• Central kalahari game reserve:April 2011:trip report.

    Stan Weakley.
    In writing this report I ask everyone to bear in mind that this was my first visit to CKGR and that as a novice to this area I had a lot to learn. I am learning and sharing things that experts have already forgotten. I always do extensive research on an area before visiting it and if this helps to lessen the learning curve for others, well and good. I have been utilizing and benefiting from the extensive experience of members of this forum for some time now. After all the help I have received, I regard writing a report as fulfilling an obligation, repaying a debt. I urge those that milk the forum and members for information before embarking on a trip, to give some feedback, no matter how brief. If you have some knowledge on a topic never hesitate to add your two cents worth.
    The detail contained in this report may not be every member’s cup of tea but will hopefully assist novices in planning a similar trip. Those that are veterans of the CKGR will find some discrepancies in this report, so please feel free to comment and correct where required. I have not hesitated to express my personal opinions.
    To novices to this reserve, like we were, do not hesitate to visit CKGR. It is a great experience provided you are well prepared and suitably equipped. Any fool can go blundering into the bush with a destructive influence on his surroundings and fellow travelers. This is happening far too often and unfortunately South Africans are often implicated!

    Stan and Anne Weakley travelling alone.
    Vehicle: 2009 Toyota Land cruiser 76 series Station Wagon.
    Ground tent
    120 liters of water- too little and if it was not for rain water we would have showered very little.
    220 liters of diesel - had about 90 liters to spare on exiting the park. Did not skimp on game drives.
    BF Goodrich All terrain tires. 2 spares. Deflated to 1,8 front, 2,0 back.
    Full recovery kit including: Winch and extension strap, Hi-level jack, Kinetic snatch strap, Compressor, Spade, Shackles etc.
    Meat and dairy products bought at Riverside Center (Riverwalk shopping center) , Gaberone. This large shopping center lies at the entrance to Gabs, on the road from the Kopfontein/ Tlokweng border post. You can’t miss it on your left just after you cross the new bridge. Woolworths Food Hall as well as Pick n’ Pay used. Large Spar in same complex. We were under the impression that because of the Foot and Mouth outbreak in KZN a couple of months ago, there would be searches for and confiscation of red meat and dairy products at the border and at the Foot and Mouth gates on the way up to CKGR. We were neither asked if we had meat, or searched anywhere. When we asked other travellers, their experience was the same at other border posts.
    The problem was we were travelling through Gabs on a Sunday and would not be able to buy from a good butcher. The fillet, boerewors and sirloin steak were fine but the rump was very tough. Mutton in the form of chops and neck (for stew) were below our usual standard. Dairy products were a lot more expensive than in SA, probably because of the Foot and Mouth. I accept that supporting the local economy is the right thing to do BUT I certainly missed my local butcher’s specially aged, marinated and vacuum-packed meat. The other advantage is that buying at home enables you to load the Engel with meat pre-frozen rock-hard, taking a load off your hard working deep cycle auxiliary battery.
    I have a sliding drawer system and could easily carry the 2 weeks supplies.
    Roofrack: I try very hard to carry as little as possible on the rack for safety reasons. On the roof we carried 2 ammo boxes with spares and repair materials, 2 jerry cans of diesel, 2 gas cylinders, wood and our garbage. The wood we bought at Khama Rhino Sanctuary as advised on the forum. Excellent dry Mopani at Pula 17 per bag. Each bag big enough for a braai for 2. Many people seem to collect wood on their game drives. Apparently this is legal, but I think it is an ecologically unsound practice in an arid area not exactly overflowing with trees. The sad thing is that the park is extremely poorly policed, we never saw one official in the park and people seem to do exactly as they please. Let your conscience be your guide!!!!
    Bookings: This was a bit of a saga. Now that some of the camps are privatized I have found it a bit of a pain marrying the various bookings with the different agents and decided to outsource this to Jambo safaris, based in Somerset West, as recommended previously by others on this forum. I had researched the trip carefully and had decided exactly which campsites I wanted. I did my bookings 11 months beforehand to ensure I obtained what I wanted. Unfortunately we originally booked for 8 people and 3 vehicles but had to sacrifice considerable deposits when others were unable to make it. Our cost for 2 people and 1 vehicle for 6 days in Bigfoot camps and 5 days in DWNP (parks board) camps was R 11,000 all inclusive. It later transpired that Jambo had subcontracted the bookings entirely to Bigfoot, with further commission implications. I think that I would prefer to do my own bookings again in the future. I found it a huge coincidence that the sacrificed deposits EXACTLY covered our outstanding fees for entrance and vehicle charges. I was not able to obtain a detailed invoice from Jambo.
    The other thing I discovered is that there has been a very recent change in the payment procedures. DWNP at CKGR has now reverted back to their old system of allowing payment of entrance and vehicle fees at the entrance gate. One no longer has to pay these at the nearest regional DWNP office. These entrance and vehicle fees can now also be paid in advance with the camping fees. I tried my best to confirm the veracity of the above at Matswere gate and all the staff were unanimous that this was now the case. I am uncertain if this applies to all the reserves or only CKGR. I will be interested to see if others can independently confirm this.
    Malaria Prophalaxis: We decided to take this in the form of Malanil. Many would not take for CKGR, but I was concerned as we would be there in the rainy season and all our northern neighbors have had exceptional rains for the last few years.
    Travelling Alone: Many have advised against this in CKGR but I figured that there would be lots of people in the park over Easter and the public holiday period and so it proved. I had no real choice and was as careful as reasonable. I do not have a satellite phone but we are fully equipped to be totally self-sufficient for a number of days should we be stuck in an isolated area. I think one is safe if stuck on one of the main routes, but some of the game drives take one onto seldom-driven roads. With the number of Lions around it is probably quite hazardous to wander around on foot. It is probably sensible to travel with at least one other vehicle. The sandy areas of the park are safe even through deep pools of water, as the water compacts the sand. Around the pans and on the road to Matswere it is a different story. Here one finds “black cotton-soil”. A tenacious , slippery form of mud, which if deep enough will bog down any vehicle. Fortunately when dry it is rock hard but very bumpy from the ruts. Deception and Piper pans are particularly badly affected in parts. Even if the mud is not very deep it is very slippery and one needs to drive slowly to prevent uncontrolled skidding and fish-tailing.
    The Tracks 4 Africa GPS application works superbly here and their predictions of time taken to cover a route are pretty accurate, although their time for a route is often slightly longer than we took; probably better that they overestimate.
    Weather: The last 2 weeks in April are supposed to be near the end of the rainy season but we had lots of cloudy skies and plenty of rain, but fortunately only 2 real downpours. But if you want to visit the park to see lots of animals this is the price you pay. The days were comfortably warm even if overcast, but the nights could become a little nippy needing a light sweater and a reasonably warm sleeping bag. Apparently in winter the temperature can descend below freezing. Early summer before the rains, conversely can be uncomfortably hot.
    Camera: I am technically inept with gadgets and too impatient to fiddle with a SLR camera with all the lenses. I therefore use a so-called super-zoom camera, ensuring as far as possible that I have a steady platform to take photos from. I use a Cannon SX30 IS with a 35X optical zoom. I find it simple to use and it fulfills my purpose just fine. I have a small 100W inverter connected up in my vehicle to charge my camera, laptop and other batteries.

    Deception 1, 2, 3 and 4-----CKDEC 1, 2, 3 or 4
    K(g)ori 1,2,3 or 4----CKKOR1,2,3 or 4
    Leopard pan-----CKSUN1
    Sunday pan 1, 2 or 3-----CKSUN2, 3 or 4
    Tau pan----closed because of lodge
    CKTAU2 ??
    Phokoje pan-----CKTAU3
    Piper pan 1 and 2-----CKPIP1 and 2
    Passarge pan 1, 2 and 3----CKPAS1, 2 and 3
    Letiahau 1, 2?-----CKLET1, 2 ?


    16/4/2011 SAT East London to Lichtenburg 942km 11hr 30min
    17/4 SUN Lichtenburgto Khama Rhino Sanc. 612km 7hr 50
    18 MON Khama to CKSUN2 424km 9hr
    19 TUES CKSUN2
    20 WEDS CKSUN2
    21 THURS CKSUN2 to CKTAU3 171km 7hr 30
    22 FRI CKTAU3
    23/4/2011 SAT CKTAU3 to CKPIP1 57km 1hr 5min
    24 SUN CKPIP1
    25 MON CKPIP1
    26 TUES CKPIP1 to CKKOR3 95km 4hr
    27 WEDS CKKOR3
    27 FRI CKKOR3 to Lichtenburg 946km 14hr30
    28/4/2011 SAT Lichtenburg to East London 949km 12hr

    # Lichtenburg thru Tlokweng border----2hr 15min
    #Tlokweng to Khama----5hr (plus 1 hr shopping at Riverside Mall Gabs)
    #Khama to Letlhakane----2hr 166km (including refueling)
    #Letlhakane to Rakops----1hr40min 150km
    #Turnoff to CKGR----8km from Rakops fuel station (well sign-posted)
    #Turnoff to Matswere gate----42km 1hr 20min
    #Matswere gate to CKSUN2----58km 3hr 50min (including more than 1hr stuck and also drive around Deception Pan)
    #CKKOR3 to Rakops-----3hr

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    This article was originally published in forum thread: Central kalahari game reserve:April 2011:trip report. started by Stan Weakley View original post