Mamili National Park was officially proclaimed along with the nearby Mudumu National Park on 1 March 1990. In 2012, the Namibian Government renamed the area as Nkasa Rupara National Park.
The former name, Mamili, referred to a family of traditional leaders of the Mafwe tribe with that surname. The new name, Nkasa Rupara, is a reference to two Kwando River islands within the park’s territory.
Wild – that’s the one word that best describes Nkasa Rupara NP (formerly Mamili) National Park. It is an extraordinary piece of wilderness, waiting to be explored. Lush marshes, dense savannah and high river reeds mean that travelling through the area is a dream for 4×4 enthusiasts. During the dry winter months, large herds of elephant congregate on Nkasa and Lupala islands. But for much of the year, the park is awash with floodwater. Game drives go through the edge of deep pools and close to rivers where crocodiles lie in wait. Nearby buffalo or elephant may be crossing the river. For anyone who relishes the adventures of raw, real Africa, Nkasa Rupara NP National Park is the place to be.
Namibia’s largest wet wonderland
In a vast arid country, Nkasa Rupara National Park holds the distinction of being the largest wetland area with conservation status in Namibia. Nkasa Rupara NP was proclaimed in 1990, shortly before Namibia’s Independence. And there is much to celebrate about this wet wonderland. The 318-km2 Nkasa Rupara NP protects the flora and fauna living within a complex channel of reed beds, lakes and islands that make up the Linyanti swamps. Spectacular herds of elephant, buffalo, red lechwe and reedbuck are among the highlights of any game-viewing experience. But be careful, the waters are also home to five-metre- long crocodiles and families of hippopotamus, which venture onto the floodplains at night to feed. During the rainy season, areas of the park can become flooded and inaccessible, and yet it remains a sanctuary for birds. With more species of birds recorded here than anywhere else in Namibia, the Park is a bird-watcher’s paradise.
A uniquely Namibian edge
The Kwando River cuts a wide, wild path through Southern Africa.
From its source in the Angolan highlands, the Kwando flows for 1 000 km before it changes direction sharply, turning south-west at the border between Namibia and Botswana, to become the Linyanti River. At the southern edge of Nkasa Rupara National Park, it is possible to straddle the banks of the Kwando and Linyanti rivers. Sound odd? That’s just the beginning. The change in the river’s course heralds many other surprises in this dynamic environmental system. The park is dominated by wetlands, with shifting channels and floodplains. Several ‘islands,’ including Nkasa and Lupala, rise gently above the wetlands. The combination of water, reeds, trees and dense grass attracts wildlife in abundance. Lightning from thunderstorms literally ignites the ground, sparking fires that temporarily burn above and below the earth. Nkasa Rupara NP beautifully mirrors Botswana’s Okavango style wetland wilderness with an edge that is uniquely Namibian.
Cross-border conservation efforts
Although you seldom encounter other tourists in the Nkasa Rupara National Park, the visit is a shared experience.
Along with Namibia’s Ministry of Environment and Tourism, local conservancies play a vital role in protecting this stunning park. The Caprivi and Kavango regions are the geographical heart of the Kavango-Zambezi (KAZA) Transfrontier Conservation Area, a five-country initiative, involving Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Angola, which is aimed at broadening the protected areas network, thus increasing biodiversity, expanding historical game migration routes and drawing more tourists into the area. In a place where local people often bear the costs of living with wildlife, KAZA will help make the protection of wildlife more economically viable for rural communities. The Nkasa Rupara NP is part of a web of 22 protected areas which cover 280 000 square kilometres that have the potential to be transformed into a transfrontier conservation area.
Park size: 320 km2
Year proclaimed: 1990 (renamed Nkasa Rupara NP in 2013)
Natural features: Most of the park consists of channels of reed beds, lagoons and termitaria islands. The Kwando River forms the western boundary and the Linyanti River its south-eastern border.
Vegetation: Tree and Shrub Savannah Biome. Caprivi Floodplain. Reeds, sedges, and papyrus, wild date palms (Phoenix reclinata). Tall trees such as jackal-berry (Diospyros mespiliformis) and mangosteen (Garcinia livingstonei) along the water edges and on the termitaria.
Wildlife: Hippo, crocodile, elephant, buffalo, lion, leopard, hyaena, African wild dog, roan antelope, common impala, red lechwe, reedbuck, sitatunga, kudu, warthog, spotted-necked otter, rock and water monitor lizard. The 430 species of birds recorded, include breeding pairs of rare wattled cranes; slaty egret, Stanley’s bustard, rosy-throated longclaw, Dickinson’s kestrel, Allen’s gallinule, lesser jacana, black-winged and red-winged pratincoles, Long-toed lapwing, luapula cisticola, coppery-tailed coucal and black coucal.
Rainfall: 600 millimetres per annum (variable).
Temperature: 5 °C (41 °F) – 40 °C (95 °F).