Caprivi’s little Eden - Nkasa Lupala

By Kaula Nhongo
May 2012
Travel and Tourism
The road leading to what seems to be an unending stretch of trees, ends at the most spectacular, most unique and breathtaking site anyone has ever seen; Nkasa Lupala Island.

Deep in the bushes of Mamili National Park is the island whose name was derived from Nkasa and Lupala - the two main islands in the national park. Inside the park is a lodge located at the border of the unfenced park, north of Wuparo Conservancy. So intense is the drive to the island that one ends up wishing they had decided otherwise.

From a distance, a lady stands at the lodge’s entrance with a tray filled with white moist face towels to wipe off with after the long, dusty, sweaty drive.

The sight of all the deep brown colours of the dry reeds and thatched grass as well as the green flora in the main lounge area of the only existent lodge in the island and the green tents, makes anyone beam helplessly in awe.

Nkasa Lupala Tented Lodge is built on the banks of one of the many channels of the Kwando-Linyanti River system. This unique Namibian wetland paradise in the eastern Caprivi Region, is commonly known as Mamili but was recently renamed Nkasa Lupala National Park.

The magnificent lodge is owned by an Italian family who grew up in Nigeria but fell in love with Caprivi when they first came to Namibia for a visit. The lodge, which uses only recyclables and a solar system, won the Tourist Conservancy Award last year for being the only lodge in a proper agreement with conservancy.

The deal was negotiated between the private sector and the conservancy management with the support of IRDNC and MET.

“All the buildings and structures of Nkasa Lupala Tented Lodge are totally energy self-sufficient, using solar panels and solar geysers. This, with a good practice in our waste management and recycling policy, contributes to a very low impact on the environment from the lodge.

“The lodge lately applied to be asserted by Namibia Eco-Awards. Awarding of an eco-award flower certificate is a sign that the establishment keeps to a standard of environmental care and implements sustainable practices for the future of the immediate environment,” says one of the owning partners of the lodge, Simone Micheletti.

The lodge, which officially opened last year July, has 10 luxury tents which cost N$1 400 per person, per night and N$1 860 for single rooms. Sadc residents get a 30% discount on utility charges. The lodge has a breakfast and dinner arrangement but also offers lunch on request.

This beautiful luxurious place can accommodate 20 people at a time and has one honeymoon suite. The main lounge area overlooks the channel from where lodgers can see hippos swimming in the channel.

The tents have an ensuite each with very nice bathrooms comprising of showers and toilets. The rooms, coloured in green and white, are very spacious and warm.

Nkasa Lupala National Park is famous for its large herds of elephants and buffaloes. It has a high population of game that attracts all the major predators. Lodgers always look forward to game drives from which they are exposed to great sights of a lot of different animals including lions, elephants and buffalos to mention but a few.

The Italian owners discovered this place through a guide from Sangwali Village around the area. They then came up with an agreement with the conservancy that they would share profits from the lodge with the locals.

Not only do the daily boat cruises allow lodgers to feast their eyes on hippos in the water but the different bird species around the national park are eye-catching too. The park has more than 400 bird species, making it a birdwatchers’ paradise throughout the year. The daily boat cruises are only done in the morning or around sunset. However, plans are at an advanced stage to introduce boat cruises and game drives during the night.

The occasional visits from different animal species are some of the most unexpected, yet spectacular sights at the lodge.

They say food is our common ground - a universal experience - and that a good cook is like a sorceress who dispenses happiness. Well, the food served at this lodge - prepared by a well renowned chef who has been all over the world - is so heart-warming, with a reverting and an inevitable satisfaction to the taste buds.

Not only do they serve healthy foods but they also serve different intercontinental cuisines in order to cater for everyone. However, they get more of their foodstuff from the local communities; 100% of the fish and the vegetables come from the local communities.

The lodge has created employment for the locals as 95% of the workers at the lodge are from Sangwali Village, the nearest village to the lodge.

“We have an excellent relationship with the community and the traditional authorities. We train and enhance the skills of the local community members. Last year, our guide was trained at the Field Guide Association of South Africa (FGASA), paid for by the lodge. Our assistant manager is currently enrolled at the University of Cape Town, studying tourism management,” states Micheletti.

Due to the gravel road leading to the lodge, only a 4x4 vehicle can survive the roughness through Kongola, onto a right turn thorough the gravel road into Sangwali Village. The lodge recently constructed two bridges to make it easier for visitors to drive there. PF