edge and that the vehicle would land in the drink about 2m deeper. She slowly helped me keep the correct line to cross safely. Believe me when I state that the margin for error was miniscule. The builder told us that in the short time the bridge had been there for his construction job, a number of vehicles had come off the bridge and recovering them was a real mission with special tow vehicles having to be brought in.

This was not reassuring at all as we had to re-cross it on the way back as we had reached the end of the navigable roads. The builder told us that the water crossings ahead were at vehicle bonnet level. As Anne had been stressed so much with the first crossing I suggested she drive and I guide which she rapidly declined. All went well and our marriage remained temporarily stressed but ultimately strong. The route taken back was different but there were even less animals present taking the tracks away from the water.

Website donated us 2 bream he had caught and I butterflied them for cooking over coals for supper tonight. These were absolutely delicious, I suspect we will be buying as much fresh water African fish as we can find!

Nkasa Lupala NP and Rupara Community Campsite.

Thumbs up:
• This is Namibia’s biggest wetland and the surroundings are really beautiful enough to rival the Okavango Swamps in parts, but not nearly on the same scale.
• The community campsite is as good as any community site we have visited, both with regard to surroundings and facilities. We feel it worthwhile supporting these community projects and unfortunately have heard some strange stories about the more upmarket Livingstone’s Camp, enough to make us not support the owner. One or two nights in this park are enough for most we think.

Thumbs down:
• The absence of any significantly impressive game numbers during our visit.
• As a result the campsite feels far tamer than for instance that at Mudumu (which we preferred).