Shamvura Camp: Namibia’s Portal to Exploring the Kavango Region

Shamvura Camp is situated high on a prominent, historical sand dune overlooking the Okavango River (image courtesy of

Shamvura Camp is situated high on a prominent, historical sand dune overlooking the Okavango River (image courtesy of

Situated high on a prominent, historical sand dune overlooking the Okavango River, vast floodplains and neighboring Angola, Shamvura Camp is one of Namibia’s most popular birding destinations. At the western end of the Caprivi Strip, Shamvura and neighboring areas are home to some 400 species of birds including many sought-after specialties.

In 2011, I embarked on a four-month backpacking trip starting in Cape Town, South Africa looping through Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia up to Tanzania before heading south through Malawi and Mozambique. Nearly a quarter of my time was spent volunteering at Shamvura Camp and it still remains today as one of my favorite birding spots in Southern Africa.

Shamvura offers modest permanent tents amongst the broadleaf woodlands as well as a Tree Top Cottage providing splendid views from its spacious veranda. For those interested in camping, the Strychnos Campsite offers six spacious sites each enclosed with a reed fence and a centralized double ablution block with washing facilities and a roofed area with electrical plugs and lighting. The in-ground pool is a great way to cool off in the afternoon and be sure to stop by the private bar before heading to the balcony to witness the incredible sunsets as hippos call from the Okavango River below.

A birding tour group checking out a mixed species flock in the broadleaf woodlands  © Ethan Kistler

A birding tour group checking out a mixed species flock in the broadleaf woodlands © Ethan Kistler

The main draw to Shamvura is the birding. The incredible diversity of species will leave you with an impressive list. Exploring the surrounding broadleaf woodlands and scrubland should produce an exciting variety of birds including Racket-tailed Roller, Arnot’s Chat, Sharp-tailed Starling, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Ayer’s Hawk Eagle and the only spot in southern Africa where you can see Souza’s Shrike and if your luck should persist – Shelly’s Sunbird right in Shamvura’s garden.

Right out your back doorstep, you have the Okavango River and its extensive floodplains to explore. A short stroll down the hill leads you to the boats that give you the opportunity to take guided trips down the Okavango in search of the waterbirds.  Birders have an excellent chance of finding target species such as the endangered African Skimmer, Collared and Rock Pratincoles, White-backed Night-Heron, and Slaty Egret.

African Skimmer © Eethan Kistler

African Skimmer © Ethan Kistler

During certain seasons one can observe various shorebird species along the sandbanks and islands that you traverse in and around during the guided trips. For those seeking color and a little bit of noise, large colonies of red and turquoise Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters nest in holes on the sides of steep banks that line the water; they will entertain and during the Summer months (Southern Hemisphere).

Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters © Ethan Kistler

Southern Carmine Bee-Eaters © Ethan Kistler

The small Shamvura team is lead by owners Mark and Charlie Paxton and is committed to providing personalized attention to guests at all times. I have gotten to known both of them personally and can honestly say they are some of the best hosts you can have.

You’ll be taken by both Charlie’s warm nature and Mark’s incredible experience. Mark’s 40 years of comprehensive knowledge of the African bush, birds, and it’s environmental issues makes him the ideal guide for a fishing trip down the river or full-day guided bird trips in the surrounding floodplains and broadleaf woodlands. And expect to be welcomed when you return by Charlie’s tasty traditional homemade cooking.

One aspect that really sticks out with the Paxton’s is their involvement within the local communities. Mark works directly with residents on developmental projects and environmental-related issues while Charlie has been actively involved in community-based craft development in both Kavango and Caprivi Regions, being the craft consultant for the ‘Every River Has Its People’ project. This transboundary community development project involves over a thousand craft producers in the Okavango River Basin.

You really can’t ask for a better destination – with fantastic habitat, incredible birding, and excellent hosts, you’ll leave with a lasting impression and a boost to your bird list.

African Openbills, African Darters and Hippos in the Okavango River © Ethan Kistler

African Openbills, African Darters and hippos in the Okavango River © Ethan Kistler

Ethan Kistler

Ethan Kistler

A lifelong Ohioan, Ethan began birding at the ripe age of 10 when he literally woke up one morning and decided to become a birder. Since then he’s worked field jobs from Ohio to Alaska, Read More

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