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Recreation and Tourism  

Recreation and tourism are popular activities in the Kunene River basin. Ecotourism, defined as tourism that is sustainable and environmentally and culturally sensitive, is a subset of nature-based tourism (Scholes and Biggs 2004). In southern Africa, nature-based tourism highlights the region’s biodiversity and natural features, and is rapidly becoming a powerful economic sector. It has scope to grow much larger, but also has the potential to undermine its own foundation by insensitive development, pollution and overcrowding. Ecosystem management policies need to include the ecotourism sector and regulate it; developed correctly, ecotourism can be a tool to encourage conservation.

Ecotourism has also been integrated with social development in many areas of southern Africa through "community-based natural resource management" and the involvement of traditional ways of life.


The tourism industry in Angola is based on the country's natural beauty, including its rivers, waterfalls and scenic coastline. Visitor attractions in the Kunene River Basin include:

  • Kunene River Mouth Coastal Wetland, Angola/Namibia;
  • Iona National Park, Angola;
  • Bicuar National Park, Angola; and
  • Mupa National Park, Angola.

The contribution of the travel and tourism economy to employment was approximately 5.6 % (239 000 jobs) in 2009. The contribution to the GDP was 6.9 % in 2009 (World Travel and Tourism Council, 2010).

Protected areas in the Kunene River basin.
Source: AHT GROUP AG 2010, after Atlas of Namibia Project 2002
( click to enlarge )


Tourism is a rapidly growing sector of the Namibian economy and a significant generator of employment. It is the third-largest source of foreign exchange after mining and fisheries. Tourism and recreation is highly developed in Namibia, with a large percentage of the population engaged in tourism related activities, contributing directly and indirectly approximately 15 % of GDP in 2008 and 18 % of employment (71 000 jobs) (Namibia Tourism Board 2008).

The water demand for the tourism sector has been assessed at 20 Million m³ in 2008, accounting for nearly 6 % of the total water demand. The tourism demand in the Kunene water basin was calculated at approximately 0.8 Million m³ in 50 different establishments offering a capacity of 1 100 beds (IWRM Plan Joint Venture Namibia 2010).

WDM study of Namibian tourist facilities

The Ministry of Agriculture Water and Rural Development with support by the Water Research Fund for Southern Africa (WARFSA) undertook a WDM study of Namibian tourist facilities from 1999 to 2001. The study looked at water use in different types of tourism establishments, including hotels, large scale resorts, lodges, community camps and so-called ‘ecotourist’ camps. Results showed that community camps and ecotourist camps used the least water, often due to lack of water in the area, basic infrastructure and a sustainable management approach. Big resorts and luxurious lodges spent between 15 and 175 times more water on every guest than community camps and ecotourist camps.

The study also looked at the implementation of WDM initiatives in the form of technology, awareness and management approaches at six study sites representing the different kinds of tourist facilities, i.e. lodges, resorts, urban facilities, community camps and ecotourist camps.

All project study sites received a list of recommendations on site specific, feasible WDM approaches that could improve their water use efficiency. All study sites co-operated on a voluntary basis with the project and management at each study site was given the responsibility to decide which of the recommended WDM approaches to implement and which to ignore or postpone.

Source: adapted from Schachtschneider 2008

Popular tourism destinations in the Kunene River basin include:

  • Skeleton Coast National Park, Namibia;
  • Kunene River Mouth Coastal Wetland, Namibia/Angola; and
  • Various lodges along the Kunene River, e.g. at Epupa.

Further information on these sites is contained in the Biodiversity Resources and Protected Areas section.

Serra Cafema Camp is a favourite tourist destination.
Source: © Ostby 2007,
( click to enlarge )
Wildlife safaris are a major tourist attraction.
Source: Khayat 2008
( click to enlarge )




Explore the sub-basins of the Kunene River

Video Interviews about the integrated and transboundary management of the Kunene River basin

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