The way nature adapts and survives in response to constant environmental change is genuinely fascinating. In the Simalaha Community Conservancy, this change might be a little harder to believe than others. The dry floodplains are filled with crystal clear water for about three to four months of the year when the mighty Zambezi River bursts its banks. In addition to this, an influx of run-off water from the Zambian highlands also filters onto the Simalaha floodplains, and the result is astounding.

Although this annual phenomenon makes matters difficult for communities and the terrestrial animals that live on floodplains, it is an accepted part of life within the Zambezi River system. Despite large flooding events forcing communities to migrate to higher ground, it also – as is always the case in nature – provides the land with many benefits.

After a long dry winter, the waters of the rising Zambezi are an important source of life for its floodplains, and the high level of water is vital for the deposition of nutrient-rich sediments and minerals into the sun-baked soil. This allows a much more favourable environment for new grasses and vegetation to grow. It also restores groundwater levels that are often depleted before the floods, which benefits the local farmers and their crops for the dry season ahead. Having an increased availability of groundwater and moist soils is essential to mitigate large-scale wildfires, remove invasive vegetation from the grasslands and help with the dispersal of seeds.

As Gordon Homer, Peace Parks’ Project Manager for the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, points out on the high-water level mark on a fencepole, Simalaha becomes inaccessible by foot or vehicle instead, a traditional dug-out canoe known as a mokoro is required for transport.

These floods are a fantastic sight, attracting an array of waterbirds and birdwatchers. It brings to life a variety of water lilies and other aquatic flora. For the animals that do not enjoy getting their feet wet, Simalaha offers enough higher ground to keep the land-loving animals happy. Isn’t nature just incredible?