Ranging from Nkurenjuru in the north east, through the lush Zambezi region to the famous Victoria Waterfalls, the Four Rivers Route is one of Southern Africa’s best kept secrets! Promoted by Open Africa, a local non-profit organisation, this route forms one of three self-exploration routes in Namibia for travellers to explore and enjoy.
“Aimed at social upliftment and the sustaining of local communities, Open Africa’s vision is not only a noble one but allows travellers information on a more off-the-beaten-track Namibian experience that they can enjoy at their own pace. We are pleased to be able host a competition that not only highlights Namibia as a whole but also how these routes can be experienced by families, couples and friends travelling to the region,” commented Liesel Wild of the Namibia Tourism Board.
Open Africa provides information to would be tourists about Namibia and have put together three specific routes which cover various areas within the country. One of the three routes, namely the Four Rivers Route has had its name derived from the four river systems that flow through the Zambezi and Kavango regions, specifically the Zambezi, Okavango, Kwando and Chobe Rivers and is home to more than 430 bird species, a variety of free-roaming animal life with various villages and attractions which enhance its cultural appeal.
The Four Rivers Route, with an apt descriptor of “water gives life,” can be divided into three distinct sections each with their own unique attractions and experiences, namely the Kavango Open Africa Route, Caprivi Wetlands Paradise Experience and the Four Counties Experience.
Stretching over 383km and a suggested 1.5-3 days of exploration, the Kavango Open Africa Route concentrates on the Kavango, its people and the wide array of bird and animal life in the area. The route covers Nkurunkuru in the west to Divundu in the east and provides access to Mahango and Khaudum National Parks on the border of Botswana. Offering travellers the best of both culture and wildlife with numerous options and tourism attractions, this route is well suited for animal lovers and budding birders.
Further attractions in the region include Mbunza Living Museum, Khaudum National Park, Tsodilo Hills, Nyangana Mission, Andara Mission Station, the Okavango River System and Popa Falls as well as Mahango National Park.
The second of the three experiences of the Four Rivers Route encompasses a 430km drive stretching over a 1.5-3 day adventure and is referred to as the Caprivi Wetlands Paradise Experience. This route focuses on the local communities, their resources and their attempts to protect and utilize their supplies.
One of the amazing stories of this route is the way in which about 5000 local residents of the Bwabwata National Park have formed an association to co-manage the park with the Ministry of Environment and Tourism (MET) to derive benefits from the natural resources. Areas called conservancies have been set up outside the park in the surrounding forest and around the Kwando water system which provides a unique environment in which these entrepreneurs can prosper.
Other attractions on the route include a variety of local arts and craft markets, the Mafwe Living Museum, Fort Doppies Ruins, the Horseshoe Lake, Mudumu National Park, Nkasa Lupala National Park as well as the Kwando, Chobe and Lynanti River systems.
The Four Countries Experience sees a distance of 132km covered in 2-3 days and stretches from Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe/Zambia) through Chobe National Park (Botswana) to Ngoma Bridge (border post Namiba/Botswana), to the mighty Zambezi river and experiencing the Chobe River as it merges with the Zambezi. For tourists with a passion for wildlife, birds and fishing, the cherry on top of this route is the opportunity to stay on Impalila Island, a rare island linking four countries (Namibia, Botsawana, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Other attractions of the route include Chobe National Park, Victoria Falls and the Four Corners Baobab.
Combining the experiences of the Four Rivers Route, the top five reasons to visit the area can be summed up as follows:
1. With over 430 bird species, the area is one of the most attractive destinations for birding in southern Africa.
2. Experience the rich culture of the region at the Mbunza and Mafwe Living Museums. These living museums help to sustain the livelihoods of local people while acting as a traditional school that preserves local culture and traditions.
3. Buy authentic, hand-made craft from local crafters. The Khwe crafters at the Bwabwata National Park are renowned for their unique style of basket weaving found nowhere else in southern Africa
4. Take part in a range of river activities in the largest water ecosystems in southern Africa. Activities include fishing, birding, hiking, game viewing and canoeing.
5. See how communities protect their resources through communal conservancies and community forests. In one of Africa’s greatest success stories, communities are managing and benefiting from their natural resources through 17 registered conservancies covering close to 5,000 km2.