Katima Losing Out on Caprivi Tourism

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By Berio Mbala WINDHOEK Although the Caprivi Region is known for its huge tourism potential, it turns out that the town of Katima Mulilo, which is located in the middle of this tourism hub, does not derive maximum benefit from local and international visitors alike. This concern was recently raised by John Simaata, the public relations officer of the Zambezi Waterfront Project. He said the reason most visitors do not spend more nights in the town is because of the absence of tourist activities. Meanwhile, the establishment of the multimillion-dollar Waterfront Project in Katima Mulilo would have tremendous benefit for local people and tourists of the region. “The Waterfront is envisaged to become a world-class destination for trade, tourism and recreation. It is also expected to change the face of the town of Katima in many ways, and will be the required answer to unemployment as it will directly and indirectly create about 3ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 jobs,” he stated. Simaata also noted that “tourists pass via Katima Mulilo to neighbouring Vic Falls and Chobe National Park, as Katima is the shortest route to these world-class tourist attractions. Using the Zambia/Namibia bridge is two hours’ drive to Vic Falls, while using the Ngoma border post is also possible. He further said that the Sesheke Bridge is open from 07h00 until 22h00, and Ngoma Bridge opens at 06h00 to 18h00. He said there is a tou-rist information centre known as Tutwa Tourism, which is located along the Trans-Caprivi Highway. The centre provides information to visitors and also transfers to Vic Falls and Chobe National Park. He said that in the west and the National Parks, accommodation establishments are Susuwe, Lianshulu, Namushasha, Mazambala Lodge, etc., while in town there are the Zambezi Lodge, Mukusi Lodge, Caprivi River Lodge and Hippo Lodge, and these lodges in town are situated on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River”. “Kalizo Lodge and Island View lodge are just 40ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ km east of Katima, right on the bank of the Zambezi River, while Impalila Lodge, Ntwala Lodge, Kingden Lodge and Ichingo Lodge are located in the far east of Caprivi,” he added. He said most of these lodges offer services such as boat-cruising, fishing and bird-watching. Police officers in town willingly assist visitors, the local people are also friendly, and most of them speak English. According to Simaata, for Caprivi Region to become a real tourist destination, the Namibia Tourism Board and the Ministry of Environment and Tourism would have to avail more resources for marketing and promotion both locally and internationally. Caprivi derives its name from the German Chancellor General George von Caprivi di Caprara di Montecuccoli. Its history is unique in terms of culture, natural resources, natural landscapes, climate and geographical location. The region is a narrow, finger-like extension of Namibia that protrudes into the centre of southern Africa. It has a total surface of 19ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 532 kilometres, stretching some 450 kilometres from east to west and ranging from 32 to 100 kilometres in width from north to south. It borders Angola and Zambia in the north, Botswana in the south and Zimbabwe in the east, and the strategic location of the Caprivi makes it a renowned gateway to world-class destinations such as Vic Falls, Chobe National Park, Okavango Delta and some nature parks in Zambia. Caprivi has an abundance of wildlife and splendid riverine forests and savannahs that can be seen throughout the year. On the other hand, it has good rainfall which is normally between 600 and 650ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ mm per year, Simaata said. This results in occasional floods which is always experienced from February to April of each year. While the floods are a danger to the people, they can be a tourist attraction that is rewarding for boat-cruising, canoeing, fishing, bird-watching and water animal-watching. This natural phenomenon very rarely occurs in other continents. Simaata feels that Caprivi Region has more tourism potential than any other region in Namibia but, unfortunately, it is being neglected at the moment as it is not being promoted and marketed locally, nationally and internationally. Caprivi has abundant tourist attractions – wonderful national parks, arts and culture, abundant wildlife, culture, history and natural landscapes like the riverine forests of the mighty Zambezi River. He added that, besides these attractions, there are others such as the famous Baobab toilet in Katima, the German amoury at Schuckmannsburg and Lake Liambezi. Simaata noted further that “Caprivi Region has three national parks – the Mamili, Mudumu and Bwabwata, and these national parks are home to the abundant wildlife such as elephant, buffalo, lion, kudu, etc. Birdlife such as vultures and eagles can also be seen here.” It is believed that there are more than 450 species of birds in Caprivi. “For one to gain access to these parks you need a 4×4 vehicle, because the roads are sometimes not so good during the rainy and flood season,” he advised. He added: “Since our national parks have wonderful natural attractions, there is a need for vigorous marketing campaigns and upgrading of roads within the parks, as game drives and nature walks are a rewarding pastime here.” This is made unnecessary because there are no directional signs and proper infrastructure like roads, waterholes and game-viewing platforms in these parks. It is hoped the Ministry of Environment and Tourism will take these issues into consideration. He said that, besides the national parks, there are about nine conservancies in Caprivi which also have abundant wildlife and birds. These conservancies also offer camping facilities for tourists, game drives, nature walks and trophy-hunting, he said. Caprivi has a diversity of culture, which is classified according to the lifestyle of the people there; cultural dances are not performed on business principles and may not be experienced daily, but they may be performed on request. Simaata said that art and craft products are also unique and are produced locally. They are sold at the Caprivi art centre located in the centre of the town. The town of Katima Mulilo has adequate banking facilities in that FNB Namibia and Bank Windhoek operate on weekdays from 09h30 to 15h30, and over weekends from 09h30 to 12h00, he said.