Visiting Bwabwata National Park, Namibia
Updated January 2023, Visiting Bwabwata National Park, Namibia was originally published in February 2021
Bwabwata National Park is likely Namibia’s most unique protected area. With verdant landscapes, Bwabwata is home to abundant wildlife and several villages, making it quite different from Namibia’s other parks.
Humans and animals coexist within the national park which have led to novel conservation efforts to protect the wildlife within the borders of Bwabwata but also to improve the standard of living for the local population that calls this area home.
Bwabwata is also a key migration route of the famed elephants of Chobe National Park, making their journey from the Angolan Highlands to Botswana every year.
Don’t miss Chobe National Park, just across the border in Botswana
History Of Bwabwata National Park
Bwabwata is a fairly new national park, established in 2007, but its roots go back further. The national park was formed when the Caprivi Game Park and the Mahango Game Reserve were combined to create the park.
The Mahango Game Reserve is still the most commonly visited part of the national park, home to Popa Falls.
Creating a Namibia itinerary? See why the Sossusvlei needs to be on it
How To Get To Bwabwata National Park
Located off the Trans-Caprivi Highway 900 kilometers from Windhoek, Bwabwata National Park isn’t a place you just end up as it’s quite out of the way from most of the other big destinations in Namibia. Most visitors to Bwabwata arrive independently, rather than on organized tours as the national park is typically not on tour itineraries.
For those that are going on a self-drive trip through Namibia and planning to go to Bwabwata National Park, check rental car prices on Expedia, Rentalcars, and Skyscanner.
Continuing to Zimbabwe & Zambia? Make sure to visit Victoria Falls & the Devil’s Pool
Where To Go In Bwabwata National Park
Mahango Game Reserve
Established in 1986, Mahango Game Reserve encompasses an area of 24,462 hectares with over 300 bird species, hippos, bushbuck, buffalo, impala, wildebeest, kudu, red lechwe, sable, roan antelope, reedbuck, tsessebe, and sitatunga. The famed African elephants that roam Chobe National Park can also be found passing through Mahango Game Reserve.
Mahango is also home to some of Namibia’s most diverse landscapes and flora with its famous baobab trees, ravine forest, and large flood plains.
Arguably one of the most well-known features within Mahango Game Reserve is Popa Falls. Popa Falls is a series of rapids in the Okavango River caused by a geological fault as the river flows eastward into Botswana and the Okavango Delta.
The best way to experience Popa Falls is by way of a river safari along the Okavango River. You’re almost guaranteed to at very least see hippos, but don’t be surprised if you see all kinds of wildlife. Sunset is the most scenic time to go.
Heading east from here? Make sure to add Lake Malawi and Mikumi National Park, Tanzania to your itinerary
Buffalo Core Area
The Buffalo Core Area sits just adjacent to Mahango Game Reserve and is less frequently visited. Buffalo Core Area is widely known for its roan and sable populations but you can typically find Buffalo, elephant, warthog, kudu, impala, reedbuck, red lechwe, and other game here.
Visitors sometimes have a bit of difficulty reaching the Buffalo Core Area. About 10 kilometers east of the Okavango River Bridge, look for a sign on the south side of the road that says Buffalo and turn off here. Follow the path south to reach Buffalo Core Area.
Going to Zambia? Make sure to visit South Luangwa National Park
Kwando Core Area
Kwando Core Area sits along the eastern fringes of Bwabwata National Park on the western banks of the Kwando River. Similar wildlife to that found in Mahango Game Reserve and Buffalo Core Area can be seen in Kwando Core Area.
The terrain around the Kwando River can be difficult and rather sandy, so you’ll need a 4WD to access Kwando Core Area.
Pick up a copy of Bradt’s Namibia Guidebook to help you plan your trip
Bwabwata National Park Permits
You do need a permit to enter any area of Bwabwata National Park. Permits cost N$30 per person and if you’ll be self-driving, an additional N$10 vehicle fee. Fees are payable on arrival at game/core area entrance gates.
Where To Stay In Or Near Bwabwata National Park
Divundu is the main town, located right on the western edge of Bwabwata National Park, offering easy access to Mahango Game Reserve.
It’s the main area most visitors stay in, but it is possible to stay within the boundaries of Bwabwata National Park as well.
Kongolo is another small town located outside the eastern border of Bwabwata and is another place you can opt to stay, especially if planning to explore within the Kwando Core Area.
Where To Stay In & Near Divundu
- Rainbow River Lodge: This is where I stayed and I have no complaints. You can either rent a little chalet or pay to pitch your tent. They have a pool, restaurant, and bar on-site, and you can book a river safari from them too. Check rates on hotels.com.
- Shametu River Lodge: Offering views right out over Popa Falls, Shametu River Lodge is a great pic for those wanting to stay right at the edge of Mahango Game Reserve. Shop for rooms on booking.com and hotels.com.
- Divava Okavango Resort & Spa: A gorgeous property set right off the river from Popa Falls, Divava Okavango Lodge & Spa offers lovely chalets with amazing views over the river. Compare rates on booking.com and hotels.com.
- Ndhovu Safari Lodge: Located right on the river, the Ndhovu Safari Lodge is a great option that offers both lodge rooms and tents. Check rates on booking.com and hotels.com.
Where To Stay In & Near Kongola
- Mukolo Camp: A highly rated and affordable option offering both chalets and campsites. Reserve your spot on booking.com and agoda.com.
- Namushasha Camp: Offering self-catering campsites along the Kwando River. Reserve a space on booking.com.
- Gondwana Namushasha River Lodge: A beautiful luxury option that looks out over the Kwando River. Check rates on booking.com and hotels.com.
Where To Stay In Bwabwata National Park
- Nambwa Campsite: Situated right on the riverbank in the Kwando Core Area, this is the perfect spot for budget backpackers. Campsites are all self-catering and cost N$250 per person per night.
- Nambwa Lagoon Camp: The Lagoon Camp offers lovely chalets that overlook the lagoon side of Nambwa Island in the Kwando Core Area. Chalets start at N$2,850+ per night. Nambwa also boasts a lodge with more comforts at N$5,040+ per night.
- Popa Falls Resort: Popa Falls Resort is sat right on the banks of the Okavango River overlooking Popa Falls. They offer both lodge rooms and self-catered tent camping sites. Reserve your room or campsite on hotels.com.
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