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  1. #1
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    Default Kgalagadi Trip Report (July 2008) ex Cape Town

    We wanted to get away as a family and decided on going back to the Kgalagadi. We are six people (4 kids, 2 of which are teenagers!) and we travel in a 2004 Defender, modified with an extra row of seats instead of the benches, and a Challenger trailer I dont like to pack the roof due to loss of aerodynamics and stability. The Defender is relatively unmodified, bar radio and dual battery. We departed Cape Town at 4h00 on Friday morning and headed north via Vanrynsdorp, but then heading north at Niewoudtsville to Louriesfontein onto the scenic dust road to Brandvlei. At Kenhardt we again parted with the monotony of tar, taking the shortcut to Kakamas. This is a particularly nice stretch, highly recommended. The first night we stayed at Augrabies. This time of year the falls are quite tame, but the 56m drop is awesome none-the-less. Augrabies has a well maintained campsite, with good ablution facilities.

    We departed early for Twee Rivieren, where we had lunch and then embarked on the border formalities for Botswana. First you check out of SA at Twee Rivieren main reception (even tough we only crossed into Botswana 4 days later). Very important, dont forget your car and trailer registration papers. This is an SA requirement, not Botswana. We forgot ours and it took some smooth talking to convince the border official to process our exit. Then off to the Botswana side (Two Rivers), where formalities are wrapped up very efficiently. Here you also pay your park fees, which came to P85 (R120) per night for 2 adults and 4 children in Mabua. Camping fees are paid at time of reservation, and this came to P120 per night (also for the whole family), so camping in Mabua is very cheap, basically the same as SA Parks. They take Rand or Pula (the exchange rate is somewhat skewed, but the sums involved are not staggering). Dont forget to fill up at TR (main tank plus cans we had 2 x 20 liters), but you should also fill up at Upington, as fuel frequently runs dry at Twee Riviern and Nossob. The drive to Nossob is 167km, and you should bargain on at least 3 hours. I must say, the corrugation seems a lot better these days maybe its because they now advise you to drop to 1.6 bar. We decided to go for 1.2 on front,1.8 on the back (due to the heavy trailer) and 1.2 on the trailer.

    Nossob was busy it seems to have become a bit of a transit camp to all the other accommodation options available, with most parties only staying 1 night. We had 4 nights there and camped on the fence, which means no power, so if you want to be that bit closer to nature, you need to be self sufficient in that regard. The shop is basic, to put it mildly. They usually have the basics, but not bread which was only available on one day out of our four. They have all the booze you need. The staff are very accommodating. We had a burglary the day before we left (wallets, phones, computers etc.), so I had no petrol card, and Twee Rivieren had no cash in its ATM. The staff at Nossob organized for money to be drawn at TR (and you dont feel at all concerned sharing your PIN with the staff!). The water at Nossob is disgusting, so invest in bottled water, which is readily available. Hot water in the showers is a bit of a gamble I wonder why National Parks hasnt installed solar geysers yet?). The power goes out at 23h00 and comes on again at 05h00, which is annoying, because waking up the purr of a generator detracts from the African bush experience. The game was pretty scarce, and whilst you hear lions every night (this is mating season), we only saw 2 males and one female once. Cheetah on the other hand was plenty, and we were rewarded with a springbok chase, with the latter getting within 5 meters of his last day! In the 4 days we also saw brown hyena, bat-eared fox and wild cat. The jackal problem at Nossob is also much better there is a big effort going into this (gate is always closed, fences are mended daily and nocturnal trapping gets rid of the remainder). Birding in the Nossob area remains a big attraction. BTW, there was a strong wind blowing almost every day, which fortunately drops off completely when the sun sets. This was also the case in Mabua, so perhaps its seasonal? The temperatures were very low. In the mornings it went below zero every night. We slept in T-shirts, tracksuits, socks, gloves and beanie in a sleeping bag, with an extra blanket on top and still got cold. Hint: Outdoor Warehouse sells an electric seat warmer (R100) that plugs into the cigarette lighter. If you have a portable dual battery, this works well. Taking a mains electric blancket wont work as the electricity goes off at 23h00. Rather use a hot water bottle. Stay away from air mattresses as the air does not insulate against cold.

    Early on day 6 we broke camp and left for Mabua at 8h30 (tank and cans full). The access road turnoff is located 3km north of Nossob. The first stretch to Matopi is sandy and hilly, but even with my heavy rig I never went lower that 2nd high. We decided to get to Mabua in one go, but most people recommend breaking the journey at Matopi (approx. 95km from Nossob). This stretch is amazing, totally unspoilt. Game is sparse, but we did encounter honey badger and a large heard of Eland (100+). There is also Gemsbok and Hartebees. But the scenery is what makes this drive memorable. The remaining 75km to Mabua (Bosobogolo pan) is tough because you are now gatvol of driving and the corrugation is quite bad. Unless you are staying at this first pan, it is at least another 20km to the next pan/s. There is no entrance gate when you come from Nossob, and it is not necessary to check in at the Mabua entrance gate. Just make sure you get a decent map of the area. We stayed at Mabuasehube pan. If you make the trip from Nossob in one day, there is no time for stuffing around get to your pan asap and set up tent, otherwise you may be caught with your pants around your ankles Mabua is known for its inquisitive lions that start disturbing the peace after nightfall. In our 3 nights we never had lions in our camp, so I am not sure if the lions are such a big issue, but there are plenty of people that have had the experience.

    Mabua pan is breathtaking, particularly at sunrise and sunset, when the colors defy words. The reserve has 6 pans, each separated by about 10km of fairly dense bush. The game viewing is largely around the pans - each pan has a road around it. The pans are quite small, a couple of km in diameter. There is always some game activity (Gemsbok, Springbok, Hartbees, and sometimes Kudu). We saw a single male lion on Mpaathutlwa pan and 3 bachelor cheetah on Khiding pan, both sightings in the morning. Monamodi pan is probably the most open, but apparently (according to the ranger), Mpaathutlwa (only 2 camp sites) has the best chance of predators. Bat-eared foxes are very abundant on all the pans. Most pans have 2 camp sites, but Mabua has 4. Site 1 has no ablution facilities, sites 2 and 3 share one, and site 4 has its own. Most camp sites are far apart, so privacy is assured. Ablution facilities consist of a long drop, a cold shower and dish washing area. The water is not suited for drinking. The rangers came around once to check permits. The staff is very helpful and professional. The roads are sandy, but not hectic. Corrugation is a problem on some of the roads linking the pans. The entrance gate has camps as well (no pan), but there is no shop at Mabua, so you must be totally self sufficient. There is no fuel either.

    We left reluctantly after 3 days. The thing that distinguishes Mabua from Nossob is the remoteness. There are probably only 15 camp sites in Mabua, so you basically never see another soul. And no fences mean you are that much closer to the wild. The game may appear to be less than Nossob, but I dont think that is the case. At Nossob one tends to scavenge game spots sighted by other, which is not an option at Mabua you are on your own. We left at 10h00 on day 9, feeling that we could easily have done another week at Mabua (and vowing to skip Nossob next time!). It will take you about an hour to te entrance gate from most pans, and the check-out is quick. The first 35 km to Tsebong are relatively good triple track, where you can do about 50km/h. Then there is a junction where the main road takes a right turn stay left. The next 20km are bad, resembling a sandy 4x4 trail. Bank on no more than 30km/h. They are busy repairing this stretch, but we did not see any evidence of activity. The remaining 55km are excellent sand highway where you can easily do 80km/h. By now your fuel reserves will be low, and there is usually fuel at Tsebong (which is also cheaper than SA), but I was out of luck no Diesel, and apparently this happens quite often. So you need to plan for another 125km to Black Rock in SA. Tsebong is a mid-size town where you can buy most necessities, and there are ATMs so you dont resally need to take Pula. From Tsebong to McCarthys Rest is 25km on tar. The border facilities are smooth the Botswana side didnt even want to see my wife and kids. I arrived at Black Rock on mere Diesel fumes! Unfortunately life stops on a Saturday afternoon petrol stations are closed! Same story at Hotazel, a further 20km down the track. So we had to flag down people to beg 10 liters to get us to Kuruman or Kathu. This took 2 hours! By the way, forget about trying to get Diesel off a truck driver these guys fear their bosses and simply do not budge.

    On the way south you simply have to pop in at Kathu the Sishen miners have created a bit of an oasis paradise for themselves. Cricket pitch, classy golf course etc. At this point the sun was setting, so a good bet is to head for Upington (200km down the road) for some decent overnight accommodation. You will need it, because you probably didnt shower in the sub-zero water at Mabua! Hint: take wet wipes

    If anybody wants to have more info feel free to PM me and I will try to answer questions and send you some pics. Enjoy!
    Thomas Meisinger
    Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD6
    Bushlapa

  2. #2
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    Default

    Very nice trip report Thomas, looks like you had quite an adventure .. How about some photos ?
    Ford 2.5 2005 4x4 SCab

  3. #3
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    Thumbs up

    Welcome backThomas. Great TR. Did you use a GPS? Will visit you some time to see the photo's.
    2006 Nissan Pathfinder 2.5 CDI A. Skid plate, rear airbags, Hannibal roofrack.
    GX300 radio. 276C. Waeco 500W inverter.
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  4. #4
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    Default Kathu

    Great report. Informative and it gets me salivating.

    True what you say about Kathu on your way back. It has gotten so bad that my wife wants to move to Kathu. But I don't want everything we own to turn red.
    Jacques Greyling
    All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing
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  5. #5
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    Default GPS & pictures

    I don't have a GPS, but I have a compass . They sell a map at Twee Rivieren (R10) that has all the main roads for the whole Kgalagadi. One thing I forgot to mention is that there is no cell phone reception at Nossob or Mabua, in fact it only kicks in at McCarthy's Rest (briefly) and only full time near Black Rock (unless you have international roaming activated). Tshabong has a lot of coverage. Will try to post some pics tonight.
    Thomas Meisinger
    Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD6
    Bushlapa

  6. #6
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    Default

    I put 7 pictures on my gallery.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Thomas Meisinger
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  7. #7
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    Stunning , this is stuff that dreams are made off...
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  8. #8
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    Default Mabuasehube

    Very interesting report.
    I have just returned from Nossob and the family is talking of a trip to Maun , via Mabua and Nossob in July next year.
    We have in mind three vehicles :
    Defender 90 TD5 , Defender 110 Tdi and Kia Sorrento.
    The group will include 2 young children.

    Questions :
    The Kia is a very useful vehicle - but will it battle with ground clearance in the sand ?
    What are the implications of a major breakdown , in terms in particular of the kids ? How often do you see other travellers on this route ?

    Thanks
    Dave

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    Default

    BigU, good trip report! Will do same in Sept.
    Dave, dont take the Kia there. Search and you might find a report about Kias in trouble and I think one being towed home with a ton of sand sucked through the bellhouse casing into the whatchamacallit.
    Expensive trip that was.

  10. #10
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    Default

    I think the Kia could be OK up to Nossob, but the first 50km from Nossob to Mabua have quite deep sand. The other problem will be on the road between Mabua and Tshabong, where I scraped once on a middelmannetjie. It will also be very difficult to change lanes for low clearance vehicles on this stretch and if you pick the wrong lane you battle, so changes are almost unavoidable. BTW, the left lane (coming from Mabua to Tshabong) is the better option for the 25km starting after 35km of leaving Mabua, i.e. the worst section. The clearance issue is made worse by the fact that you need to let your tires down in soft sand.

    Regarding implications of a breakdown, here are some suggestions:

    There is very little traffic between Nossob and Mabua. We were there during July school holidays, i.e. peak visitor time, and we did not encounter a single car coming from the Mabua side. That is probably because most people travel West to East on the access road and return to Nossob via the 4x4 trail (the 4x4 trail cannot be done West to East). I am aware of one other party that travelled behind us on the same day, so if you want to improve your chances of getting picked up, start from Nossob early.

    There is even less traffic on the road between Mabua and Tshabong. We did not see any cars and we were on that stretch for 3 hours.

    Regarding the kids, they will get bored very quickly in a breakdown situation, so maybe keep some entertainment in the car we always keep one or two board games in the car. Generally it is safe to run around the car during daytime hours, but I get nervous when they stray more than 20 meters from the car, even in the open bush. Personally, my youngest is 11 and I only now decided to do Botswana, i.e. it is quite challenging with younger kids, because they need to release their energy by running around, and when there are no fences the parents tend to not relax.

    Probably a good idea to always keep some blankets and jackets in the car. If you break down and need to overnight in winter you will need protection.

    The main roads within Mabua are frequented daily I would say, so you just need to always carry water in your car on every game drive.

    You could take a satellite phone, but I have no experience of these things.

    You could also take spares. I think some dealers will seal basic spares in a bag, and if you return them unopened you get a refund. Not sure if Land Rover does this?

    All the best.
    Thomas Meisinger
    Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD6
    Bushlapa

  11. #11
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    Default Trailer to Mabue

    Quote Originally Posted by The Big Unit View Post
    I put 7 pictures on my gallery.
    Hi Big U
    I see from the pics that you towed a trailer to Mabue ?
    How did that go ?
    Are your trailer wheels interchangeable with the Landy wheels ?
    If so , how did you modify , or was the trailer bought with compatible wheels ?

    Thanks for your feedback
    Dave

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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by The Big Unit View Post
    You could also take spares. I think some dealers will seal basic spares in a bag, and if you return them unopened you get a refund. Not sure if Land Rover does this?

    All the best.
    If you are in the Cape Town area, speak to the people at LRSales. They do this.
    camelman
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by pretdave View Post
    Hi Big U
    I see from the pics that you towed a trailer to Mabue ?
    How did that go ?
    Are your trailer wheels interchangeable with the Landy wheels ?
    If so , how did you modify , or was the trailer bought with compatible wheels ?
    Yes we took the trailer and it was easy. Never went lower than second high, plus my rig is not light (with 6 people in the car).

    Yes, wheels are interchangeable. I specified it like that at the time of purchase. But beware, you need to make sure that the offset on the trailer rim is the same as on the vehicle, otherwise the trailer wheel will stick out (or in) when mounetd on the vehicle. I think the rim most trailer manufacturers use has a centre offset, but the Landi mags are 3.5cm off centre. The best would be to purchase 3 vehicle rims and supply them to the manufacturer, or whovere will do your mod.

    Regards
    Thomas Meisinger
    Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD6
    Bushlapa

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    Thomas,

    Great report and info thanks. A group of us are off to Mabua in April next year, staying at Mabua Pan 1. I know there are no ablutions - do we go up to the ablutions used by 2 & 3 if we need to, or are we expected to be self-sufficient? And if you can remember, was there any decent shade at the campsite (not counting the a-frame).

    Thanks

    Rob

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    Default

    Mabua 1 has no A-frame either. There will be no problem going to 2/3's ablutions (and in April you might even use the shower - in July I braved it once but it took 2 hours to defrost afterwards!). You will have to drive as the distance between camp 1 and 2/3 is about 1 km. From memory there is a decent tree in the camp site. No. 1 is on the western side of the pan and has a 20m "cliff"/steep slope leading down to the pan. So your sunrises will be special.
    Thomas Meisinger
    Toyota Hilux 2.8 GD6
    Bushlapa

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    Default

    have just got back from mabua1 campsite, will post a trip report as soon as i get round to it. not too much shade but stunning views
    i only work to support my hobbies!!! 2006 mazda d/c sac intercooled, optimised, 31' bfg's

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    Default Kgalagadi - September 08

    Damdan

    We will be in Kgalagadi 8 - 17 September 08. Booked at Nossob and Mata-Mata, although after reading the above Trip Report, I will try and change Mata-Mata booking for Botswana side

    When is your trip booked?

    Regards
    Louis

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