Sights, sounds and scrumptious bream in Katima Mulilo

By Charene Labuschagne

Thunder clouds rumble on the horizon, their dark blue-grey filter adding a distinct moodiness to the lush green landscape that enfolds Katima Mulilo. Birds are chirping, school kids are walking home and a cow calf slowly strolls over the road as we cruise into town, courtesy of a swanky, air-conditioned Toyota Fortuner from Caprivi Adventures. Our first stop, naturally, is the Green Basket Cafe for a wholesome lunch of burgers and schnitzel. Here we acclimatise to the warm, humid weather as anticipation for an adventure along the Zambezi grows.

Katima Mulilo buzzes with an unmistakable border town energy. Locals are shrewd businessmen and women selling goods and alfresco meals under marula trees. The bridge connecting Namibia to Zambia vibrates with trucks and transporter vans, and the river brims with the mokoro canoes of fishermen. But more on that later… First, we check into our abode.

Caprivi River Lodge is a seven-minute drive from the town centre, nestled between mango and frangipani trees on the bank of the Zambezi River. This prime location allows visitors to explore the bustle and culture of Katima, while also getting a taste of adventure so synonymous with this region of Namibia. With only eight chalets, the lodge hones a unique homely atmosphere with wood-carved furniture, an indigenous garden which attracts a host of birdlife, and attentive staff who greet you by name. Each air-conditioned room features a small river-facing stoep, crisp bedding and a spacious bathroom. 

No visit to the Zambezi Region is complete without a cruise on its namesake river. This is one of the many excursions offered by Caprivi Adventures. Our boat trip ventured upstream, where pods of pink-eared hippo peeped from just above the waterline and flocks of African Darter, with their noodle-like necks, congregated on the beaches. The crocodiles remained hidden, as they instinctively do, camouflaged between rocks and greenery. 

The very best Namibian sunsets include a few wispy clouds, adding hues and texture to an already brilliant show. We were treated to a technicolour spectrum in the sky that was mirrored by the Zambezi water. Children waved from the banks, locals fished well into dusk and a soulful sunset bid us adieu on our first day in Katima Mulilo.

With breakfast in our bellies, we set out for the open market in town. From airtime and dried fish to raw cassava and chitenge fabrics, the market is always a great departure point to get a feel for the local fare and support a few small businesses. The scents and sights are a feast of culture – every stall, shop and next corner is rich with years of “business as usual”. It is safe to assume that the Katima Mulilo open market is an ecosystem in itself.

Next, we explored Namwi Island. This expedition presented us with a drive through forest and village, only stopping occasionally for a bright-coloured bird sighting. The final stop was at a lookout point over a calmer part of the river, allowing us a few moments to observe the fluid border with Zambians and Namibians crossing in mokoros and the faint ding-dong of a cow bell accompanying the chirping of insects. It is a lovely place to observe the Zambezi’s beautiful birds and debrief from the organised chaos in town. 

Our lunch spot at Passione Restaurant offered a great people-watching vantage point on the top floor of Katima’s strip mall. Over cold drinks and fresh fried Zambezi bream, one could easily spend an hour or two contemplating the comings and goings of the town and its people.

A ceremonious conclusion to our journey on the Zambezi was in order, so we tried our luck with a drive out east to where the largest breeding colony of Carmine Bee-eaters were rumoured to still be nesting. Albeit the end of the breeding season, and our chances of seeing the colony a hit or miss, lo and behold, a large flock of the pink-hued birds fluttered up in the distance. We approached with caution and spent plenty of time watching these ground-nesting avians from a safe distance. To see them descend with moths and other insects in their beaks, beefing up their hatchlings before the long journey north for summer, made for an audiovisual spectacle, truly worthy of bucket lists whether or not you are a birder.


My FlyNamibia family knows just how to spoil me with travels! On our most recent trip to Katima Mulilo, I experienced the vibrant buzz of the border town by strolling through the open market, chatting to locals and cruising on the Zambezi River. 

Without a doubt the highlight of the trip was our stay at Caprivi River Lodge. My friends and followers know how much I love comfortable and cosy accommodation, and this lodge on the bank of the river, with chalets overlooking the garden, did not disappoint. Their food is top tier, especially the lemon-baked bream we had on our first night, and the sunset cruise with our delightful guide, Daniel, was balm for the soul!

I was ecstatic at the sight of abundant mango trees in Katima Mulilo. Not only do I love the fruit and stocked up on a few at the open market, but the lush trees themselves add a beautiful, tropical allure to the town.

Seeing the Carmine Bee-eaters was another highlight. The birds of the Zambezi Region truly captivated me! I would strongly recommend a visit to Katima for anyone keen on adventure and culture merged into the perfect break-away.



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