There are many reasons to visit Namibia, and particularly, the hidden treasure that is Impalila Island.
The island’s location
The country of Namibia is pretty special. Lonely Planet has called Namibia “Africa for beginners” – and what a place to start your African safari adventure! Namibia’s landscapes are as diverse as they are photogenic – from the most inhospitable desert to lush fertile wetlands. Discover the world’s oldest desert, the dead-tree Sossusvlei valleys, the Skeleton Coast with its endless sand dunes and shipwrecks, the Fish River Canyon, the plains of the Kalahari and the wetlands of the Caprivi Strip.
It is here, perched on the eastern tip of the Caprivi Strip (now known as the Zambezi region) at the convergence of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers (on the Namibian side), that you’ll find Impalila Island. The island is only about 12km long and 4km across at its widest point.
Ichingo Chobe River Lodge is nestled here. Most of our guests arrive at the Kasane Immigration Office and from there hop into our tender boat to get their passport stamped at the Namibian Immigration Office. After that, it’s a stunning 45-to-60-minute journey via tender boat to the lodge – the start of a magical river and fishing safari.
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The African Quadripoint
Have you heard of the 4 Corners of Africa? Or the African Quadripoint? Impalila Island enjoys the acclaim of being the only place in the world – yes, the world! – where 4 countries meet.
A quadripoint is defined as a point that touches the border of four different regions, territories or countries. While there are other places where three regions meet – in fact, there are more than 150 tripoints in the world but only ONE international quadripoint. And that’s right here!
Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe meet at this one very special spot – a rare confluence of four nations.
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Impalila Island history
Impalila Island may be a hidden treasure to some but its history dates back hundreds of years.
The island was originally reputed to be the border between the Makalolo/Barotse Empire and the Matabele Empire of Mazilikatzi. Later, it became the border between these two empires and the tribes of Lobengula. There are many stories of skirmishes between these nations.
David Livingstone put the island on the map of the ‘Western world’ when he visited in the 1800s, journeying from Angola to Mozambique. Livingstone actually camped on Impalila Island as he was making his trip downstream to the Victoria Falls.
During the war of independence, there was a large South African military presence on the island. Fortunately, there was no actual conflict during this period. Much of the infrastructure on the island remains from this time, including a well-kept long, gravel airstrip that’s still used to this day.
What does Impalila mean?
Impalila gets its name from the local Sibuya word, Kwapila, which means ‘unable to.’ The name likely comes from the fact that the island was protected on either side by the two rivers which formed a natural defence against invasion by other tribes.
Read related content: The history of Impalila Island
The community of Impalila Island is small and closeknit – home to just 450 adults and about 300 children at the last headcount!
We are proud that our staff members at the Zambezi Queen Collection and the lodge are employed from the local communities. It’s just one way the Zambezi Queen Collection invests in sustainable travel and tourism.
Many schoolkids from the surrounding floodplain make the journey to attend school on the island. The island may be small but it’s the heart of the community – offering not only a school but also a clinic, primary school, junior secondary school, and an administrative centre housing the police, immigration and customs officials.
As a guest of the houseboats or the lodge, you’ll have the opportunity to travel by tender boat to visit a local Namibian village on the floodplains of the East Caprivi. Meet the Subiya tribe village elders and locals and gain a greater understanding of how the inhabitants of this 100-year-old village live, including learning more about their daily challenges and traditions. This is a highlight for all our guests!
Read related content: Cultural Tours – Zambezi Queen Collection (zqcollection.com)
To visit Impalila Island, contact us today. View our special offers here.