Hidden away in Namibia’s north-eastern Kavango Region, the Khaudum National Park is not to be taken lightly. Rarely visited, very large, extremely wild and with only a rudimentary tourist infrastructure, it could be described as Namibia’s ‘forgotten wilderness’. If you have an adventurous streak, however, forgetting it would be a big mistake!
Master the rugged 4x4 trails that weave through plains and thick Kalahari forests. The trails may come as a shock to those used to ‘the path well travelled’ – the park receives fewer visitors than elephants in a year. Relax at one of the stateof-the art hides and enjoy watching the wildlife that congregates around the waterholes. The Khaudum is home to large herds of elephants and the African wild dog (Africa’s most endangered large predator). Listen, not only to the sounds of the wild, but also to the voices of the local people and Ministry of Environment and Tourism personnel. In their stories of demon elephants, spirits, rescues, ordeals, struggle and strange events, the park comes alive.
A borderless park Only the border with Botswana and a 55-km section of the western border of the park are fenced in the Khaudum National Park. This open-park system ensures that wildlife can pursue hereditary migratory routes to and from the water-rich Kavango River and floodplains, including the Okavango Delta, a mere 150 km from the park boundary. Thus wildlife migratory routes link Namibia, Botswana and Angola under a protective legislative coat. In addition, the Khaudum is the only park in Namibia that protects the Northern Kalahari Sandveld biome, portrayed as forest savannah and woodland. Interspersed with flat, clay pans and a series of omiramba, a Herero word meaning ‘vague river beds’ that provide water most of the year, the park attracts wildlife and visitors year round. Renown for its leopard population, the Khaudum National Park is also one of the few refuges in which rare and endangered species such as roan antelope and African wild dog can roam freely, underlining the important conservation status of the park.
For millennia, the land in and around where the Khaudum National Park now stands has been home to clans of hunter/gatherers. Yet with the disruption of traditional social systems, these groups inhabit a cultural hinterland in conservancies and villages around the park that blends ancient and modern. Hunting within park boundaries is prohibited but conservation-driven community development is fuelled by the existence of the Khaudum National Park. The absence of fences allows free movement of wildlife into locally owned land, enhancing tourism potential and providing much-needed income to communities. The Gciriku Traditional Authority, Muduva Nyangana and George Mukoya conservancies will soon benefit directly from the two tourist camps within the park, Sikeretti Camp in the south and Khaudum Camp in the north. Entering an age of conservation where the protection of wildlife and the support of rural communities goes hand in hand, these camps will be privately run in conjunction with the local conservancies.
Off the beaten track the Khaudum National Park is all about adventure, and half of the adventure is simply getting there! The Ministry of Environment and Tourism recommends a minimum of two vehicles per party, provisions for three days and 100 litres of water per vehicle. Travel is slow, heavy on fuel, and your 4x4 must be constantly engaged. Within the park, tracks tend to follow omurambas or link several waterholes together. There are two access points to Khaudum National Park. From the south you can enter via the Tsumkwe road. From the north, use the Katere road. All roads, including the access points, require 4x4 vehicles, due to heavy, loose sand. There is no fuel available in the park. The closest fuel stations are Grootfontein (360 km from Sikeretti camp), Tsumkwe - 60 km from Sikeretti Camp, Rundu (170 km from Khaudum Camp) and Bagani/Divundu (150 km from Khaudum Camp).
Basic camping facilities exist at Sikeretti and Khaudum, yet keep in mind that for supplies the nearest places are Grootfontein and Rundu. No fresh produce is available within Khaudum or surrounding villages. The water at both Khaudum and Sikeretti is suitable for drinking. Be sure to drink plenty of water daily, as dehydration is common in these areas. At Tsumkwe (closest village to the Khaudum) the medical infrastructure is limited to a nurse.