THE much-awaited opening next week of the US$260 million Kazungula Bridge across the Zambezi River between Botswana and Zambia is expected to boost tourism in the region, including in Zimbabwe.
The Kazungula Bridge lies at the confluence of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers; strategically situated at the intersection of the borders of Botswana, Zambia, Namibia and Zimbabwe – a rarity for four countries to meet at one point.
Apart from its economic utility, the bridge will boost tourism between the four countries, mainly as its provides easy crossing back and forth, particularly between Botswana and Zambia, the two implementors of the project.
The bridge replaces the limited capacity and risky ferryboat transport system which has been used to cross the river for a long time.
Kasane town, in the north-eastern corner of Botswana, is just around the bridge and has an airport.
The airport is along the A33 Road, four kilometres south of the town and four kilometres south of the border with Namibia, hence close to the Caprivi, now Zambezi region.
It is an hour’s flight from Kasane to Maun, a town on the Thamalakane River in northern Botswana which is a landing pad to the vast inland Okavango Delta, a lush wildlife habitat during seasonal floods.
The delta, the largest freshwater wetland ecosystem of international importance, is a treasure to tourism in Botswana and the region.
In the delta, safari camps dot Moremi Game Reserve, home to a wide array of wildlife, birds and flora, including the Big Five, elephant, buffalo, rhino, leopard and lion found all over that region and all countries in the region.
But the bridge will bring more relieve and activity to Kasane. Situated on the Chobe River, Kasane is a bustling little town offering easy access to the Chobe National Park.
As there are no boundary fences between the park and the village, wildlife roams the vicinity and through campsites.
Kasane is the gateway to Chobe National Park, known for its herds of elephants which converge on the Chobe River in the dry season. Caracal Biodiversity Centre there shelters rescued wildlife. The Chobe
Crocodile Farm is nearby.
Spread out along the banks of the Chobe River, Kasane presents an array of hotels, lodges, guest houses and campsites that accommodate visitors to the national park.
Some are splendidly situated, with panoramic views of the river and its wildlife.
Activities include game drives, sightseeing, cultural tours and river boat cruises. Further, the Kazungula
Bridge is about an hour’s drive to the world-famous Victoria Falls – a tourism magnet-across the Zambezi River which forms a border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa this week said his government, now excluded from the Kazungula Bridge project even though he misleadingly claimed it was still part of it (at one point it appeared to be), will soon upgrade the road from Kazungula to Victoria Falls.
That will provide a quick link between Victoria Falls and the Chobe region.
From the Zambian side, it will now be easier to cross over to Botswana and back, all the way to Livingstone, and across roundtrip. It is the same distance from Kazungula to Livingstone in Zambia, as it is to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
There is also now a flight between Victoria Falls and Kasane with effect from 1 May.
Linking Victoria Falls and Kariba – which is close to the breath-taking Unesco heritage site Mana Pools and Bumi Hills – with an efficient transport system would also be helpful to tourism.
Overall, the bridge will greatly facilitate access to the Chobe National Park in Botswana, Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls National Park and the Zambezi National Park, located upstream from Victoria
Falls on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe. The Zambezi National Park was split off from Victoria Falls National Park in 1979 and is bisected by a road to Kazungula, dividing it into a riverine side and a Chamabonda Vlei side.
During a recent site visit to Kazungula Bridge Philda Kereng, Botswana’s Tourism minister remarked that London has the London Bridge and now Southern Africa as the iconic Kazungula Bridge.
“We appreciate this bridge very much, especially at this point, where we are developing and diversifying tourism. Kasane will become a much more accessible and attractive tourist destination,” she said.
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