Mahango Game Reserve and Popa Falls

The Okavango river flows along the border with angola, from west of Rundu to Andara in the east. At the start of the Caprivi strip it turns south and passes through a series of rapids known as Popa Falls, and then flows past Mahango Game Reserve, before entering Botswana and the Okavango delta. A wide variety of habitats supports over 450 bird species, and large mammals include lion, elephant and buffalo. There is no accommodation within the reserve, but a variety of nearby lodges provide accommodation and tours to the area. Popa Falls is a rustic rest camp and campsite run by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, and is situated about 15km North of the reserve.

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Specials

Specials of the area include African Skimmer, Chirping Cisticola, Great Reed-Warbler, Long-toed Lapwing, Allen's Gallinule, Pel's Fishing-Owl, Meves's Starling, Brown Firefinch, Swamp Boubou, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Sharp-tailed Starling, Dickinson's Kestrel, African Hobby.

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Habitats

There are a wide variety of habitats within the Mahango, from the vast floodplains of the Okavango river, to dense Papyrus beds and marshy areas. Riverine woodland occurs along the banks of the river, while away from the river are sections of dense acacia woodland and also Burkea/Baikiaea woodland on sandy soils. Popa Falls is situated on the river banks in riverine forest.

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Facilities

There are no facilities within the reserve, which is best accessed by 4-wheel drive, although recent improvements of the road system have made most of the reserve accessible to 2-wheel drive vehicles. The best birding is along the loop road running from the main road east towards the river and joining again near the Mahembo Border Post with Botswana. One of the best things about this reserve is that you are allowed out of your vehicle – there are no restrictions on this but the area has large numbers of Elephant, Buffalo and other dangerous game. There are sizeable herds of Roan and Sable Antelope in this park. Early mornings are best for Sitatunga near the Kwetche picnic spot.

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Birding

1. At Popa Falls, Rock Pratincole, Black Sparrowhawk (rare), Ayres's Hawk-Eagle, Osprey, African Barred Owlet, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Red-capped Robin-Chat (rare), Terrestrial Brownbul and African Wood-Owl can be found.

2. Mahango Game Park has a variety of habitats which support many wetland species, including African Pygmy-Goose, African Skimmer, Chirping Cisticola, Luapula Cisticola, Great Reed-Warbler, Greater Swamp-Warbler, Long-toed Lapwing, Allen's Gallinule being some of these. White-backed Night-Heron are also commonly seen in the area to the south of Kwetche picnic site. Caspian Plover are often seen on the sandbanks. African Fish-Eagle is very common and Osprey are seen regularly. Some of the best floodplain birding is in the area surrounding the giant Baobab on the riverside loop.

3. In the riverine woodland, Pel's Fishing-Owl is rare, but Western Banded Snake-Eagle can be seen commonly. Grey-headed Parrot and Meyer's Parrot, Meves's Starling, Brown Firefinch, Swamp Boubou, Collared Pratincole, Square-tailed Nightjar, African Cuckoo Hawk and several Kingfishers and Bee-eaters are also found.

4. In the surrounding woodland areas Pennant-winged Nightjar, Black-bellied Bustard, Sharp-tailed Starling, Dickinson's Kestrel and African Hobby may be encountered. During the dry season the best area to see Sharp-tailed Starling is in the west of the park, but a 4x4 is needed to get into this area.

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General

The Mahango is approximately 200 km east of Rundu and can be reached easily by any sedan vehicle. The area is a convenient stop-over en-route to Victoria Falls.

Popa Falls Website

Accommodation is available in the area.

Chris Hines and Steve Brain 2002.

Shamvura Rest Camp

Ndhovu Safari Lodge