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Caprivi Strip

The evergreen Caprivi strip and its great wildlife and birds

In the far northeast of Namibia, a strangely shaped region – the Caprivi Strip – stands out, which seems to defy all logical border definitions. Officially called the Zambezi region since 2013 (although this name is not really known yet), it lies between Angola and Botswana and extends to the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe.

This lush tropical strip of land is lined and riddled with broad rivers, including the Zambezi, Kavango (Okavango), Chobe, and Linyanti, whose names evoke images of lush green meadows, herds of wild animals, and ancient baobab trees – a stark contrast to much of the rest of the country.

With so much water, the area supports a larger number of people than almost anywhere else in Namibia, and this gives the Caprivi a completely different feeling than the rest of the country; in many respects parts of Zambia or Botswana. Goats, donkeys, and cows that graze on the roadside grow in the villages. Everything is sold at the stalls, from wood carvings to fresh fruit. However, there are no large metropolitan areas. The capital of the strip, Katima Mulilo, may serve as an entry point to Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana, but is still relatively small, with a border feeling that is typical of an African border town.

The Caprivi is a fantastic addition to any Namibia safari but is best suited for those who are on a return trip or a longer safari. The national parks are home to a good population of some of Africa’s best-known species, as well as some species that are largely non-existent in the rest of the country, such as cape buffalo, sable, and reed antelope. In addition, there is the possibility of getting out on a boat, a pleasant and often welcome contrast to sitting in a four-wheel drive.

The Caprivi, which is usually reached by car from the west via the city of Rundu, is also an excellent starting point for the Okavango Panhandle or the Tsodilo Hills in Botswana’s northwestern Kalahari, the elephant and buffalo-rich Chobe National Park and/or the world-famous Victoria Falls ( either from the city of Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe or from Livingstone in Zambia).
As the special shape of the region may indicate, the Caprivi has an interesting if relatively short history. The kings of Lozi from what is now western Zambia ruled the area until the end of the 19th century when it became part of the British protectorate of Bechuanaland (Botswana) in Scramble for Africa.

In 1890 the German Empire denied the British claim to the spice island of Zanzibar. Later that year, the dispute at the Berlin conference was settled with the signing of the Helgoland-Zanzibar Treaty, in which Germany gave up its claim to Zanzibar in exchange for the North Sea island of Helgoland, and a strip of land that the colony of German Southwest Africa (now Namibia ) Access to the Zambezi. The treaty, which was negotiated by German Chancellor Leo von Caprivi (who gave the strip its name), aimed to establish a more direct link between Tanganyika (German East Africa) in what is now Tanzania and the southwestern colony across the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately for the German colonial powers, this was made impossible by the British colonization of Rhodesia (now Zambia and Zimbabwe) and the fact that the Zambezi River is impassable in the Victoria Falls – an apparently careless mistake.

During the First World War, the Caprivi came back under British rule, although they were largely ignored and became something of a lawless border. Then the region’s administration was moved to South Africa in 1939 before its status changed again, to a pseudo-independent region known as the eastern Caprivi homeland. Only after Namibia’s independence in 1990 did the administration move to Windhoek.

National parks and reserves in the Caprivi Strip