Crossing a River Where Four Countries Meet

There is a place called Kazungula, at the intersection of the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers, where four countries meet. Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, and a tiny strip of Namibia all come together in one spot.

(Side note: A point where four borders meet is called a quadripoint. There is some controversy as to whether or not Kazungula is a legitimate quadripoint, for reasons too complicated to explain in this post. Read more here. But if Kazungula is indeed a quadripoint, then it’s the only four-country quadripoint in the world.)

During my recent visit to Victoria Falls, my friend and I took a day trip to Botswana to visit Chobe National Park. The Chobe trip was incredible and I’ll tell you about it in my next post. But first let me tell you about the border crossing.

kids at border

A group of school kids waiting to cross the border between Zambia and Botswana.

I’ve crossed quite a few borders in Africa — by car, by plane, and by foot — and it always gives me a thrill. But there’s something about crossing a border by boat that I found particularly fascinating.

There is no bridge at Kazungula between Zambia and Botswana. (There is a plan to build one but it won’t be done for several years.) The only way for trucks to cross the border is by ferry, and only one truck can cross at a time. The line of trucks waiting to cross on either side of the border is miles long, literally. Truckdrivers often wait there for days, even weeks.

Truck line

Trucks waiting to cross from Zambia to Botswana.

Fortunately Michelle and I were not traveling by truck. We bypassed the truck line in our taxi, hopped out at the border post, moved quickly through immigration (no line), and strolled down to the beach.

The public ferry, for people traveling between the two countries without a vehicle, costs about $1 and looked fairly simple to navigate. The line wasn’t long on the day we were there.

Woman carrying bag

A woman walks to the public ferry from Zambia to Botswana.

Tourists traveling to Chobe National Park take a different ferry, organized by the lodges at Chobe. The cost for our crossing was included in the price of our daytrip, which was booked through our guesthouse in Livingstone.

“Ferry” is a generous word for the boats that carry people between borders at Kazalunga. They’re more like motorized dinghies.

Michelle in ferry

Michelle in our “ferry”.

As we waited for our ferry on the Zambia side of the river, I wandered around and took a few pictures.

Miniva

I saw this guy, Fredson, taking a photo of his daughter, Miniva, along the shoreline. Fredson and his family were also waiting for the ferry — they were moving from Zambia to South Africa and seemed so excited.

After a 10-minute wait, we boarded our ferry-dinghy. Souvenir hawkers clustered around as we got onto the boat. “I am John! Remember me! I will be here when you come back!”

It took about three-and-a-half minutes to sail across to Botswana.

Truck ferry

We passed the truck ferry on our way across.

At the end of the day on our way to Zambia, we followed the same route in reverse.

Goodbye Botswana

A Chobe safari driver bids us farewell as we ride back to Zambia with some other tourists.

waiting for boat

Michelle snapped this shot of the regular ferry line in Botswana as we rode past. I love that there are different pickup points for high water and low water. (Photo: Michelle Stern)

Hawkers

The hawkers were indeed waiting for us when we returned. Note the trucks in line behind them.

I would love to spend a few days hanging out at this border crossing (and the crossings between the other quadripoint countries, which are all in the same general vicinity), chatting to people and watching what goes on. I have a feeling there would be lots of interesting stories to tell. Maybe next trip.

My Chobe safari post is coming up. Here a couple of pics to get things started.

Croc closeup

Croc.

mama baby2

Elephants!

After the next post I will return to my regular Joburg silliness.

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9 Comments

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough July 2, 2013 at 1:26 am

    I had never heard the term “quadripoint” before—who knew? And you’re right, to call that thing a ferry, is, indeed, generous! How funny! Can’t wait to read about the safari.
    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

    • Reply 2summers July 2, 2013 at 8:19 am

      Hey Kathy, I had never heard of a quadripoint either. But I like the word!

      • Reply Fiver July 2, 2013 at 10:17 am

        I love the fact that there is a word for something that may or may not exist on the planet. I hadn’t heard of there being a controversy. Must read up on it.
        It looks like you had a fun crossing. When we crossed with our car we had to take the ‘big’ ferry. It felt very unsafe and immigration was a nightmare. I never noticed a passenger boat, too shell-shocked by the chaos.

        • Reply 2summers July 2, 2013 at 10:28 am

          Yeah, I think the fact that we were traveling with a safari company helped us to avoid the immigration chaos. It was unbelievably easy.

          There are definite quadripoints within countries, like where the states of Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico meet at right angles in the western U.S. But the African one is the only (sort of) nation quadripoint.

  • Reply tenneymason July 3, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    Mt. Airy, Maryland is a four county quadrapoint. Howard, Montgomery, Carroll and Frederick counties all intersect in the town limits. As a result, tiny Mt. Airy, which is an incorporated town with it’s own elected mayor and council, has to deal with four county governments. It made for some great newspaper articles when I worked for the South Carroll Herald.

    • Reply 2summers July 4, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Cool! I think I knew that at some point but had forgotten.

  • Reply Rebecca July 7, 2013 at 3:14 am

    Loving all the posts on Vic Falls and your trip there! All the tips from your Vic Falls posts (from both sides) were really helpful – saving for when I eventually get there 🙂

  • Reply Sine July 9, 2013 at 3:47 am

    I love the pictures, and I’m also looking forward to the next post, as the croc picture is pretty awesome! Looks like you’re having a great time visiting all sorts of cool places these days:-)

    • Reply 2summers July 10, 2013 at 9:28 am

      Yep, I’ve been lucky. And you too!

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