April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi





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    Post April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    As the climax to two years away from our home, mostly travelling but also working a little, we (myself, John, and my wife, Nancy) decided to finish off our travels in Botswana. We’re reasonably regular visitors, and will be running 3 or 4 tours there in 2017, so this was a mix of guaranteed pleasure with research.





    Having tried a number of 4x4 hire companies in the past, we ended up this time with a 2.5L double cab Hilux from Ivory, who seem to have a growing reputation. We didn’t take an RTT, and wanted a second spare wheel for the CKGR. They don’t use a drawer system for storage, so everything started out a bit messy but we soon got organised. The vehicle was good to drive and had excellent suspension, though we had a few problems along the way – more of which later.

    After a fairly long flight from London via Frankfurt, we arrived in JHB early morning and were on the road 2 hours later after an efficient handover. I’d booked a night at Stevensford, just over the Martin’s Drift border, but as it was Easter Monday we chose to cross at Stockpoort based on advice from the forum to avoid the ZCC at Martin’s Drift. There was only a short queue at the border, and no vehicle check, so we were quickly into Botswana. We had ongoing problems with the GPS – an old version of T4A – but remembered the way to Sherwood and were soon settled in a large campsite on the Limpopo.



    Good facilities and a pleasant view, though there is a campsite just down the river on the SA side so it is not as isolated as I imagined. There’s a bit of game around and some nice birding though, as we came to realise, it was just a little late for all the summer visitors. Not sure I’d bother with the extra 40 km round trip from the main road again, but I’ve not stayed at KwaNokeng so can’t compare.

    Next morning we took the route avoiding Palapye and made good speed up to Francistown, where the roadworks delayed us for about 20 minutes. We intended to stock up with food there, but ended up at the wrong Spar – the SuperSpar – and couldn’t face the drive across town, so didn’t get the choice we wanted. After a brief stop at Choppies (I think) on the Nata road, and a refuel, we were soon on our way north. Not much to buy foodwise in Nata, though the booze shop was well stocked.

    You may be wondering why we drove via Francistown, but we had 4 nights to get to the Central Kalahari – the only bookings I could get – and I wanted to check out Elephant Sands as a stopover. With so much water in the surrounding bush, it wasn’t really the right season for the waterhole, but we did have one visit from an elephant who crossed through the campsite, fairly stressed. They do (currently) have the cutest hand-reared bushbaby though, who springs onto your shoulder from a tree in the restaurant patio. In general, I thought ES was fine for an overnight, though there’s a bit of traffic noise, and I’d not spend a lot of time there.



    Next morning we crossed the flooded countryside and refuelled on our way to Planet Baobab which I’d always avoided in the past. It’s much nicer than the giant pink aardvark on the road would suggest, but we were only there to pick up some keys, and to check prices for the overnight trip to the Pans and meerkat viewing, so we didn’t get the full picture. Accordingly, we also went to Gweta Lodge who are in the process of redoing their campsite. Not sure which one to choose for next year, but I think that the (considerably) lower prices for the excursions will swing it towards Gweta Lodge.

    On spec, we decided to revisit Nxai Pan for the night. With the rains, we’d been a little concerned about the roads on the pans but, as Gweta Lodge told us, everything had dried out and the zebra migration was passing through. No problem to arrange a campsite with the Xomae representative at the gate, and we headed off for number 1. The access road was in reasonable condition except for the sandy section after the Baines turnoff. A couple of guys pulling trailers got stuck in front of us, but for an unladen Hilux in relatively cool, damp sand it was all fine.



    Campsite 1 is reasonably shaded and secluded, and is maybe 100m from the ablutions. We were delighted to see a Scimitarbill roosting in the dead tree for the night, and also had a displaying Grey-backed Camaroptera entertaining us as he whizzed around the bushes, but the trail cam revealed nothing in the night.





    Having first visited in 1987, I’ve always enjoyed my time in Nxai Pan. This was no different as it’s a very manageable size, though the game was fairly dispersed. Good numbers of zebra, gemsbok and giraffe, but we failed to see the two cheetah or any of the lions in the park. Beautiful evening and morning light on the game drives. Unfortunately, we discovered that one of the two 25L water jerries (no water tank) had emptied through a hole rubbed by an errant rivet, so we needed a solution before entering the CKGR. There was also a pinging noise from the front axle, reminiscent of wind-up, which had me a little concerned.

    The next day we took the main road to Tiaan’s place at Khumaga to try for water, but they couldn’t help at all. I hadn’t realised that we could have apparently taken the short cut through Phuduhudu Gate for free as we had come from Nxai pan. We continued on to Rakops where we bought as much bottled drinking water as there was (about 13L). The general store kindly allowed us to fill up some empty bottles from the town water supply, but we relegated it to washing water it as it is a pale yellow colour and we looked as if we were carrying giant sample bottles! There was no fuel in Rakops, so we left having last filled up our 150L tanks plus 2 spare jerries in Nata.

    Our old (rented) version of T4A suggested we take a long diversion south but we ignored it and took the direct road to Matswere Gate. There were a few sandy patches on the way (the softest of the entire CKGR trip), but it only took about an hour to the gate and we arrived at 4pm. Having reservations for the following 4 nights, we had hoped to get a last minute space at Deception but it was completely booked so we spent the night at the ‘overflow’ campsite at the gate. You do unfortunately have to pay the daily entry fee as well as the DWNP camp fee, but you can leave first thing in the morning. Met a lovely couple from Limpopo, Tom and AnneMarie (Hope you got home OK, I heard you’d broken down in Mopipi), who we kept seeing around the park.

    As it was April 1st the driving hours had reduced by 30 minutes, but we still failed to leave first thing due to general faffing, and topping up the water. Fortunately, we were the still the first on the road and were delighted after 15km to meet 10 lions- 2 females and 8 cubs -coming down the road. Just turned off the engine and, after some hesitation on their part, let them wander past the vehicle, almost within touching distance.



    A fantastic start to the CKGR, and we left them in peace so others could also enjoy them. Despite being fully booked, Deception was half empty on our early arrival so we moved straight into our campsite. Pity about the used tampon hanging from the bush (we did tidy it up!), but otherwise number 5 was a pleasant site. At the gate (as recommended on the forum – thanks Ross and Stan), we had amended our booking from 4 nights at the one site, to 2 nights followed by one at Phokoje and one at Piper’s. We chilled out during the day (difficult in the heat), and tried the circuit around Deception Pan via the track towards Kalahari Plains. With the long grass it was impossible to see anything outside the pans, but we did have a young, curious honey badger challenge us on the road. Plenty of evidence of elephants, but we should probably have just driven down the valley and back. There wasn’t much around so we headed back up to the area between Kori and Deception campsites. We were chatting to a few other vehicles, including one guide, who kindly pointed out another 6 lions right on the far side of the pan and who then rushed off to follow a group of bat-eared foxes chasing a ratel, with all of us in hot pursuit.



    Next morning we drove early up to Leopard and Sunday Pans and were rewarded at Leopard with 2 young male cheetah who had flopped down under a bush near the road. They were very nervous so we left them in peace after a few minutes. Again there was fairly fresh elephant poo around, but most of the game seemed to be concentrated in the main Deception valley so we returned there. Afternoon was spent lazily trolling the main valley and taking photos in the beautiful light.The following day we returned past Sunday Pan and headed up to the Passarge Valley. Though it is the longer way to Phokoje, I wanted to explore as much of the park as possible and we enjoyed our long, slow drive south-westwards down the grassy valley. Again, game was hard to see outside the pans, so we stopped for brunch at Passarge 2 to enjoy the view.


    Nice of DWNP to mow the middel mannetjie

    The front axle was ‘pinging’ increasingly frequently while turning corners, in 2WD as well as 4WD, so we drove as much as possible in 2WD, which wasn’t really a problem. From the Passarge Valley we took the alternately rocky and sandy track down towards Phokoje. With the recent rains it was fairly heavily vegetated and impossible to avoid scratching the sides of the vehicle, and it turned into a bit of a slog. We stopped for a break at ‘Tau 2’ campsite, and were glad it wasn’t the one we had reserved as there was no shade and little to see.

    When we arrived mid-afternoon at Tau 3 – Phokoje – it wasn’t a great deal better. Quite rocky, and a steady hum of bees, though they were more heard than seen. Nevertheless, it was a short drive to the pan for a lovely sundowner watching the game. We heard lions both beyond Phokoje Pan and back towards Tau Pan, but couldn’t locate them. I imagine that there were people at Tau Pan Lodge, but it did seem very isolated.


    Do you think they've seen something?

    We left early the next morning as we wanted time to explore Piper’s Pan. Again, we were mostly in 2WD, but there is some softer sand before you reach the pans. Once onto the easternmost pan, we were both blown away by the beauty. To my mind, it is the most attractive part of the CKGR that we visited, a great mix of colours and textures. Our great frame of mind was helped by a herd of springbok who kindly pointed out the location of 2 cheetah which were posing under a regrettably distant tree. They soon flopped down into the grass, making themselves invisible.



    While it was still relatively early we wanted to keep exploring. There were good numbers of springbok, gemsbok and wildebeest and plenty of birdlife to keep us entertained and then, just round from the waterhole, a head was silhouetted against the pan. Six very, very replete lions who clearly weren’t moving anywhere. They did occasionally perk up when an antelope appeared, but soon collapsed again with the effort.

    Having settled into Piper 1, we explored all of the pans in the afternoon. Unfortunately, neither the wild dogs nor the leopard that had been seen a few days earlier made an appearance but it was still gorgeous. There are a few huge quelea nesting sites which make an incredible racket – I thought at first it was some horrible squealing from the truck.



    The sky was clear that evening when we went to bed, but it soon started raining, and didn’t seem to stop for hours. I was getting increasingly concerned as there was no-one else around, we had a vehicle with dodgy 4WD, and there is a lot of slippery, muddy pan to traverse. We started as soon as it was light, still raining intermittently, keeping to the sandiest tracks we could find. You could see where people had been up to their axles, so we pushed on.

    Fortunately, the rain seemed to be fairly localised, and not as heavy as it had felt inside the tent, and once we were past Letiahau it was largely inconsequential. After Piper, the best game was in Deception Valley so we took it a lot easier once we were there. We were still due to exit the park at 11, so couldn’t dawdle and made it right on time, 5 hours after leaving Piper’s. This is an area we’ll definitely come back to (this was only our 2nd visit), and maybe go out to Ghanzi through Xade.

    From Matswere gate, we took the cutline direct to Makalamabedi, a saving of around 75kms. A very large lion had clearly passed by recently, but as it was a fast track (up to 80kph) we didn’t do much game viewing. You can apparently take a cutline inside the fence from Kuke Corner, but we missed this and continued along the eastern side. The track was chewed up by cattle near the end, but it was definitely worth the short cut.
    We soon arrived in Maun, about 20L remaining in the main tank, having done 1200km Nata-Nxai-Rakops-CKGR-Maun with about 130L of fuel. Overall we used 25L of water in the 4 days, but this was being very careful and only taking sponge baths.

    As the vehicle was sounding bad, we took it straight to Mac’s garage. Mac immediately diagnosed that the CV joint had gone, but couldn’t get a spare until the following day. So as not to be too far out of town, we took the vehicle up to the campsite at Sedia Hotel. Lovely staff, with good security and great burgers, but a little run down. Overland vehicles use a separate part of the campsite, and the only noise we heard was the local dogs and donkeys. As throughout the trip, mosquitoes were more of an irritation than I ever remember for this part of Botswana.

    Our enforced 2 day stopover allowed us to chill and enjoy the great food at Hilary’s café, the internet at the Wax Apple, and the foodie treats at Woolworth’s. We also met up with Tara and Mendy at Botswana Footprints, who had made all of our campsite and park reservations. As Nancy and I had discussed, we wanted to check out the options for a couple of days in a lodge. I had imagined that we would have to wait until a week or so beforehand, but Tara managed to get us a great deal (about70% off, though still very pricy) at Kwara, about 3 weeks in advance. Keep reading if you’re interested in this…..



    After 2 days and an easy start we hit the tarmac towards Tsodilo, having remembered to reinflate the tyres. No problems on the road, though we did see a Namibian tourist who had been caught in a speed trap. The police are so ubiquitous we always stick to the limits. To our delight, there’s a new three-wide, freshly graded access road to Tsodilo from the main road. I’m sure it will soon deteriorate, but it took us only half an hour. The campsite is being refurbished, so we camped by the museum.

    It’s not the cheapest place to visit, but it is a World Heritage site and the (compulsorily) guided walk (BWP120 for up to 6) was very interesting. A beautiful area with probably the best San rock art I’ve seen, and well worth the stopover.

    Into Namibia the next morning, paying the road taxes in rand, and into the confusing game reserve that is Bwabwata. I’ll keep this bit in the Botswana forum as it seems so relevant to the north of that country…… Having decided to concentrate on the eastern Caprivi (Zambezi!), we drove directly to Kongola seeing a few sable on the way, including a recently dead one which had been hit by a (now) crashed Mercedes.



    I wanted to investigate the camps along the Kwando river, but didn’t get further than Mavunje. Dan, the owner, lived in the campsites as he was building them, and they’re fantastically laid out. Shower, toilet, sink, kitchen, dining room and lapa with tons of space, overlooking a hippo pool. The river was very low, and the reeds high, so we saw only lechwe and hippos (and my first black cuckoo shrike), but I imagine there is a lot to see in the dry season.

    We took a morning game drive into Mudumu, all for the princely sum of $N90 (“yes, you can camp here as well, no extra charge”!?). Didn’t see much game, more on the main road in fact, but you can see the potential and I know others have had great experiences here. Dan took us out on the boat in the afternoon; unfortunately he’s had to move it due to the low water, but it’s still reachable on foot. Very enjoyable, and hopefully to be repeated next year.


    Jackalberry outlook

    Dan also mentioned that his friends at the lodge at Nkasa Lupala had opened a private camp, Jackalberry, right at the southern end of the park (used to be Mamili), so we decided to investigate that as well. It’s down on the Linyanti and comprises 4 tented rooms and a 3-storey kitchen/lounge/deck area, and I hope we can afford it for next year – for 8 people it’s currently on a par with international camping fees in Botswana! Access was no problem with the permanent bridges in the park, and there is some lovely scenery. Being the wrong season, it was only a flying visit, but we will definitely be back.

    As we hadn’t been to the Caprivi for over 20 years, this was very much the research part of our trip. We checked out the supermarket in Katima Mulilo (seems to be more choice in Kasane), had a look at Sandbug’s houseboats (probably not for next year), realised we still couldn’t get to Kalizo with the high water, and ended up at Camp Chobe next to the Ngoma border.

    The light is perfect in the afternoon, shining on the Chobe shoreline, and I am sure that cruises here are great. Unfortunately the food wasn’t so great, but we enjoyed our stay here with friendly, helpful staff and a beautifully situated campsite. The normal access road was under water, but another route had been created allowing us to be the only ones in the campsite. Great value, as are the tented rooms.



    We got up early the next morning with the intention of a game drive in Chobe but the Namibian side of the border doesn’t open until 7am so we were kindly given a cup of tea at Camp Chobe. Once we had crossed the border (plain sailing, though I’ve never paid the Botswana P50 compulsory insurance before), we entered the park and tootled along the shoreline to Ihaha.

    Our pre-booked campsite was unoccupied so we set up camp and headed off for a drive, narrowly missing a leopard sighting at Nanyanga turnoff. Compared with our recent visits in the dry season there was little activity, but the shoreline is always gorgeous and there was great light (and few vehicles) for photography. All of the antelope were much more relaxed than in the busy season, and looked in fantastic condition.


    Amazing what turns up on your tent - a heady maiden (apparently)

    A few sections of the river road were closed due to the high water, particularly between Sedudu and Chobe Game Lodge but most were accessible. We had seen how high the Zambezi was at Katima Mulilo, but had not realised that it flooded back up the Chobe to Linyanti, disguising the lack of water in the Kwando/Linyanti/Chobe system.



    Elephants, mud and water always make for an entertaining game drive, so the afternoon drive was lovely but uneventful. We were staying in campsite 6, which has decent shade but is a little hard for pitching a tent. Monkeys and baboons occupied the tree on successive nights but didn’t cause any problems (though the dominant monkey did have a surprisingly late (almost dark) attempt at a sneak attack on our food). There were only 3 groups at Ihaha, but the security patrols still came round at night. While I appreciated their presence, I did find it a little intrusive particularly when they shine their spotlight on the campsites. It’s still an amazing place.






    After 2 nights at Ihaha, we had a hiatus for 2 days as bookings elsewhere had been unavailable (though in reality, none of the campsites we stayed at was more than half full), and went off to Senyati for a bit of R&R. Again, there were only 3 groups here and we pottered around, did some reorganising, and checked out the new (for us) Choppies in Kazungula. Lots of space, and slightly cheaper, but there seemed to be more choice at the smaller Spar in Kasane.

    There was some activity at the Senyati waterhole in the evening, but much quieter than in the dry season. We took our food down to the bar the first night, but I’m not sure that we should have then taken it into the hide as the elephants were very curious about our Thai green curry, sniffing curiously towards the viewing window. There is some construction going on just north up the valley which is disruptive during the day, and security patrols at night (thank you) so it wasn’t our most relaxing stay. The track up the valley towards Kazungula seemed to have changed, and we had to be careful not to end up on the Zim side.



    After 2 nights we headed off for Savuti, taking the short cut straight across the main road from the Senyati 4WD entrance road. I’m guessing that we should have turned right at the airport as the left turn seemed to circumnavigate almost all the airstrip, but we were quickly at Sedudu gate. Since we had paid for Chobe entry, may as well enjoy the morning light down the river road! We exited through Nantanga road (no gate, though your permit is checked by DWNP at Ngoma) and headed south. As it was still relatively cool and wet, the route to Gcoha was a breeze and we reached Savuti 3 hours after Ngoma.

    We had Paradise campsite, but as the channel was bone dry it wasn’t as lovely as it can be. Unfortunately, there is quite a bit of noise from the camp generator and on one evening there was a staff party (judging from the game scout’s appearance the next morning), so all in all it wasn’t the experience I would have hoped for.



    The marsh was almost entirely dry as well so there wasn’t a huge amount of game around. We were told that the channel starts flowing again (hopefully!) in June/July so I imagine it fills up with game (and water) as the dry season proceeds. Certainly our previous visit in the September yielded great sightings and amazing game density.



    On our departure game drive we decided to pay a final visit to Rhino Vlei and chanced on a pride of at least 13 lions at the pan. Of course the operators’ vehicles arrived like vultures to a kill but it was all well-behaved and everyone enjoyed good sightings, particularly of the 2 impressive males. The sand ridge road was in good condition, if a little hummocky in places, and we made good progress towards Mababe. We saw one of the few snakes of our trip, hurrying across the track, and enjoyed decent numbers of zebra on the southern pans, so it was a good end to our experience of Chobe park.



    We arrived at Dijara for an early lunch, where we were greeted by Andre (Puma130ADJ)and shown to a lovely riverside campsite. Plenty of space and shade, and good simple ablutions. We had a fantastic visit from a large bull elephant in the afternoon who grazed unconcernedly just a few meters from our tent. There’s a little bit of noise from the village and the road, but not intrusive like the spotlights at Ihaha or the generator at Savuti.

    In the morning we went for a game drive in Khwai community. Andre had told us that people are occasionally being charged 100 pula but we saw no ‘official’ there. It’s about 20 km along the transit road to the community lands, all through prime game viewing habitat, and is the nearest ‘game drive opportunity’ as there is very limited driving around Dijara itself. In the afternoon, we revisited the lions we had seen in the morning, entering via the Chobe cutline and exiting through the westerly access road. With the afternoon light, it would have been better to do this drive the other way round.



    We really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere at Dijara and hope to return next year, maybe adding a mokoro trip at Khwai. We left delighted, particularly as on our departure there was a pack of 6 wild dogs just after the turn onto the main road.

    The way to North Gate was bone dry with no deviations, so we made quick progress into Moremi. We had 4 nights booked at Third Bridge, so went the long way round through Xakanaxa. I’d forgotten just how bendy the tracks are in the park, even when dry and with fewer mudhole deviations, and it was slow progress. We bumped into an operator whom we’d met in Savuti at Xakanaxa gate, and he kindly pointed out a pair of wild dogs which were just beyond the campsite. We had lunch there with plenty of marulas to eat. Very nice! I checked out the boat operators at Xakanaxa (Zero at the launch before the campsite was very helpful) and then headed south towards Third Bridge. Was pleased to see that there are now 2 pole bridges at 4th bridge as last time we were jammed behind someone who got stuck on the single bridge.

    We were at Camp 4, which is decidedly smaller than 1,2 and 3 and was only suitable for a small group. I didn’t like it that we were advised to collapse our tent when away from the site (because the baboons can ransack it). Nice to be warned, but they should never let the problem get that bad. The rubbish cage (for the entire campsite) was also in awful condition, probably had not been emptied for weeks, so all in all I was very underwhelmed by 3rd Bridge campsite.



    I had suddenly lost my power steering just before we arrived. We had being doing some tight turns, and the level had been a little low so I hoped it was nothing serious. To my amazement, the tuck shop at 3rd Bridge has (had!) a good supply of automatic transmission fluid so we topped up before our afternoon drive.

    Another camper at site 3 had kindly advised me that the steering system would take about a litre of fluid, so I bought sufficient and we headed off round Mboma island. (The Toyota manual has 136 pages on the audio, but nothing about the power steering system!) We didn’t spend so much time on the limited game viewing as we were concentrating on the steering, which continued to be sub-par. The fluid level was fairly full when we returned, having added about a litre, so I hoped that we had got all of the air out of the system. Our (quiet) morning drive proved that this wasn’t the case a drips had started to show up on the inside right tyre – time to call Mac in Maun.

    Fortunately, the guys at the 3rd Bridge gate had his number and phoned him, so he advised me to keep the level topped up and try to minimise my turns. Not very easy in Moremi! By now, we had to top up every 8 km or so, so I bought the entire stock of AT fluid (leaving 2 for others) and headed off to South Gate. We made it without incident but were happy to have reached the relatively straight gravel roads outside the park.

    It turned out that the entire rack and pinion for the steering needed replacing, and I was relieved that Diederik at Ivory agreed to pay for it without quibble, as he had done for the CV joint – not our experience when hiring from Bushlore. Unfortunately, it took 2 days to get spares and replace the parts, so our time in Moremi was at an end.

    We spent one night at Sedia which was very noisy with the dogs and a drunken driver who crashed into a tree in the campsite – lots of blood in the morning - so we decided to move on. Fortuitously, we were still in ‘research’ mode, checking out the options for our Canadian friends who will be flying Calgary-Maun over 2 days, and Tara recommended the Kraal as somewhere nice to stay.


    The deck at the Kraal

    Good recommendation, Tara! The Kraal is a 4-bedroom private complex at the home of June and Tim Liversedge (makers of Okavango, Jewel of the Kalahari amongst other films), originally built for visiting film crews. June is a gracious host, and we settled in for 2 days of relative luxury having visited her with the intention of only having a look. When we bring our group, we’ll take all 4 rooms, plus the kitchen and lounge, but it’s possible to take one room only. Not cheap at $75 pppn, but great – maybe someone should negotiate a forum deal!

    The only other guest while we were there was Veronica Roodt (she of map-making and guidebook fame), and we had some interesting conversations with her. She really knows Botswana in great detail, and has some interesting plans for transferring her data into electronic format and combining the park maps with field guides that are specific to the individual areas – at least that’s how I understood it! Contact her directly if you want to know more (though she spends most of her time off grid in Moremi).
    We prised ourselves away from the Kraal in time for our flight to Kwara lodge.



    I’ve only stayed in maybe half a dozen lodges (though I’ve visited many of the road accessible ones), so this was something fairly new. The flight from Maun was about 30 minutes, and from a height of about 100m were able to the watch the animals below. We were apparently very lucky to see a total of seven white rhino on the way in (the pilot on the return said he’d looked in vain for a year! – but not so politely).



    It’s such a different experience being driven around, and having a tracker looking for signs. We can pick out leopard and lion tracks, but these guys could pick out wild dog, cheetah and other cats from, to me, meaningless pits in the sand. This then changes the whole game drive, since they can follow tracks offroad to what would normally be inaccessible. We did find one cheetah with a recently killed impala in a thicket about 300m from the road which we would never have seen. All the same, we would have spotted the other 3 cheetah, lion and wild dogs that we saw on our other game drives.



    The camp itself was very pleasant with large ensuite tents which seemed to be cleaned every time we went out! There was a common dining area where guests and guides ate together, not as formal as other places I have been. The food was surprisingly average, though it was inventive.
    All in all it cost us around $1300 for 2 nights, so it didn’t seem like particularly good value (that amount would have lasted us considerably longer in our usual style), but I’m glad we did it as an experience – if only to remind ourselves just how lucky we are to be confident enough to do all these tours ourselves.

    We hadn’t booked anything for the 6 nights before our return from Jo’burg, but had sufficient time to get started after our flight back from Kwara and decided to head south. We got as far as Ghanzi, where we made the mistake of camping at the Kalahari Arms. Nothing wrong with the hotel itself, but the camping area is floodlit like a rugby pitch at night, and there’s a lot of urban noise. Bad sleep!

    In the morning I (grumpily) drove down to Kang, where we decided to chance our arm, and head for Mabuasehube. Made another mistake by choosing the only slightly shorter route through Tshane. This involves about 25km of pretty soft sand from the village before rejoining the road down from Hukuntsi. Not worth the effort!



    At the Mabua gate, they could only offer us the site at the nearby ablutions. Naturally, when we did a circuit through Monamodi, Mpaya and Mabua Pans, there were a number of vacant sites. The game was fairly dispersed, so we didn’t see too much. There had been lions at Mabua Pan in the morning, but they had clearly disappeared by the time we got there.

    There was sometimes water at the camp ablutions which was handy, but it didn’t make up for the fact there was a big pile of rubbish at campsite 1. We asked the ranger at the gate, and she promised to have it cleaned. Nothing happened before we left the following morning, and something had spread the rubbish even further around the site at some stage during the night.
    Our next stop was Witsand nature reserve in the Northern Cape. You can night drive there, and it has a reputation for pangolin which I couldn’t ignore. As it turns out, there’s a 5km track out to the Roaring Sands which you can drive in the dark, so we did it twice, first time coming back from a beautiful sundowner on top of the dunes, and the second time after supper. Spring Hare Central! - there were hundreds of the little buggers, as well as duiker, springbok and gemsbok, but nothing else specially nocturnal (though there was a lovely tame small spotted genet right by our tent). A very nice place, but a long way from anywhere without being remote.

    We had intended to spend the next night at Barberspan Bird Centre as a halfway stop, but when we arrived mid-afternoon no-one official was there and it seemed a little dodgy. Apparently there has been an E.Coli outbreak and I suppose no one visits, so we kept on driving. We were heading for Pilanesberg, but ended up stopping at Swartruggens on the N4. Very fortuitous as we opted for the Ketel ‘n Katel guesthouse, which turned out to be extremely hospitable. It’s owned by the local Pentecostal minister, Gert, who is a mine of information and local contacts, and we passed our last 3 nights there as everywhere was booked for the long weekend.

    A day at Pilanesberg, visits to a local game farm run by a charming family, a trip to the local slate quarry, cleaning out the vehicle, and a discussion with the local VF+ branch who were holding a meeting at the guesthouse – all part of the rich tapestry that is South Africa, and we thoroughly enjoyed it.
    So, finally back to JHB and the end of our mammoth 2 year trip. We definitely ended on a highlight in Botswana, memories to join those from the Amazon Basin, stargazing in Chile, trekking in Nepal and many more.
    It was fascinating to see Botswana at a different time from our normal visits. As expected, the game was best in the desert areas and I think in retrospect we should have spent a little more time there, but our research in the north will I think be invaluable for our next tours.

    I’m writing this on a beautiful day in Bath, fantastic views from our window over the lovely green valley, and delighted to be back home – but looking forward already to our next visit in a year’s time.
    Best wishes
    John

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  2. The Following User Says Thank You to Itchy Feet For This Useful Post:


  3. #2
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Excellent report, thanks John.

    A quick question if I may? The houseboat at Curt's, you said "probably not for next year". I can't work out if that means you were impressed enough to go on them or not?

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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Thanks, John, for your effort. Was really a pleasure to read your report.

    We are also hiring Hilux from Ivory 4x4 later this year in Zambia. I hope we will have more luck with the vehicle than you did.
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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  5. #4
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Hi Rob

    I was trying to be equivocal about it - well spotted! I felt that the houseboats were a little basic for the specific groups who are coming with us next year, but it would be fun for us to do ourselves on a casual basis. Still sitting on the fence, but I hope this helps.....

  6. #5
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Hi Ortelius

    I did ask Mac in Maun (who repaired the faults) whether it was down to poor maintenance, but he thought it was just one of those things. But I still wish you better luck for Zambia..

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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Thanks for the detailed report and photos, John.
    Malcolm
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    Default

    Thanks John, great report of a very nice trip!! Beautiful pictures too!!

    Rik

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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    A great read thank you!
    Andrew


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  10. #9
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    It's my pleasure, Malcolm, Rik and Andrew. I enjoy putting trip reports together as it allows me time to wind down from the stimulation of a safari and get back into 'normal' life! It also gives something back to this forum which is so helpful.

  11. #10
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Good report and pictures!
    Peet Schultz

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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Great report and lovely photos. Mac in Maun is a great guy to know when you have mechanical issues. In the past we have we have hired vehicles from him rather than from firms in south Africa.

    Not surprised you are thinking about the next trip already.

  13. #12
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Delightful read, thanks!

  14. #13
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Wooow beautiful report. So detailed and nice images.

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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Truly amazing photos! Thank you very much for sharing!
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Great report and brilliant photo's. Please post Mac's contact info, thanx

  17. #16
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Some really awesome photos! Looks like you guys had an amazing trip!
    Rob,

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  18. #17
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Thanks all.

    Please post Mac's contact info, thanx

    Tron, Mac is on T4A as Mechto Workshop, though everyone just knows him as Mac. The garage is off the Francistown road; if you need to take a taxi to get there it's opposite a wholesale warehouse called Trident, or you could to McKenzie 4x4 offices on Mophane Road near the airport where his wife Brenda and son Curt work.

    He has a number of cellphones. I think the best is +267 71303788, but there is also +267 72368888. You could reach Brenda through [email protected]

    He is willing to drive out to do repairs in the bush, though he prefers cellphone contact direct with the driver (not a rental agency if there is one) in advance. Rates seem to be very reasonable to me.

    Cheers John

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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Thanx John

  20. #19
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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Hi John, thank you for sharing your great pics and experiences.
    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.

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    Default Re: April 2016 trip report CKGR, Caprivi, Chobe, Moremi

    Wonderful report thank you! Makes me wanne pack and go!

    Sent from my SM-G935F using Tapatalk

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