A wild, unruly reserve, undeveloped for tourism, Khaudum National Park is probably the least frequented of Namibia’s protected areas – outside the Skeleton Coast Wilderness Area – visited more by elephants than people; just the place if you want a real wilderness adventure. Clinging to the Botswana border, this 3,842-square-kilometre expanse of Kalahari sandveld is, for the most part, a dense tangle of tree and shrub savannah, streaked with omiramba. These life-giving sandy valleys generally run west to east across the park, feeding into the Okavango in Botswana. It is along the two main omiramba that you’ve the best chance of seeing wildlife, from late August to October – once water has dried up in the clay pans and before the rains have started. There are twelve artificial waterholes and two natural springs, many of which have hides, where you can wait in safety for the animals to show up.

    Hosting a wide variety of trees, in addition to the ubiquitous camelthorn and other acacias, Khaudum boasts substantial teak forests, patches of evergreen false mopane, leadwood, wild syringa and the occasional unmistakeable baobab. The thickness of the vegetation, however, makes wildlife-viewing tricky, though the occasional grassy clearing can be particularly rewarding as huge numbers of large mammals – including elephant (with a reputation for aggression) but also the less common roan antelope, eland and tsessebe – inhabit the area. Khaudum is also rich in predators, with plenty of leopard, lion and even wild dogs, though catching sight of them is a wholly different matter.

    Birdlife is similarly prolific, with over 320 species: look out for colourful racket-tailed rollers, the russet belly of the African hobby falcon or the extraordinary turkey-size ground hornbill; further brightly coloured delights arrive in summer (Nov–April), including African golden orioles and carmine and blue-cheeked bee-eaters.

    Progress through the park is glacially slow, as you have to force your way through deep sand the whole way – or mud if it has rained – probably having to clear away trees that have blown down or been uprooted by elephant. Khaudum is also heavy on fuel. Only if you are experienced at driving in these conditions, and you are fully armed with a GPS (and preferably a Tracks 4 Africa map and satellite phone) and are travelling in convoy with plenty of fuel, water and food, should you consider driving here. If all the above seems like too much work, or beyond your skills level or comfort zone, consider visiting on an excursion from Nhoma Camp or Tsumkwe Country Lodge.

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