Mahango Game Reserve and Popa Falls
The Mahango Game Reserve is approximately 200 km east of Rundu at the far western end of the Caprivi Game Reserve and can be reached easily by any sedan vehicle. The area is a convenient stop-over en-route to Victoria Falls. The reserve covers an area of about 30,000 hectares and is separated from the Caprivi Game Reserve by the Okavango River.
The perennial Okavango river flows along the border with Angola, from west of Rundu to Andara in the east. At the start of the Caprivi strip it turns south and passes through a series of rapids known as Popa Falls, before entering Botswana and the Okavango delta. Found 12km south of Popa Falls, The Mahango is a small but picturesque park situated on the Botswana border. Parts of the park are only accessible by 4 x 4 and there are some minor gravel tracks off the main one to assist your game viewing.
Significant to it are the riverine forests on the banks of the river, flood plain, dense Papyrus beds and marshy areas baobabs, herds of elephants, red lechwe and over 400 bird species. Away from the river are sections of dense acacia woodland and also Burkea/Baikiaea woodland on sandy soils Visitors should exercise caution as there are crocodiles and hippos in the river.
The two game viewing roads provide the opportunity to view wildlife including elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, wild dog, hippo, lechwe, sitatunga, buffalo, sable, and roan and other antelopes. One of the best things about this reserve is that you are allowed out of your vehicle – there are no restrictions on this but the area has large numbers of Elephant, Buffalo and other dangerous game. There are sizeable herds of Roan and Sable Antelope in this park. Early mornings are best for Sitatunga near the Kwetche picnic spot.
The Mahango Game Reserve is open throughout the year and is open to day visitors only. The dry season from June to October affords better game viewing since the riverfront has a larger concentration of animals coming to drink water. Bird watching, however, is better in the wetter months of November to March.Visitors are advised to take precautions against malaria and bilharzia and beware of crocodiles. There is no accommodation within the reserve but several nearby lodges are located in the near vicinity, providing accommodation and a variety of tours. Popa Falls situated about 15km North of the reserve, is a rustic rest camp and campsite run by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism.
Specials of the area include African Skimmer, Chirping Cisticola, Great Reed-Warbler, Long-toed Lapwing, Allen's Gallinule, Pel's Fishing-Owl, Meves's Starling, Brown Firefinch, Swamp Boubou, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Sharp-tailed Starling, Dickinson's Kestrel, African Hobby.
There are no facilities within the reserve, which is best accessed by 4-wheel drive, although recent improvements of the road system have made most of the reserve accessible to 2-wheel drive vehicles. The best birding is along the loop road running from the main road east towards the river and joining again near the Mahembo Border Post with Botswana. One of the best things about this reserve is that you are allowed out of your vehicle – there are no restrictions on this but the area has large numbers of Elephant, Buffalo and other dangerous game. There are sizeable herds of Roan and Sable Antelope in this park. Early mornings are best for Sitatunga near the Kwetche picnic spot.
1. At Popa Falls, Rock Pratincole, Black Sparrowhawk (rare), Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Osprey, African Barred Owlet, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Red-capped Robin-Chat (rare), Terrestrial Brownbul and African Wood-Owl can be found.
2. The· variety of habitats in the park support many wetland species, including African Pygmy-Goose, African Skimmer, Chirping Cisticola, Luapula Cisticola, Great Reed-Warbler, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Long-toed Lapwing, Allen's Gallinule being some of these. White-backed Night-Heron are also commonly seen in the area to the south of Kwetche picnic site. Caspian Plover are often seen on the sandbanks. African Fish-Eagle is very common and Osprey are seen regularly. Some of the best floodplain birding is in the area surrounding the giant Baobab on the riverside loop.
3. In the riverine woodland, Pel's Fishing-Owl is rare, but Western Banded Snake-Eagle can be seen commonly. Grey-headed Parrot and Meyer's Parrot, Meves's Starling, Brown Firefinch, Swamp Boubou, Collared Pratincole, Square-tailed Nightjar, African Cuckoo Hawk and several Kingfishers and Bee-eaters are also found.
4. In the surrounding woodland areas Pennant-winged Nightjar, Black-bellied Bustard, Sharp-tailed Starling, Dickinson's Kestrel and African Hobby may be encountered. During the dry season the best area to see Sharp-tailed Starling is in the west of the park, but a 4x4 is needed to get into this area.
Popa Falls Restcamp: tel 066-259023
Suclabo Lodge: Situated at Popa Falls. tel 061-248486 fax 066-250998
Ndhovu Safari Lodge: 2km from Mahango Game Reserve. tel 064-403141 fax 064-403142.
Mahangu Lodge. Close to Mahango Game Reserve tel 066-259037 fax 061-254980