Trip report for Moremi and Chobe in Sept




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  1. #1
    mandiecandie5 Guest

    Arrow Trip report for Moremi and Chobe in Sept

    Trip report for Moremi and Chobe National Parks, Sept 11-18th
    We are just back from our first African safari. We split our time between South Africa (Kruger), Botswana and Zambia. I will only discuss the Botswana segment of the trip here since itís the only part we did self-drive 4x4 safari. I hope this trip report helps some other first time self-drive people or maybe those who are contemplating it. We are beginners in every sense of the word, with driving a 4x4, camping and traveling in Southern Africa. All I knew was that we did not want to take the standard typical overpriced safari, where you have to share your experience with 10 other trucks and chatty tourists.
    And I have to say first that what we really loved about Botswana, besides the spectacular scenery, was the lack of tourists!! How fantastic to get to an animal sighting and actually enjoy it alone for a long time, that was magic. We were in Kruger before this and while we appreciated that park also for its organization, ease and affordable comforts; the experiences together with Botswana were just right for a first timer.
    I also want to mention the company we rented our 4x4 from, Mechto/McKenzie 4x4. They donít have a website but can be reached by email (bmac@info.bw) . They came recommended from this website http://maunselfdrive4x4.webs.com/misc.htm and offered a competitive price with all the same kit as others. They made all our park bookings for us and answered EVERY question (and I had a lot!) by email very fast. Great service! Highly recommended!
    Day 1 Maun. The only thing I will add here is we used Ronís Produce for our meat and it was fantastic. Better price, selection and freshness when compared to the grocery stores. Highly recommended.

    Day 2 MaunŗXakanaxa. The roads were much drier than we expected and we had a few easy water crossings. Lots of game everywhere, we saw the Moremi lion pride near Dead Tree IslandÖwhich was still pretty flooded though and we couldnít venture that far. Our campsite reservation for this night was actually at Linyati (was the only thing we could get 6 months out! Even with repeated calls to check on cancellations!). When we arrived at South Gate the guards just shrugged and waved us through. We had lunch at 3rd Bridge where the guard was walking between all the campsites checking up on what people were doing, etc. Very nice guy. He told us we would have no problem getting a campsite at Xakanaxa and we didnít. We arrived about 16:30 and found 4 empty sites with no guard on duty. No late arrivals either. Amazing how disfunctional their DWNP booking system is. I hope whatever changes they make to this system in the future bring better organization.
    Day 3 XakanaxaŗKhwai Community Trust campsites. This was the wettest section of the trip. Some roads around Dombo Hippo Pools had water but we were able to get to the hide and appreciate the Hippo/Croc show! We also saw leopards a few kilometers down the road, thanks to a tip from the guide who was also at the hide. After exiting at North Gate there was a detour around the end of Khwai village because the road was flooded and after that we encountered a lot of water. Nothing too difficult but as beginners we were pretty nervous about some of them!! Once we relaxed and let the vehicle do the work, it was no problem. That thing sure is a tank! The wildlife in this area is amazing and I would have liked to stay another night at this location. Lots of zebra and kudu walking through camp and the elephants at sunset were amazing. It wasnít until 7pm that some local people came around to collect money or check on paperwork. Very nice people.
    More to comeÖ.

  2. #2
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    Hi MandieCandie5

    Thanx for the trip update! I'm sure people that read these updates find them beneficial and interesting , even though they don't always reply. We are also planning a self drive in that region, and are a bit worried about doing it alone.

    Please post some of your pictures and also important gps coordinates for reference. I just wish more people would post their trip reports for all to share and learn from.

    Cheers
    Last edited by RooiPiet; 2009/09/29 at 04:00 PM.
    U-Turn Infinity

  3. #3
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    Thanks for sharing your experience...
    Tell us more !!!
    My turn to ask questions :
    What was the brand mark and model of the 4x4 ?
    Where is that Ronís Produce for the good meat...This is an address you MUST share

  4. #4
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    The Botswana self drive,apart from being bogged in mud,is easy with gorgeous sceneries,plenty of game and very nice people all over.
    If ou know your itinerary and schedule well,you shouldn't have to worry ...just check the mug pools well before driving them in the Moremi,Khwai and Linyanti areas...
    enjoy your trip

  5. #5
    mandiecandie5 Guest

    Arrow Continued trip report

    GPS Coordinate for Ronís Produce/Butchery in Maun: This was pre-programmed into the Tracks4Africa (cannot live without), which I donít have the GPS handy right now. Also if you have the 2008 Veronica Roodt Botswana book (also highly recommend) on map 3 of Maun it is in the far left corner labeled ďButcheryĒ. Maybe someone else has the GPS waypoint?
    Car: Our rental was a 2005 Land Rover Defender TD5 110 in great shape! It had a rooftop tent which was a lot of fun, a built in 40L water tank which proved very convenient, and a 125L diesel fuel tank; which for our route we started with a full tank and actually only used about 60%. I was expecting much worse fuel consumption but the renter assured us we would be fine after carefully examining our route.

    Day 3 side note. I forgot to mention that when we exited North Gate, we found two trucks that had come all the way from Kasane and camped at North Gate for the night due to having no booking at Savuti and getting forced on with their journey! The guard at North Gate let them just set up right there at the gate. This funny guard also told us the night before some very obnoxious hyenas were raiding their area and carried off his radio and tried to eat it! He had to fire shots in the air to force them away. Anyways, these people who we met at North Gate were extremely concerned/nervous about the water in Khwai and also did not have much experience driving off-road. We tried to explain the situation and encourage them that if we could do it anyone could...BUT we actually saw them at Savuti AGAIN later Day 4 and they were turned away AGAIN! They could not figure out where best to cross the water at Khwai and we unfortunately did not take note the GPS points of any places we crossed (a good tip for next time...). Newbies fear not, as long as you are traveling in the driest season possible you should not encounter anything so difficult. We could see MANY dried mud/water pits left from earlier this year, and I can see where driving this area becomes near impossible during certain times of year. WoW! The deep tire ruts are now cemented into the dried pits as monuments to those brave drivers who actually attempted these crossings!
    Day 4 Khwai Community TrustŗSavuti. The first section of this drive has interesting scenery as you are still in the Khwai region and people had seen lions nearby the campsite area that morning but we missed them due to sleeping in J We continued to Mababe Gate and from that point be prepared to face a boring part of the drive! You have this choice of the Sand Ridge or Marsh Road, well we took the Marsh Road route as other drivers said it would be the more interesting of the two. It is flat and very dry with minimal animals, the driving is slow going but not difficult. The sand was not an issue like we expected. If you take the Marsh Road, you must stop at Marabou Pans. It is a water hole where we saw a herd of elephants battling for the precious water. It got very intense at times but we watched from a safe distance and they were not bothered by us. This scenery was so different in contrast to the lush riverside areas of Khwai where elephants were swimming underwater!
    Animal life picked up a little after the water hole and then again once we got close to the water holes of Savuti. Savuti has many small game drive loops that visit these water holes and they were all active with herds of elephants mainly. It seems they just walk between them all day. We didnít see much else game besides elephants but they were pretty spectacular. We enjoyed a great sunset parked by a waterhole, sitting on top of the truck with a G&T!
    The Savuti campsite area is guarded like a hawk. The ranger there definitely considers himself the new Sherriff in town! We arrived for lunch and as we were leaving again to game drive, there was actually a traffic jam of cars getting turned away, even a big overland truck! And if any cars snuck in somehow while he was occupied or walking around the sites, (he made at least 3 laps in the time we cooked lunch) he was on them immediately shooing them out. There are no jokes with this guy and he is all business. All campsites were utilized here. If I were doing this again, I would actually consider splurging at this point for a night at a lodge since it was a good half way point plus the drive tomorrow was going to be painful...
    More to come...

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by mandiecandie5 View Post

    Day 3 side note. I forgot to mention that when we exited North Gate, we found two trucks that had come all the way from Kasane and camped at North Gate for the night due to having no booking at Savuti and getting forced on with their journey! The guard at North Gate let them just set up right there at the gate. This funny guard also told us the night before some very obnoxious hyenas were raiding their area and carried off his radio and tried to eat it! He had to fire shots in the air to force them away. Anyways, these people who we met at North Gate were extremely concerned/nervous about the water in Khwai and also did not have much experience driving off-road. We tried to explain the situation and encourage them that if we could do it anyone could...BUT we actually saw them at Savuti AGAIN later Day 4 and they were turned away AGAIN!

    The Savuti campsite area is guarded like a hawk. The ranger there definitely considers himself the new Sherriff in town! We arrived for lunch and as we were leaving again to game drive, there was actually a traffic jam of cars getting turned away, even a big overland truck! And if any cars snuck in somehow while he was occupied or walking around the sites, (he made at least 3 laps in the time we cooked lunch) he was on them immediately shooing them out. There are no jokes with this guy and he is all business. All campsites were utilized here. If I were doing this again, I would actually consider splurging at this point for a night at a lodge since it was a good half way point plus the drive tomorrow was going to be painful...
    Thank you SOOOO much for confirming this! I wrote a guide to Botswana for my own website, and I started warning people of this happening. They still argue with me on a daily basis! It's nice to have it confirmed by another party!

    http://www.pictureafrica.org/Picture...ampers....html

  7. #7
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    Thank you very much for your report. I am looking forward to doing the trip between the 15th October and the 9th of November.
    It will be exciting to actually see the places people have written about.
    Take care
    Swededisco

  8. #8
    mandiecandie5 Guest

    Arrow Trip report con't.

    Thanks for the feedback so far. Any questions please don’t hesitate, I love re-living this trip! And I can’t stress again that from our experience during September (which can be considered peak season), Savuti campsite is for reservations only

    Day 5 Savuti-Ihaha. The drive out of the Savuti area takes you past the fantastic waterholes again but after that, it is one heck of a long, slow, rough drive. How did I not hear about this before we left?! First a sandy bit to Ghoha gate, this was ok. Now you are out of the National Parks and you are passing through the villages of Kachikau, Kavimba and Mabele. Instead of giraffes in the road it’s cattle and goats, watch out! This was by far the worst part of the driving and we were praying for water again! It is so dry, the amount of dust that is kicked up from your car is unbelievable. Everything will be thickly coated in dust no matter what precautions you take. This said, take extra care of your photo equiptment during this segment. On top of the dust, the roads are so churnned up and corugated it was awful driving them. We were both taking motion-sickness meds and felt so nausious the entire time L The good news is a large section of this road is being recontructed by the Chinese govt, through some good-will project. What an improvement that will make. Gesh.
    Continuing on you finally reach the Ngoma gate and finally get back to softer tracks and animal life. Your track soon starts descending towards the Chobe River, and what happened next was nothing short of a celebration!
    All the dust, bumps and car-sickness are suddenly forgotten when you set eyes on this river valley from high above. We stopped the car and got out to take it all in. The scenery gradually changes from brown to green and you can see out for miles, with a sparkling blue river through the middle, that actually appeared to be sparkling! Herd sizes must have been in the hundreds with zebra, impalla, buffalo, cattle, hippo, elephant...oh the elephants! This was truly a scene out of the “Lion King”! Fantastic! This whole area is fantastic and the hard work getting here certainly pays off. You continue along the scenic river until you reach the Ihaha campsite. Here you don’t even have to leave to see game. Just sit back and relax, it will come to you!
    The night game drives were just as great. Don’t go far...Ihaha has everything. I will say though, that this was the only time we regularly encountered other trucks/tourist safaris. But even during peak game viewing times, it was empty still when compared with Kruger NP in South Africa. This campsite also had the most animals walking through and we even had 2 buffalo sleeping under a tree AT our campiste! Only 30 feet from our campfire! We would occasionally flash a dim light their direction to check if they were still there and yup, just laying under the tree all night.

    Day 6 Ihaha. Well worth a 2nt stay. We actually drove into Kasane town today and went to the hotel we would be checking in at tomorrow, Chobe Safari Lodge. We told them we would be checking in tomorrow and if it was ok if we had lunch and used the pool, they agreed! So for 3 hours in the heat of the day (was over 40C today!) we had a great lunch and floated in the pool with fruity umbrella drinks! I knew I was pushing my camping limit and was so ready for this bit of luxury! Around 3pm we headed back into the park to catch the optimal game driving time.
    In our final evening game drove we encountered a massive elephant herd with literally 100 elephants who were moving away from the water and heading uphill towards Ihaha campsite. Well those same elephants proceeded to march down between our campsite and the one next to us about an hour later moving back to the water, accompanied by buffalo! This was already about 7:30pm so unfortunately too dark to take any good pics and we didn’t dare to use a flash afraid to upset them at such close distance! So we just sat quietly and watched them pass through, magic! We made an excellent stew this night and celebrated our survival in the bush! We could hear animals crossing the water all night and lots of loud elephant trumpeting.

    Day 7 Kasane. Today we drove straight for Kasane to lounge again in the fantastic pool at Chobe Safari Lodge (soo highly recommended!). Our riverside room was fantastic and felt oppulent after staying in a tent for 5 nts. We enjoyed lounging around so much that we skipped the evening boat cruise since basically we had seen so much wildlife and elephants at this point we couldn’t imagine anything else topping our safari experience. Plus the thought of being crammed on a pontoon boat sitting on plastic patio furniture with 50 other tourists for 3hrs was really not that appealing to us after all our intimate animal encounters.

    We left our truck keys with reception for pick-up by our rental company and the following day we had a transfer to Livingstone for 3nts to see Victoria Falls. In hind sight we both agreed we would have preferred to stay 2nts Kasane and only 1-2nts at the falls, anything more is unnecessary.
    Conculsions to come...
    Last edited by mandiecandie5; 2009/10/06 at 09:53 PM.

  9. #9
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    good report... thanks for taking the time to write.

    I had to laugh however at the comment "a large section of this road is being recontructed by the Chinese govt, through some good-will project"... usually, these come with heavy ropes and chains attached... not just the usual strings

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