Trip Report Botswana/Caprivi Sept 2014





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  1. #1
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    Default Trip Report Botswana/Caprivi Sept 2014

    Just home from 3 wonderful, adventurous weeks in Botswana and the Caprivi Strip - a trip that was 2 years of planning and preparation. And what a trip it turned out to be.

    Huge thanks to all the forum members who gave us so many tips and especially to Tara Lee Goosen who helped us with bookings. Tara Lee, you are a star, thank you so much for your help and suggestions.

    We were newbies to the areas we went to, so this trip report will hopefully also give tips to other newbies who are planning to go. Hope it's helpful to someone.

    We (Dave and Gill) travelled with two other couples (Rupert and Des; Don and Joy). Vehicles used - Toyota Fortuner 4.0l petrol with ground tent and long range tank + 1 extra jerry can; Ford Everest 3.0 diesel with ground tent and 3 extra jerry cans; Toyota Hilux D/cab 3.0 diesel with long range tanks.

    Itinerary was as follows:
    Departure date: 13th September 2014
    Pietermaritzburg – Vaalwater (stayed overnight in a private lodge)
    Vaalwater – Nata Lodge
    Nata Lodge – Nxai Pan South (2 nights)
    Nxai Pan South – Kasane (overnight at Old House B&B)
    Kasane – Nambwa Camp, Caprivi (2 nights)
    Nambwa Camp – Ngepi Camp (2 nights)
    Ngepi Camp – Audi Camp, Maun (1 night)
    Maun – Xakanaxa, Moremi (2 nights)
    Xakanaxa – Khwai North Gate camp (2 nights)
    Khwai North Gate Camp – Savuti, Chobe (2 nights)
    Savuti – Ihaha Camp, (3 nights)
    Ihaha – Nata Lodge 1 night
    Nata – Vaalwater 1 night
    Vaalwater – Pietermaritzburg
    Return date: 4th October 2014


    Each vehicle also carried at least 40l water tank.



    Day One: We left Pietermaritzburg at 6.30 and met the others at the Harrismith Wimpy for breakfast at 8.45. Great anticipation and excitement to be finally on the road. Set off for Vaalwater at around 10.30 and reached our overnight destination at 5.00 after detouring to OR Tambo to pick up a credit card (but that’s a long story for another time!).

    Day Two: Up early and on the road at 6.30 after coffee and rusks. Reached Groblersbrug border post at 8.30. Border post was quiet and we were through quickly. We were not asked about meat, but one border official asked Dave and I if we had bananas, apples or tomatos. The other two vehicles were not asked about anything, so it all seems rather random. We refuelled at Martin’s Drift before heading north to Palapye where we stopped to draw some Pula and get a few last minute things. The road from the border to Palapye is not in great condition with many potholes and broken edges especially for the first 20 or 30 kms, so requires driving with care.

    The monotony of the road was relieved by the beautiful bushveld in its spring clothing with Mopani scrub sporting bronzy-green new foliage and the various acacias dressed in glorious frothy cream flowers. As we neared Francistown the traffic got heavier and soon the road was incredibly busy. There are currently road works happening on the section of road south of Francistown, which didn’t make driving conditions any easier. Takes a lot of care and concentration. Our lead vehicle had 3 narrow escapes from speeding vehicles veering over onto the wrong side of the road, including one heavy duty truck.

    Just outside Tonota, the middle vehicle was pulled over by a traffic policeman who had a radar set up (or so it seemed) and told he was doing 70 in a 60 zone. When asking where he could pay the fine he was told, “You can pay us now or you can pay at any police station.” He wisely opted for the latter and was then told “You can go” without a ticket being issued. Smells of a scam to me! It will be a sad day if this kind of thing becomes the norm in Botswana. Let’s hope not. As we drove off, he was stopping a trucker.

    We finally reached Nata Lodge at around 3 and it was not long before we were enjoying the delights of a dip in the pool. Our chalets were spacious and very comfortably appointed with baths and showers and air-con and fans. Very necessary in that heat! Had dinner at the restaurant which was tasty and not too expensive, but the service was very slow. We were one of the first tables to order and almost the last to get our food in spite of asking 3 times what had happened to our order. When it finally came, it was cold. Nevertheless, overall we enjoyed our stay at Nata Lodge.

    Tips for travellers: - Get to the dinner table early if eating in the restaurant – it opens at 6.30.


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    Mon 15th September
    Left Nata Lodge at 6.30 and went in to Nata town to refuel at the Engen garage, then headed to Gweta and Planet Baobab for breakfast – delicious English breakfast served in a lovely quirky setting among tall Baobabs. Left there around 10.30 and headed for Nxai Pan National Park. Temperature was already sitting at 34C!

    Reached the Nxai Pan Park gates around 11.30, booked in and deflated our tyres for the drive to the Nxai South campsite where we were allocated site NX02. Deep sand on the road from the gate to the campsite necessitated the use of 4L, but we made it through without any mishap. Once in the park the roads are hard and in good condition and only needed 2 wheel drive.

    At this time of year Nxai Pan is a park of minimal colour – white/grey sand roads, grey-barked bushes bare of any foliage, creamy yellow grasses and a washed out blue sky due to the harsh glare of the sun. Our campsite was large with many trees and plenty of space for 3 vehicles, 2 tents and a gazebo. It was close to the newly built ablutions which were surrounded by some hectic elephant proofing. The ablutions had washing up area, and 3 solar showers, 3 basins and 2 flush toilets each for men and women. They were spotlessly clean during our stay and it was evident that the staff are very proud of them. I saw the ranger each morning with his checklist ensuring that the cleaners had done their jobs properly.

    Once the heat of the day had abated somewhat, we set off to explore but didn’t see much – a few springbok, a kudu and some birds. Most of the waterholes were dry and the grass was sparse and dry. Eventually we came to one waterhole that still had water in it and another visitor told us it was the only one in the park with water at that time. There was a huge flock of guineafowl fluttering and strutting around between copious amounts of elephant dung and in the distance a lone jackal slunk through the bush to slake his thirst. We decided to wait and see what might arrive.

    After about half an hour, two elephants arrived, dusty and tired looking and they splashed themselves with water before settling down to a long drink after which they took to the water with great enthusiasm, splashing and throwing mud and water all over their great wrinkly grey bodies. Water sparkled off their skin in the low rays of the setting sun, highlighting all the wrinkles but somehow turning them into two magical, giant, glistening beings. Then it was back to camp to get supper ready and head for bed.

    Tues 16th September
    We woke to the sound of birds around 5.15 – it was still dark – and got the kettle on for early morning coffee and rusks. Within a few minutes we heard the distant roar of a lion – a thrilling harbinger of what would be an exciting day. Coffee and rusks done, two of the ladies headed for the ablutions and a few minutes later we heard more roaring – louder and very obviously headed towards us. Not knowing how far off they were, Rupert hurried to the ablutions to rescue the ladies and get them safely back to camp, and we were just packing cameras and binoculars into the cars when Dave spotted a lioness on the road about 150m from us and coming our way. We jumped into the cars and headed for the road to discover she was being followed by two gorgeous big males – one with a tawny golden mane and the other a magnificent fellow with a bushy black mane.

    They continued to walk along the road, then in the grass parallel to the road, stopping every now and then to lie down and rest. We followed them for a couple of hours until eventually they headed away from the road and off into the bush. It was a thrilling start to the day.

    Around 7.30 we decided to head to the waterhole and were surprised and thrilled when we arrived to see a group of 4 lionesses with 6 cubs. They had obviously been there for a while and were just lying around while the cubs played and wrestled. After about 20 minutes they got up and headed away from the waterhole and the cars, into the bush. We decided to head back for breakfast on a different route back to camp but had gone less than a kilometre when the lionesses and cubs suddenly emerged from the bush out onto the road we were on. We parked and watched them as they walked nonchalantly passed our cars, not caring a bit about the slightly nervous occupants peering down at them, and flopped down in the shade of a roadside tree.

    On the way back to camp we again passed the lone lioness and her two suitors, now heading towards the waterhole.

    After breakfast we set off to see the Baines’ Baobabs. The road was rough going, with deep sand tracks and deep ruts in places – requiring 4L at times. We reached the Baobabs on the edge of a huge white pan at about 12.30. What magnificent trees they are, centuries old and apparently just the same as when Thomas Baines painted them 150 years ago, apart from one branch which has broken off. We took lots of photos, explored the pan perimeter and went back to camp for lunch and a rest in the heat of the day.

    At 3.30, we again headed to the waterhole and got there just as the two male elephants we had seen the day before arrived. We watched them for a while then headed for the spot where we had left the lionesses earlier in the day. They were still passed out in the shade of a tree doing nothing but sleeping. After about 20 minutes the other two vehicles went back to the waterhole but Dave and I stayed to watch the lionesses. Not long after the other vehicles had departed, one of the lionesses sat up alertly, staring in the direction of the waterhole and began to make soft grunting calls. After a few minutes, they all got up and started down the road towards the waterhole. We followed behind them, and were amused to watch the antics of the cubs as they went along the road. One little fellow found a big stick and picked it up an there was a lot of play as other tried to wrest it from him, but he was having none of that and despite his small size manage to hang on to his prize.

    As the pride neared the waterhole, we spotted a lioness coming towards them from that direction. It was the lone female from the morning and it was so touching to see the joy and affection between them as they all greeted each other like long lost friends. The two male suitors lay all the while beneath some distant trees watching but not participating. Then they all went to the waterhole to drink, and we watched until the sun began to dip below the horizon before we headed back to camp in the last light of the day, passing a large group of 9 or 10 large elephants heading towards the waterhole. What a perfect day. We had had the lions all to ourselves for most of the day with almost no other cars around, and it was such a privilege to shadow them and observe their interactions for almost the whole day. So special.

    A ranger informed us that most of the game at Nxai heads south towards Makgadigadi in the dry season as there is a river there with water in it, but in spite of the lack of game, we had a wonderful time at Nxai and felt it was worth the visit.

    Highlights: Definitely the lions, but also the spotless ablutions and camp site and the friendly an efficient staff

    Lowlights: - drunken camp neighbours (South Africans ) making a noise late into the night, the heat and dryness, the road from the main gate to South camp.

    Tips for travellers – be sure to deflate your tyres when you enter the park, bring plenty of drinking water (in the heat we went through about 5 litres each per day!), stay at least 2 nights and make the most of it.
    Last edited by Gillied; 2014/10/11 at 07:38 PM.
    “Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” -
W. C. Fields

  2. #2
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    Some more pics from day one, the male lions and lioness we saw as well as the lionesses at the pan. It was amazing to have them almost to ourselves for a whole day. There were only a couple of other cars in the park at the time. We were so spoilt.

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    “Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” -
W. C. Fields

  3. #3
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    Very nice

  4. #4
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    Hi Gillied!
    Turns out we were at planet Baobab as well on the morning of the 15th - we spent the night there but did not have breakfast. The campsites are excellent as well.

    We were at South camp and Baines Baobabs on the 11th and 12th of September, couple of days before you. Loved every minute!!

    Deon
    Last edited by deonl; 2014/10/06 at 08:26 PM.

  5. #5
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    Thanks for posting.

    Great lion shot!

    “Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same." - Ernest Hemingway

  6. #6
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    Default Kasane to Maun

    I retire next year and as only 1 vehicle Ford Ranger 3.2 4 x 4 auto will be doing a guided self drive with Bhejane ending in Kasane
    As from Hillcrest and doing a second trip from Plumtree around Zim do not want to drive home between trips so need advice on 5 days from Kasane to Plumtree
    I believe Savuti channel is flowing so would like to do this
    The 2 trips are camping and Bhejane will allow me to keep their gear between trips
    The 5 days I would be on my own i.e only 1 vehicle
    Lodges at US 500 PER PERson not a option
    Need suggestions, directions, contacts for booking campsites
    Wife and I
    I

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by richarda View Post
    I retire next year and as only 1 vehicle Ford Ranger 3.2 4 x 4 auto will be doing a guided self drive with Bhejane ending in Kasane
    As from Hillcrest and doing a second trip from Plumtree around Zim do not want to drive home between trips so need advice on 5 days from Kasane to Plumtree
    I believe Savuti channel is flowing so would like to do this
    The 2 trips are camping and Bhejane will allow me to keep their gear between trips
    The 5 days I would be on my own i.e only 1 vehicle
    Lodges at US 500 PER PERson not a option
    Need suggestions, directions, contacts for booking campsites
    Wife and I
    I
    Welcome to the forum ,contact Tara @ www.botswanafootprints.com ,she will sort out your bookings for you !!

  8. #8
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    While at Nxai Pan, we also took the opportunity to visit Baines' Baobabs. The road was rough going, with deep sand tracks and deep ruts in places – requiring 4L at times. What magnificent trees they are, centuries old and apparently just the same as when Thomas Baines painted them 150 years ago, apart from one branch which has broken off. We took lots of photos, explored the pan perimeter and went back to camp for lunch and a rest in the heat of the day.
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    Wednesday 17th September
    Woken at 5.15 by lions roaring again – the 2 males and the lone female are obviously back in the vicinity of the campsite. Made a quick cup of coffee then set to packing down tents and packing vehicles. Left camp around 6.45 for a drive to Kasane where we would overnight before heading into Namibia and the Caprivi strip. At the gate we stopped to reinflate tyres, then went to Gweta to discover they only had petrol, no diesel, so had to top up a bit from our extra jerry cans.

    Stopped again at Nata to refuel cars and jerry cans, brunch at the Wimpy and then to Kasane where we arrived around 3.00 and booked into the Old House B&B which has nice airconditioned rooms, a dipping pool to cool off in and a very pleasant restaurant/bar under thatch with a bit of a view of the Chobe river. Watched the sun set from the river bank, dinner in the restaurant and then to bed, feeling relaxed and cool for the first time in a few days.

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    Thursday 18th September.
    Went through the Ngoma Bridge border post into Namibia around 8.15. This has to be one of the prettiest border posts I have ever seen, with an amazing view down over the floodplains where we saw elephant, warthog and some ground hornbills. Stopped at Katima Mulilo to pay our road tax, refuel and buy water and cool drinks. Katima has both a Shoprite and a Pick n Pay. Then we headed to Susuwe and Nambwa Camp. Quite a few vet checkpoints along the way where they sprayed our tyres and checked our fridges and the back of our vehicles but they seemed to be looking for firewood and meat that didn’t come from a supermarket. They were happy with our packaged meat.


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    At Susuwe we signed in at the main gate and headed down the sandy access road to Nambwa campsite, a distance of 13.5 kms. This road definitely needs 4x4 due to the deep sand and many curves so it’s wise to deflate tyres and use at least 4H. The middle mannetjie is very high in places and the road quite bumpy with dongas, holes and wide ruts.

    Arrived at the camp to be told they didn’t have a record of our reservation. We had booked through SpitzkoppeReservations.com and the camp attendant told us they have lots of problems with booking agents not passing on information about reservations and that sometimes people end up paying double on their park entry fees because of this. The camp is managed by African Monarch and I would recommend doing bookings through them. In spite of the snafu with our booking, Beevan, the camp attendant allocated us a large site with plenty of trees and we set up our tents quickly in the boiling heat, then flopped down for some lunch and to wait out the heat. At 4.00 Dave and Rupert went for a game drive while the rest of us opted to stay in camp and catch up on chores – laundry, showers, prep for dinner. They returned at sunset and reported seeing many elephant, a male lion on a kill and a brief glimpse of a leopard as well as waterbuck, impala and lechwe.


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    Friday 19th September.
    Up at 5.30 and quick coffee and rusks before setting off on an early morning game drive. The valley floor is quite beautiful with tall trees and shrubs, yellow grasses, the meandering river and the green reeds on the banks. There was loads of elephant dung everywhere but we didn’t see any elephants.

    The male lion was still at the kill, which turned out to be a young elephant. We noticed a metallic glint in his mane and assume he was collared and tagged. The trees surrounding the kill were weighed down with large groups of vultures patiently waiting their turn to peck at whatever he didn’t eat, but for now he wasn’t going anywhere.

    Also saw impala, buffalo, lechwe, a small group of female kudu and later a group of 4 magnificent male kudu. Saw plenty of birds including jacanas, steppe buzzard, marabou storks, vultures, lilac breasted rollers, carmine bee-eaters and little bee eaters. We also got a brief glimpse of a honey badger having a sand bath before he scuttled off into the bushes.

    In the afternoon we drove along the river and saw a lot more game – impala, kudu, lechwe, buffalo, tssessebe, warthog, many elephants, baboons and a poor injured hippo with a massive gaping wound down the front of his face. He had obviously been in a fight with another male and sought refuge/recuperation space on land, but he didn’t look so good and we wondered if he would make it. Birds we saw included lapwings, vultures, rollers, bee eaters, starlings and a pair of steppe eagles drinking besides a pool. The weather was lovely, not too hot and a cooling breeze blowing all day. Back to camp just as the sun set, ate supper and did a bit of packing before bed.

    We really enjoyed Nambwa camp. The facilities are rustic but good (Hot showers, flush toilets, washing up area under thatch. The environment is wonderfully wild and the camp is well looked after. Some sites have lovely views onto the river.

    Highlights: The scenery and game viewing, the shady campsite
    Lowlights: Yet again a bunch of noisy South Africans singing and shrieking till late into the night, totally inconsiderate of those who were trying to enjoy the sounds of the bush. Come on guys, if you want to have a party, stay at home!

    Tips for travellers: Bring plenty of drinking water and own charcoal or firewood as there is none for sale here. Also there is no rubbish removal at the campsite so you need to carry rubbish out to the main gate when you go. Deflate tyres when you enter the park. Book through African Monarch to avoid snafus. PS: They are currently building a lodge near the campsite which will apparently be ready for business in October 2014.


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    Last edited by Gillied; 2014/10/07 at 08:14 AM.
    “Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” -
W. C. Fields

  9. #9
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    Gill, thank you, I am thoroughly enjoying your report and lovely photos. Looking forward to the rest.

    At Nambwa, the reports of the new lodge being built has been a concern.
    Firstly do the building activities impact on the campsites at all?
    How far does the building appear to have progressed and any idea of the completion date?
    Thirdly, in your opinion, will the completed lodge have much of an impact on those camping?
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Stan, if you know Nambwa you'll know that the campsite is built on a small hill above the floodplain. The lodge is being built on the same site but on the other side of the hill. They apparently had bookings for October 2014, but when we were there it didn't look as if it was far enough along to take in paying guests - just looked like a lot of poles and platforms with no roofs, so unless they were going to make it a tented type camp, I suspect they would be a bit delayed with opening. If they use a generator, it may impact the campsite with noise, but if they make it "green" it may not. However, I'm pretty sure it will probably be operational within a few months if not already.

    We loved Nambwa campsite, but this overbooking thing needs to be sorted out. The second night we were there there were a couple of folk whose bookings had apparently not been passed on to the campsite managers and they had to camp in areas not really designated as sites. It was very full that night and not as good as the previous night.
    “Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” -
W. C. Fields

  11. #11
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    Thank you!
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

    At least "Once a year go someplace you have never been before" Delai Lama.

    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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    Enjoying your report, sounds like you had a great time.

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    What a lovely trip report! And you are most welcome for the help, so happy you had a great time and a safe trip. The lions much have been amazing!

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    Saturday 20th September.

    We were up early, around 5.00 am, after a somewhat disturbed night hearing rumbling, crunching sounds and soft footfalls all around the tent. On investigating we saw the tell-tale prints of elephant. How incredible to think how quietly and carefully these great beasts had moved around the tents.

    Left camp at 7.00 and took a slow drive along the river in the direction of the main gate. Saw a large herd of ellies crossing the road from the river and then having a lovely dust bath right next to the road. At the main gate, reinflated the tyres and headed for Divundu where we refuelled before going to Ngepi for 2 nights.

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    Ngepi Camp has to be one of the most chilled places in Africa. We have stayed there once before and coming back to it was like taking a chill pill. The campsites have heavenly green grass to pitch your tent on, the atmosphere is laid back with lawns, tropical shrubs and flowers, tall shady trees,
    the swimming cage in the river and a bar which serves the best rock shandies! If you are an active type you can do a boat or mokoro ride or the bird walk or go fishing, but we just enjoyed a couple of days of swimming and chilling by the river. It was a welcome break from all the time spent in the car travelling or game viewing.

    The only downside was when putting up the tent Dave managed to get stung by a small scorpion which seemed to have hitched a ride on the tent from Nambwa. Fortunately after a few days the pain and swelling subsided with no harm done.

    Highlights: The grass campsites and the relaxed atmosphere
    Lowlights: Since our last visit the campsite looks like it needs a little extra TLC. Though things were
    neat, tidy and clean, we noticed a few rotting boards in places like the steps down to the pool and up to the loo platform.

    Tips for travellers: Ngepi has no monkey or baboon problems and it was a welcome change not having to worry about that. Also free drinking water is available behind reception so it’s a great place to fill water tanks if you need to.

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    Mon 22nd September

    Packed early and left Ngepi just before 7.00 heading for the Mohembo border post. Saw a small herd of roan antelope on the way through the Mohembo Reserve as well as some warthog and giraffe. Easy and quick crossing through the border and then south towards Sehithwa and Maun. The road to Sehithwa was in a terrible condition compared to when we drove this way two years ago, with many potholes and broken road edges and in one place there was not even enough tar down the middle of the road to put both wheel tracks on. Donkeys and goats add to the stressful driving and it was a relief to finally roll into Maun to reprovision and refuel.

    Unfortunately for us we only discovered that Maun has 2 Spars after we had bought meat and provisions at the one in the more indigenous area of town where meat selection was not that great nor the veges. Maun also now has a small Woolies food store.

    Overnighted at Audi camp in their bedded tents with shared ablutions. Very comfortable with electricity, bedding provided, bedside table and lamp and a fan. Braai outside as well as table and chairs and bins for rubbish. Drinking water stand pipes in the middle of the camp. You need to provide your own towels.

    We enjoyed the pool and the restaurant and had a lazy afternoon reading and playing games by the pool, then showered and had dinner in the restaurant.

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    Tues 23rd September

    After breakfast, headed north towards Moremi. The tar road swept quickly by and at Shorobe village we felt the grit of gravel beneath our wheels. This road is in a terrible condition from Shorobe to the Buffalo fence – very rutted and the hard surface very pitted and broken. From the Buffalo fence it is more of a sand road and more comfortable to travel on with the sand fairly shallow. Reached South Gate at 9.15, signed in and headed into the park taking the route that went through 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th bridges to Xakanaxa. Saw plenty of game along the way including impala, kudu, tssessebe, warthog, wildebeest, giraffe and elephants, also plenty of birds – martial eagle, goliath herons, marabou storks and carmine bee-eaters among others.

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    The first half of the journey the road was not too bad with only a few patches of deep sand, but as we got closer to the bridges the road became more uncomfortable with deep sand and very bumpy. We got stuck briefly when we lost momentum doing a gear change in deep sand and got the diff stranded on the middle mannetjie, but digging out a few shovels of sand soon got us on our way again.
    At 3rd Bridge we stopped at the campsite for a pit stop and then tackled the bridge. The water is pretty high at the moment and we had some anxious moments in the water on either side of the bridge, particularly on the northern side where the depth was well up over the tyres, but everyone crossed without incident and we resumed our journey, finally arriving at Xakanxa campsite at about 1.15.

    We had site XA04 with some tall trees alongside the Xakanaxa lagoon. Not much view of the lagoon due to the tall reeds, but there was a welcoming cool breeze coming off the water which continued for the duration of our stay there. In the afternoon we took a 2 hour boat trip from the boat station just down the road from the campsite. Costs are P540 per hour for the boat and if you pay in rands it is R770 per hour. The boat easily seated the 6 of us with space for at least another two. It was a fun and relaxing way to spend the afternoon after the hectic morning of travelling. After dinner went to bed with the sound of hippo grunting nearby and hyenas whooping in the distance.

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    Wed 24th September
    Beautiful pink and gold sunrise over the lagoon this morning. Discovered we had had a nightime visitor in the shape of a leopard which had been seen by other campers. His prints around our braai area were testament to his silent passing.

    Early morning game drive yielded zebra, impala, elephant, warthog, waterbuck and kudu. Spent time next to a pool where we saw an amazing variety of waterbirds – white faced ducks, jacanas, white egrets, grey heron, goliath heron, spoonbills, saddle bill storks, sacred ibis, spurwing geese and African darters. Other birds seen during our drive included Hoopoe, Red billed hoopoe, fish eagles and yellow billed stork. Also saw some crocodiles.

    Midday was about lunch and household chores (laundry etc) then around 3.30 we set off on another drive. Decided to see if we could find a route to Dead Tree Island. The water levels were quite high for this time of the year so many roads were impassable. After about an hour of driving we came to a marshy area where there was a deep pool of water except this time there was a vehicle stuck in the mud on the other side of the pool. A pair of young tourists in a hired 4x4 had foolishly decided to go through the water and got stuck at around 10.00 am. They’d managed to break their winch cable and lose their sand bags in the deep mud/water in their efforts to get out. They were lucky we came along as not many vehicles were using that route due to the impassable roads.

    Dave waded across and after about 2 hours of digging, deflating tyres (they had apparently tried “deflating” their tyres – to 2.5!!), jacking and putting down branches, he managed to drive the vehicle on to solid ground. Not having sufficient length of rope to stretch across the pool, we told them to stay put and we would get help. A kind man at the nearby lodge boat station came along and got them out.

    Back at the camp, a large elephant wandered through the campsite, quite chilled about all the campers and into the lagoon near our tent where he puddled around in the water, munching on grass and reeds and then moved further up the lagoonside and into the campsite near the ablutions where he continued to munch contentedly on trees and shrubs. Dave went up for a shower and when he came out the ellie was about 10 metres from the ablution block. He watched the elephant cautiously but it still seemed chilled, munching away, so he stepped off the concrete onto the sand to walk back to camp. He had not taken more than a couple of steps when out of the corner of his eye he saw the elephant flapping its ears, and had to beat a hasty retreat to the ablutions as it charged towards him. Fortunately he had not too far to run and got safely into the building, but then had to stay there for about an hour while the elephant hung around outside. It was a narrow escape! We think the elephant was in musth and perhaps that’s why he had a sudden change of mood after being so chilled about the campers in the campsite beforehand.

    Highlights of Xakanxa: The beautiful setting of the campsite, sunrise over the lagoon, the cool breeze, the boat ride, the clean ablutions

    Lowlights: An afternoon wasted digging silly tourists out of the mud. Some of the roads are incredibly deep sand and rutted making for bumpy travelling.

    Tips for Travellers: Get ablutions and cooking done early and watch out for visiting beasties. Exercise extreme caution in the case of water and water crossings and also elephants! Take plenty of drinking water – there is none on site. Sites have braai pits and braais. We had no problems with monkeys or baboons while we were there.

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    Last edited by Gillied; 2014/10/11 at 07:51 PM.
    “Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” -
W. C. Fields

  15. #15
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    Default Report final part

    Saturday 27th September
    Woke very early, packed and set off for Savuti around 7.30. Road wasn’t too bad up to the Mababe gate and we made good time – just one river crossing shortly after leaving Khwai – water about knee deep. At Mababe gate we were advised to take the Mababe Depression route which turned out to be not too bad – a bit bumpy in places and the last 5 kms to Savuti had quite heavy sand – had to use 4H in this section. Arrived about 11.30. We had campsite 6 with a big tree providing shade but with deep sand and definitely driving distance from the ablutions. Site has a fire pit, braai and water pipe. With the deep sand, we had some problems with wind lifting the tent pegs and had to find rocks to anchor some of them down.

    Savuti was extremely hot and dry but the channel was quite full. A lovely pair of male kudu greeted our arrival at the campsite. Went for a game drive at 3.30. Saw kudu, lots of ellies, impala and a lovely sighting of a double – banded sand grouse family with 3 little chicks. Road was fairly sandy but nothing too hectic. We ended up at Rhinovlei Pan and were rewarded with the most amazing sight of a massive herd of what must have been 2000 – 3000 buffalo spread out across the pan from one side to the other and far into the horizon. It was impossible to see where the herd ended. A truly spectacular sight and one that will not be easily forgotten.

    Sunday 28th September
    All slept well with no noises from marauding intruders though paw prints around the braai in the morning indicated a silent visitor – probably a jackal. Our fuel was running low now and we still had to travel to Kasane, so decided to take a short ride to a nearby pan and wait there to see what passed by rather than driving around too much. The pan was almost dry but we did see a group of wildebeest, then went to a spot alongside the channel and parked there for about an hour. Saw one ellie, a fish eagle and a juvenile black-chested eagle but not much else. There was a stiff breeze blowing already and by the time we got back to camp it was much worse, lifting our flysheets an pulling the tent pegs out of the sand. Tried making flapjacks for morning tea, but these turned out a little crunchy with the addition of the sand that was by now blowing around everywhere.

    Had a quick tribal counsel and decided in view of our low fuel supplies which made game viewing difficult, and the heat and strong wind, we would pack up early and head for Kasane to try and get a bed for a night there somewhere. Did a record pack and were on the road by 11.30. The first 20kms was heavy going, but then the road improved considerably to Goha gate. From Goha we got onto the red sand road which was horrendous – deep sand and very corrugated which really had us rocking and rolling in places. Fortunately there is now a tar road from Kachikau and it was a relief to reach the tar. Rolled into Kasane around 3.30 and got a bed at the Chobe Marina Lodge – what bliss after all that heat and sand.

    Kasane is a real African frontier town with market stalls cheek by jowl with modern western styles shops, plush hotels and lodges neighbouring onto modest block and iron dwellings and humans rubbing shoulders in the streets with baboons and warthogs! The many downed garden fences around the town also bear testament to the regular presence of elephant.

    Savuti highlights: Rhinovlei Pan and the huge herd of buffalo.
    Lowlights: Heat, wind, deep sand in the campsite – one of the few places we had to use 4L to take off!
    Tips for Travellers: Take plenty of fuel and drinking water, and long tent pegs in case it’s windy. Deflate tyres – roads have much deep sand. Tuck shop on site sells cool drinks, beer, biscuits, matches and candles.

    Monday 29th September
    Had a leisurely breakfast at the Marina Lodge then a bit of shopping at the Spar and refuelling and we were off to Sidudu gate where we signed in then headed along the river front towards Ihaha camp. On the way saw lots of elephant, giraffe, kudu, impala, warthog. Saw some marabou storks on the remains of a kill and a little further on a hippo lying in the mud surrounded by a large group of marabou storks who looked like a bunch of undertakers waiting for their next client to pass on. By the looks of the hippo it was a distinct possibility.

    We had campsite IH 03 at Ihaha, with 2 large trees for shade. Unfortunately there was a large group of baboons in the one tree and we had to chase them away by hooting. It was too funny seeing them descend like a great furry brown waterfall – there must have been at least 30 of them in the tree.

    The site had litter blowing everywhere – the bin had not been emptied and the baboons had obviously got their paws in so we first had to pick up all the litter, then get a spade for all the baboon poop and finally were able to set up our camp. Ihaha turned out to be the most disappointing campsite. The bathrooms were dirty – mirrors not cleaned, scum around the basins and the rubbish was not collected for 2 days in spite of our requests at the office. The rangers didn’t bother to switch on the bathroom lights until we complained on the 2nd night.

    Game viewing was spectacular, particularly on the river road west of the campsite where there were very few tour operators, but we didn’t enjoy the scrumming that went on in the eastern side of the park. Tour operator drivers are aggressive and inconsiderate and frankly I felt that many of them drove in a manner that was a danger to their clients.

    On the western route we saw amazing game – lions, at least 700 elephant on the floodplain, hundreds of zebra, baboons, huge flocks of carmine bee-eaters, water-birds, hippos, and many other antelope. It is like a paradise, but quite frankly I felt that in spite of that, I would not be in a hurry to return to Ihaha/Chobe because of the negativity of the unkempt and poorly managed campsite, the shoulder shrugging and unhelpful staff and the aggressive behaviour of the tour operators. We actually cut short our stay by one night and headed for an extra night at Nata Lodge.

    Highlights of Ihaha – the western side of the river road, seeing some puku on the Puku flats.
    Lowlights: Dirty, poorly managed campsite; aggressive tour operator vehicles.
    Tips for Travellers: Avoid this campsite if possible. If you do decide to risk it, do your early morning and late afternoon game viewing west of the campsite and avoid the scrumming with the tour operators. Drive the eastern road between 9.30 and 11.30 when they’ve taken all their clients back to Kasane for their morning appointments at the spa!


    Wednesday 1st Oct
    Easy drive from Kasane to Nata where we booked into the campsite for the night - our last night of camping! Rupert refueled at Kazangula, but they had no diesel so we had to go on to Pandamatenga where we got fuel. Road is in pretty good condition and we made good time. Got into Nata before lunch. Spent the afternoon relaxing by the pool.


    Thursday 2nd Oct
    Decided to visit Kokonje island out on the Makgadigadi Pans. Had thought about going to Kubu, but the distance was quite far for a morning trip and we also wanted to visit the Nata Bird Sanctuary.


    Took us about an hour to get to Kokonje - half on tar and half on a good dirt road, and it was very pretty when we got there. Definitely well worth the visit. We drove out onto the pan for about 800 metres and realised that though the surface looked hard and dry, underneath the surface crust was damp mud and parked for about 20 minutes, our vehicles had already sunk about 3 inches down, so we hastily returned the way we had come, avoiding our previous tracks which had wet patches in them!


    Lunch back at Nata, then around 4.00 went to the Bird Sanctuary. The pan was full of water and it was quite a sight to see in these arid conditions. Sadly there were not too many birds around - just a few pelicans, stilts, ducks and Egyptian geese. The flamingos have not returned from last season apparently. Nevertheless, it was an amazing sight and we were glad we'd gone to have a look. Also drove around a bit along the Nata River which also had water in it.


    Moved into the chalets for our last night before setting off early the next morning towards home.


    What an adventure it has been! Memories we have made that will live in our hearts forever.


    A few last pictures from Savuti, Ihaha, Kukonje island and Nata Bird Sanctuary:


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    And a couple more:
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    “Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” -
W. C. Fields

  16. #16
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    Default

    Awesome report! Thank you! Next year...deposits already paid!

  17. #17
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    Default

    Hi Gill - Really enjoyed your report and excellent photos. What a marvelous trip! You had wonderful game sightings.

    Where to next?

    I see you used ground tents - Howling Moon?? and the other looks like an Oz?

    Were you not apprehensive about sleeping in these as opposed to RTT's?

    “Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same." - Ernest Hemingway

  18. #18
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mistral View Post
    Hi Gill - Really enjoyed your report and excellent photos. What a marvelous trip! You had wonderful game sightings.

    Where to next?

    I see you used ground tents - Howling Moon?? and the other looks like an Oz?

    Were you not apprehensive about sleeping in these as opposed to RTT's?
    Hi Paul,
    Yes we had a Howling moon Diablo quick up tent and another couple had an Oztent. 3rd couple used a RTT.

    We didn't feel unsafe in the ground tents though we were quite apprehensive before we went. However we stuck to sensible rules - no food in tents, no fruit or sweet smelling lotions etc, always tried to park in a semi laager arrangement and used trees and vehicles either side of the tents where possible. Also made sure we didn't leave anything like braai grids lying around at night - washed up everything or put in the car to be washed in the morning. Also made sure our tent was securely closed at night - never slept with just the mosquito barrier closed - always closed the canvas. We had leopard, hyena and elephant around the tents in various camps but no problems. The worst problems were baboons, but we let down window flaps and cable tied the zips when we went out and that seemed to do the trick.

    At Nambwa, where we had elephant in the camp, a couple in a RTT next to us freaked out because the elephant bumped their tent/vehicle during the night. Plus have you ever seen a lion climb a tree to get to a leopard? It's a matter of perception I think. Each tent has pros and cons and it depends on what suits you personally. I'm not keen on climbing up and down a ladder and prefer to have space for an "en-suite" in case of midnight bladder calls if you know what I mean which is why we went for the ground tent. With a RTT, there's also the issue of having to put the tent away every morning and erect it every evening and the need for a gazebo or awning if you need midday shade. It's not a great big problem, but needs to be considered.
    “Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” -
W. C. Fields

  19. #19
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    Many thanks Gill for the good info! I shall pass on to Swambo who is convinced the safest way to camp is in a brick chalet with bolted door!

    Ellies bumping into vehicles/tents at night adds a new exciting dimension to camping.

    “Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same." - Ernest Hemingway

  20. #20
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    I have seen lions climbing trees in Kruger. It was most interesting!

    “Africa changes you forever, like nowhere on earth. Once you have been there, you will never be the same." - Ernest Hemingway

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