Namibia Economist (Windhoek)

7 December 2012

Namibia: Kavango Open Africa Route Promotes Region

One of four tourism routes in the country, Kavango Open Africa Route, aims to promote the Kavango Region with its unique cultures, people, river and resources as a first-choice tourist destination.

Established in 2010, the Kavango Open Africa Route runs from Mohembo Gate on the Botswana border in the South-east to Katwitwi on the Angolan border in the North-west. The route was officially recognized as a formal association earlier this year and is emphasizing the older and original gravel road between Rundu and Divundu along the river besides the better-known B8 tarred road. The route is part of the Open Africa tourism initiative partially funded by the World Bank.

The Kavango Open Africa Route not only gives the visitor more access to the attractive Kavango River scenery as well as the diverse cultures of the people living along, it also promotes the use of the relatively unknown and unappreciated gravel road which follows the river itself. According to Mark Paxton, Chairman of Kavango Open Africa Route, this is a much more interesting road for tourists as it offers beautiful river views and brings the traveler in contact with the people.

The association currently has 43 members along the route. "We will be reassessing our membership in a year's time when our next brochure and map will be published and distributed to the tourism industry. We have strict membership requirements and conservation obligations so those that comply with the requirements will be included while others that do not will be dropped," said Paxton.

He says participants along the route include any legitimate individual or organization that has anything of interest to offer to the traveling tourist. This involves accommodation, leisure activities, adventure trails, fishing, cultural activities, social groups, conservancies, community forests, crafts, historical points, schools, missions and churches.

All route participants are required to have a Conservation-based ethic as well as a commitment to the protection of the natural resources and wildlife along the Kavango River. Five flagship species which require some form of protection and monitoring have been designated to represent the region and include mammals, birds, fish as well as trees.

The species are the African Skimmer, Grey-headed Parrot, Nembwe, Hippopotamus and Kiaat. Active participants are required to monitor at least one of these species and in turn Open Africa will offer long-term website exposure, with unlimited space for marketing details on their extensive website.

"The principal aim of Kavango Open Africa Route is the promotion of the Kavango Region, achieved by marketing it as an attractive and worthwhile tourism destination, rather than a region merely traveled through en-route to other more well-known areas in Northern Namibia and neighbouring countries. In this way we hope to improve and diversify income generation opportunities for the residents of this region," Paxton said.

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