It’s so exciting staying in a nature or game reserve and even better if you can set up camp in a wild area without any fences. We decided to rough it on a recent trip to northern Namibia and opted to leave the beautiful (but crowded) Camp Kwando with all its facilities, to stay in a small park nearby called Mudumu. The beauty of this place is that they only have three campsites and all that makes them campsites is a rough long-drop a few meters away from each clearing and a ring of old coals marking a fireplace. You have to be totally self-sufficient to stay there, but the rewards are great. Not only do you get to have the place to yourselves as the campsites are far apart, but you get to stay in amongst the elephants and wild animals.
All three campsites are on the banks of the Kwando River where the ellies love coming down to drink during the hot days and glorious still evenings, or to cross over into Botswana to feed. Have you watched a small herd of elephants crossing a river? It’s the most awesome sight. They go in a straight line and babies are strategically placed between older ones so that they can be helped out if they get into difficulty. Often just their trunks stick above the water like little periscopes. It’s too cute to watch.
It was exciting to lie in bed at night and hear the rumbling sounds of the elephants as they walked quietly down to the river. Their feet didn’t make a sound, but their rumbles sounded like a very loud cat purr and it was enough to give me goose-bumps knowing how close they were. The park has literally hundreds of elephants and driving around can be quite challenging because the roads consist of deep sand in places. Trying to make a quick getaway from an approaching herd of elephants is a bit of a challenge when your wheels are churning up sand. They are very protective when they have young ones in the herd so it’s always wise to keep a safe distance between yourself and the animals.
A highlight of our visit was seeing a herd of about two hundred elephants walking through the veld in a straight line. When we stopped to watch them, a command went out, probably from the matriarch, and every elephant just froze. Some had feet in the air in mid-step, trunks were raised or lowered, but they didn’t move. They stayed like this for many minutes and didn’t make a sound. It was almost eerie watching this beautiful spectacle. When the command came that they were safe, they all moved on again, very quickly and quietly. We felt so privileged to watch this beautiful sight. Apart from elephants there is an abundance of birdlife and other mammals. We found these baboons quite amusing if only for the attitude they displayed!
Our previous visit to this park was disappointing, although we did see a pack of wild dogs, but this time we were fortunate enough to see lots of roan and sable. These antelope are not terribly common so it’s always great to get sightings of them. That’s why it’s better to stay in the park as opposed to taking day trips – you put yourself in a better position to have all the right experiences.
Mudumu National Park has yet to catch up with the 21st century as far as pricing is concerned. We paid about N$50.00 per person per day to stay there, which was basically the entrance fee to the park as well. With Botswana pricing itself out of the average holiday-maker’s range, this place makes financial sense. We didn’t book ahead. I don’t think it’s necessary as not many people know about it. For all you South Africans reading this – this place is worth visiting, as is nearby Mamili, which I will chat about next week. Not only do you get good value for money but there is a great adventure factor too – you definitely feel like you have left civilization far behind and it’s just you and the wilds. What a pleasure. Never mind the abundance of elephants and the solitude of the place – the sunsets alone would be enough to get us back there!