The Bwabwata National Park, located in the Zambezi region (Caprivi Strip) of Namibia, is bordered by Angola to the north, Botswana to the south, the Okavango River in the east and the Kwando River in the west.
The area was first proclaimed as a nature park in 1963 and subsequently re-proclaimed as the “Caprivi Game Park” in 1968. Since its proclamation as a game park up until Namibia's independence in March 1990, the entire area was treated as a military zone by the South African Defence Force.
Following independence, the Caprivi Game Park and the Mahango Game Park were merged to form the newly renamed Bwabwata National Park, and legislation was introduced to enable communal land residents to form conservancies and thus benefit from wildlife use activities and tourism in the area.
The Bwabwata National Park, gazetted in 2007, covers an area of 6,274km2. It is zoned into three core conservation areas (Kwando, Buffalo, and Mahango core areas) which are designated for special protection and controlled tourism, as well as a large multiple-use area dedicated to community-based tourism, small-scale land cultivation, wildlife use activities and human settlement. The population of the multiple-use area is approximately 5,500 residents mostly belonging to the minority San ethnic group, the Khwe.
The park is characterised by several physiographic features, including the perennial Okavango and Kwando rivers and associated floodplains; the "omiramba", parallel drainage lines which hold seasonal rain-filled pans between the two rivers; and deep aeolian Kalahari sands.
Large concentrations of elephant and buffalo, as well as roan and sable antelope occur in the park. Predators include the wild dog, lion, leopard, hyena and cheetah. Common reedbuck, red lechwe, sitatunga and hippos occur along the rivers. The Mahango core area is listed as an internationally important bird area, supporting bird species of conservation concern such as the vulnerable slaty egret and globally threatened wattled crane. The Bwabwata National Park forms a crucial transboundary link for wildlife migrations between Angola, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia and for seasonal dispersal to and from the rivers.
Bwabwata is part of the enormous Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA), a five-country initiative including Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The KAZA TFCA encompasses numerous proclaimed national parks (including Bwabwata), game reserves, community conservation areas, forest reserves, and iconic tourism destinations, making it larger than Germany and Austria combined and nearly twice as large as the United Kingdom. The aim of the transfrontier conservation area is to broaden the protected areas network, thus supporting biodiversity, expanding historical wildlife migration routes and attracting more tourists to the area.