Kavango in Namibia

North from Grootfontein

After the Tsumkwe turning, there are no other junctions of note before the B8 reaches Rundu. You will encounter a checkpoint at the
Red Line
, the fence dividing the north and south of the country, built to prevent foot-and-mouth disease and rinderpest from migrating south into the large commercial ranches. At the checkpoint, 131 km south of Rundu, there is a small shop, takeaway and petrol station. The change in landscape and roadside activity north of this divide is striking, you are entering a very different Africa.

Depending on the season, between the Red Line and Rundu you will probably see by the roadside heaped piles of watermelons, contorted gourds or bowls of monkey oranges, as well as some local handicrafts. Avoid driving this stretch after dark as goats and cattle regularly stray into the road; in daylight, enjoy the homesteads, perhaps purchase crafts or fresh produce from roadside stalls. While the road is tarred all the way, beware of potholes and roadworks. Malaria is a risk in the northeast; you should take prophylactic drugs, especially during wet season.

Rundu and onwards

After the long straight drive northeast from Grootfontein the sprawl of Rundu is a welcome sight. It was originally built as a bus stop in the 1940s to transport local labour to German owned farms in the region, and is now a thriving commercial town spreads inland along the banks of the Okavango River, the opposite bank is Angola. Since 1993, Rundu has been the provincial capital of the Kavango Region and consequently is home to an impressive number of municipal offices, schools, hospitals and banks, as well as supermarkets and petrol stations. The character of the town is quite different from other Namibian towns; the Portuguese influence from across the border is strong, and there is no legacy of the German past. You will see far fewer white faces than in the south, and almost none after dark; at the weekends the town gets very lively around the gambling and drinking dens.

While there are lovely views over the Okavango River, particularly from the
Kavango River Lodge
but most tourists use Rundu as a staging post to the quieter and longer- established destinations further east, where the abundant rivers and plentiful game offer a compelling package. Remember to refuel in Rundu before continuing; supplies east of here are limited and there's some distance between petrol stations.

There are several options for continuing your journey. It is possible to drive straight through to
Katima Mulilo
(518 km) on the B8. If you have already driven from Grootfontein, this would make for a tough day's driving, and you should ensure there is sufficient time to
arrive in daylight. At the small village of
Katere
, 120 km east of Rundu on the B8, is the well signposted turning south to Khaudum Game Park (4WD only). Once at Khaudum, the intrepid might want to exit via the south and complete a circuit back to the main road
just north of Grootfontein . Another popular option is to drive as far as
Popa Falls
and spend the night at the
Namibia Wildlife Resorts
campsite,
Ngepi Camp
, or one of the private lodges along the banks of the Okavango River. The next day you have the option of exploring the
Mahango Game Park
, entering Botswana, or continuing east through Caprivi towards Katima Mulilo. Of course, you could stay a while in Rundu - there
are some excellent lodges and the sun setting over the Okavango River is a sight that's hard to beat.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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