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Opening Africa's Tourism Potential

New route in Northern Namibia

Gill Staden, eTN  Jun 15, 2011

(eTN) - Yesterday the Kavango Open Africa Experience Route was launched at the Namibia Tourism Expo, offering travelers more diverse vegetation than the Okavango Delta itself and a paradise of birds and game.

The route, located in northeastern Namibia, is based on the riverine landscapes of the Kavango, its people, birds, and wildlife. The Kavango region is drained by the Okavango River and the Omuramba Omatako, a long underground river that runs from the center of Namibia to the Okavango River. The Okavango River, the fourth-longest river system in southern Africa, does not have an outlet to the sea. It empties its water into a swamp in the Kalahari Desert, known as the Okavango Delta.

Covering a total area of 41,700 km², the Kavango region boasts 869 vegetation species from 88 families so far recognized, about 25% more species-rich than the Okavango Delta. Bird and game lovers will find plenty of attractions, from the wild and undeveloped Khaudum Game Park to the small, yet well-stocked Mahango Game Reserve.

This route is the fourth launched in Namibia as part of the Open Africa network. Open Africa is a social enterprise that is invited into an area by a community, working with local people to identify and package their area’s tourism potential, with the idea of sustaining livelihoods and enhancing conservation through increased tourism. Open Africa has a systemized route development program – each route is initiated and managed by the community involved – leading to an increased sense of pride and custodianship in the area, as well as opportunities for local economic development and job creation. In his inaugural speech, Mark Paxton, participant of Kavango Open Africa Experience Route recognizes that Open Africa “has been instrumental in consolidating relationships between the many tourism operations in the communal areas of this region.”

The Kavango Open Africa Experience roughly stretches from Mpungu in the west to Divundu in the east, and incorporates Mahango and the Khaudum Game Park in the south. The extensive waterless areas which isolate this route from the rest of Namibia is possibly the major reason why this area was only discovered by early explorers very late during the nineteenth century, and remains undiscovered by tourists in many ways still today.

New route in Northern Namibia
Okavango River Delta / Image via

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