The Namibia Tourism Board recently took local journalists on a tour to sample what the Caprivi and Kavango regions have to offer. ANTONETTE KAKUJAHA of The Southern Times tells of quaint attractions in these north-eastern regions of Namibia that offer lush landscapes, much wildlife and friendly people.
Impalila Island is a unique and beautiful island located at the convergence of two mighty African rivers, the Zambezi and the Chobe.
The island is 11 kilometres long and five kilometres wide.
It is also the only place in the world where four countries are joined at one point.
Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana converge here in a mosaic of waterways, bushveld and floodplains.
The Island is at the north-eastern tip of Namibia, and lies just 80km west of Victoria Falls.
Guests are transferred from Kasane Immigration in Botswana by boat to Impalila Island Lodge.
The lodge has a commitment to nurture relationships with the local communities, and this promotes and encourages the conservation of resources in these areas.
The lodge prides itself on its cuisine, a variety of romantic settings - including a picnic on a wild island!
Special dietary requirements can be catered for. The bar is fully stocked, and their comprehensive range of South African wines is second to none, a remarkable achievement considering the remoteness of the destination.
There are eight private chalets - reinforcing the seclusion and privacy guests enjoy - which offer superb views over the Mambova Rapids and the quiet backwaters of the Zambezi River.
Impalila Island is home to 35 villages and one combined school, with a chief overseeing local governance matters.
Locals work at the lodge, as teachers or as nurses while the majority live off fishing.
Most of the inhabitants are of the Subia clan, who originally came from Zambia.
Tommy Nehindo (48) of Sinkanka Village makes beds with wood that he buys from Zambia and transports to Namibia using a canoe.
He sells the beds to people on the island to order and size specifications.
Nehindo has been in the business for two years and supports six other people besides his four children.
Mafwe Living Museum
One of the top attractions in Namibia’s Caprivi Region is the Mafwe Living Museum.
The museum was initiated by the German-Namibian non-profit organisation, The Living Culture Foundation Namibia, and has been independently managed by the Mafwe of Singalamwe since its establishment on February 22, 2008.
The museum consists of a traditional village and its surrounding fields where the Mafwe people demonstrate their original way of life.
They present their old - almost forgotten - culture in traditional dresses on a beautiful hill with a view of the Kwando River in the shade of huge baobab trees.
The museum has 28 members, whose ages range from seven to those so old they have stopped counting their years!
Namvula Sinyangwe, the group’s spokesperson, took journalists through the activities that the Mafwe people perform: from hunting lions to weaving baskets and making perfumes.
She says the Mafwe people believe in unity and sharing of resources.
“If one has food then we all share and if one person is sad we are all sad,” she says.
Sadly, not many people are aware of the existence of this museum.
“We have visitors only once or twice a month.”
A small tourist shop caters for tourists’ taste for traditional items such as baskets and jewels.
Income generated pays school fees for orphans and the rest is shared among the community.
Kanguni Village – situated some 10km from Rundu - is where Abel Nengongo makes his lovely clay pots.
Thirty-eight-year-old Nengongo has been making these clay pots since he was a child and he now supports his family of seven children and wife with the money he makes.
It is not easy-going, though.
“It is difficult to sell because not everyone likes these things and it also depends on your luck, if you are lucky some months you sell well,” he says with the shrug of a man who has seen it all in the business.
He has one person who helps him on a part-time basis because he cannot afford a permanent employee.
Nengongo gets the clay from the Kavango River.
However the challenges do not discourage him, and he spends his days moulding pots and other utensils of all shapes and sizes to suit customer specifications.
While the Caprivi and Kavango regions offer much by way of attractions, it should never be forgotten that there are many areas crying out for development.
Take the case of Omega 3 Village in Caprivi, which lacks basic services such as electricity and health facilities.
Some 3 000 people use one borehole and there is not a single clinic.
Mr Makex, a 54-year-old father of 10, says; “If we fall sick we go to Chetto Village Clinic 40km away and if the sickness is very serious they send you to Katima Mulilo.”
Katima Mulilo is about 172km away.
Mishack Masane (28) has been teaching at the only school in the area for three years, where they use English as the medium of instruction with limited success. To photocopy a text, they have to send it to Katima Mulilo.
“At the beginning of the year a class has 36 to 38 learners and by the end of the year it is only left with plus/minus 24 learners,” he laments.
The government, though, has ensured the 12 teachers receive their bush allowances on time.
On the bright side, tourists have come in to assist the people of Mayana in Kavango Region.
The owners of Nkwazi Lodge, Vallery and Wynand Pypers, have established Mayana Pre-Primary School. It gets most of its funding from well-wishing tourists, with the money supporting the three female teachers and 43 pupils. Since opening in 2008, fees are pegged at just R20, but some parents struggle to pay this for their four to six-year-old children.
Many guests at the lodge like the initiative and do what they can to assist by way of donations of cash, food and learning materials, says one of the teachers, Getrude Shinguwe.