Hidden away in the Kavango-East Region is the extremely wild and developing Khaudum National Park. According to the park management, it was established with conservation in mind, as opposed to financial revenue. It is rarely visited, probably because of its basic tourist infrastructure, but nevertheless, those with an adventurous streak, should look no further than ‘Namibia’s forgotten wilderness.’The first thing every driver is advised to do before hitting the road to Khaudum National Park is to reduce tyre pressure at least 33% to cope with the soft sand and a promised adventure which is part of getting there.
Those in the know recommend a minimum of two vehicles per party, provisions for three days and 100 liters of water per vehicle per day. Travel is extremely slow and likewise heavy on fuel as well and the 4×4 must be constantly engaged. There is no fuel in the park; the closest fuel station is in Rundu 170km from Khaudum campsite. The best time to visit is during the dry winter months, June to October. The adventure began with searching for a camp site which was already reserved for our team and we were in for a big surprise when we were informed that where ours was located was the pathway for the elephants which are the most dominant in the park. In the absence of other choices and the need for adventure, the team decided to take on the challenge that would see us expecting a visit from any animal.
The camp site had coal operated showers and we were all glad we could take hot showers in the middle of this jungle. By the time we showered and were feeling fresh again, it was time for dinner since it had started to get dark. After dinner it was campfire time. The park had provided fire rings for each campsite and wood was already available. As we arrived at camp, my heart was racing. This being my first time, I was excited beyond belief as I have never camped before. The soft sand in the park is ideal for sporting activities such as Volleyball. Another day at camp, we went on a game drive around the park. The scenery was beautiful. As we passed by trees and greenery, I gazed in awe at what God created. There are more elephants than visitors and perhaps those who are used to the ‘well-beaten paths and tracks’ of bigger and more famous National Parks, could spend at least a few exhilarating days at Khaudum.
Khaudum operates an open-park system, which goes some way to explaining why game numbers vary considerably. Only the border with Botswana and a 55km section of the western border of the park are fenced; which enables animals to follow their natural hereditary migration routes to and from the water-rich Kavango River and floodplains. The 384,000ha coverage is home to animals such as antelope, huge herds of elephant, zebras, African wild dog, lions, leopards as well as 320 bird species. There are two tourist camps – with basic facilities – in the park, Sikeretti in the south and Khaudum camp in the north. The nearest places for supplies are in Frontiersmen or Rundu and no fresh produce is available within Khaudum or the surrounding villages. The water at both camps is suitable for drinking and it is advisable to drink plenty of it daily, as dehydration is common in these areas.
This has a lot to do with driving on tracks that tend to follow Omurambas (dry river beds) that link several waterholes together. There are 12 artificial waterholes and two natural fountains and they can all be reached by vehicle as two track roads interlink the park in its entirety. Most of the watering holes have hides, from which game can be viewed safely. There are two access points to the park. From the north it’s from the Katere road and from the south entrance is via the Tsumkwe road. Drivers should note that all roads, including access roads, require 4×4 vehicles, mainly due to heavy, loose sand. So therefore relaxing at one of the state-of-the-art hides is recommended, not just to enjoy the wildlife that congregates around the waterholes, but to listen to the sounds of the wild and the voices of the local people. Their stories of demon elephants, spirits, rescues, ordeals, struggles and strange events, will outdo anything you’ll hear from other explorers in Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek at the end of your safari.
Hope you make your way there soon.