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Travel Namibia 33 Hippos cool off in the Kwando River horizon it illuminates the meandering Kwando River down below and the wind carries the sound of grunting hippos from neighbouring Pelican Pan. It feels as if nature is slowly but steadily reclaiming her domain. I concentrated my time on exploring the eastern side of the park, known as the Kwando Core Area. It was well into November and early rains meant that many of the big herds had already dispersed into the Kalahari woodlands. This is a twitcher's paradise and, together with the spectacular afternoon thunderstorms, the birds more than compensate for the seasonal lack of large concentrations of game. An extensive road network, courtesy of the SADF presence, allowed us to explore the park between the Botswana border in the south and the Angolan border in the north. En route we saw racket- tailed and broad- billed rollers, blue- cheeked bee- eater, black coucal and Sousa's shrike. Our regular sightings of impala, kudu, southern reedbuck, red lechwe and Burchell's zebra were complemented with buffalo, tsessebe and eland around the seldom- visited Marombe Pan. BEN FORBES Unexpected guests at Susuwe Island Lodge ISLANDS IN AFRICA

Essential Namibia: Caprivi 34 Travel Namibia Mahango has some of the largest game herds in Africa MIKE MYERS ? 4 M udumu " Nandi, Nandi, Nandi, where are you, Nandi?" The strange call was taken up by all of the Lianshulu staff present on the lodge deck as they gazed out over the Kwando River at a picturesque African dawn. It seemed to me like a noisy and somewhat peculiar way to start a day in the heart of Mudumu National Park. Nadia, Lianshulu's hostess, enquired, " Have you met Nandi?" I racked my brains trying to recall all the names of friendly and attentive staff that I had met during the preceding 24 hours. " No I don't think so," was my guarded response. " Nandi loves muffi ns! She won't touch ? 3 M ahango " Give me one good reason to visit Mahango National Park," I arrogantly challenged. I had been put off visiting Mahango by the park's reputation as a thoroughfare between Namibia and Botswana, via the Mohembo Border Post. The all- weather road allows access to any vehicle type and in a busy year it is not inconceivable for visitor numbers to approach 100,000, thus making it the most visited park within the region. " Mahango has Africa's largest herds of roan and sable antelope," came the response from Matambo Singwangwa, a senior ranger with extensive work experience in all of the Caprivi Strip's parks. He adamantly continued, " Not to mention an excellent wildlife diversity that includes impala, kudu, bushbuck, rare sitatunga, red lechwe, reedbuck, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, giraffe and elephants. You must also remember that predators like lion and leopard are never too far away, with such a large prey base." The park, 25km south of Divundu, occupies a paltry 245 square kilometres. Its small size is compensated for by its extraordinary variety of vegetation. Magnifi cent riverine forests and thick bush give way to wetlands and open fl oodplains. The abundance of habitat types is enhanced by the presence of the Kavango River, which forms the reserve's eastern boundary. The end result is prolifi c species diversity that includes around 500 different birds. " Mahango is arguably Namibia's premier birding destination," said Matambo, with an I- rest- my- case look on his face. There was no further discussion required; I was convinced that a visit to Mahango had become a necessity. After having spent the morning enjoying the nearby Popa Falls, we departed Ngepi Camp and travelled slowly down the Kavango River, bordering Bwabwatwa National Park. As the sun dipped below the horizon, we stopped for a sundowner by a baobab tree that was silhouetted against a blood- red sky. MIKE MYERS Hoping to be fed. Nandi the muffi n- munching croc lies below the balcony at Lianshulu lodge Mudumu from the air BEN FORBES