CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016





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    Default CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Botswana 2016

    I asked many questions on this forum when planning this trip from Canada, so I thought that the very least I could do was offer some input for future travelers. The notes are a tad lengthy, I am afraid, but I do start with a list of highlights.

    Thank you all for your prompt and helpful replies to my questions. We are most grateful.

    Who
    :
    Two Canadians who have been self-driving through Southern and Eastern Africa since 2004.

    Itinerary:
    7th August: Royal Tree Lodge, Maun
    8th August: CKGR Leopard Pan campsite CKSUN-01
    9th August: CKGR Sunday Pan site #2 CKSUN-03
    10th/11th August: CKGR Passarge campsite #2 CKPAS-02
    12th/13th August: CKGR Piper Pan campsite #2 CKPIP-02
    14th August: CKGR Letiahau Pan campsite CKWIL06
    15th August: CKGR Kori Pan site #1 CKKOR-01
    16th August: Royal tree Lodge, Maun
    17th August: Nxai Pan NP Baine’s Baobabs campsite #1
    18th/19th August: Nxai Pan NP South Gate Nxai Pan campsite #2
    20th/21st August: Royal Tree Lodge, Maun
    22nd August: Moremi South Gate campsite site #7
    23rd August: Moremi Third Bridge campsite #3
    24th/25th August: Moremi Xakanaxa campsite #5
    26th/27th/28th August: Khwai Concession Tshaa campsite #3
    29th August: Chobe NP Savuti campsite #4
    30th/31st August Chobe NP Linyanti campsite #3
    1st/2nd Sept: Chobe NP Ihaha campsite #9
    3rd/4th/5th Sept: Chobe Princess Houseboat #3 (part of the Zambezi Queen Collection)
    6th Sept Bakwena Lodge, Kasane

    Summary:
    This was a great trip – many memorable moments and no difficulties. We had been to Botswana twice previously, but not to the CKGR. We suspected that it was going to be the highlight of the trip and it was – although the houseboat was a very close second. The crowds and noise in the campsites in Moremi and Chobe were a bit difficult to tolerate after the solitude and isolation of the CKGR. We should have reversed the order of the trip, although I would not have wanted to start with the houseboat. After weeks of dust and corrugated roads, the houseboat was a delightful way to end the safari.

    Favourite “park”: Tough choice between the CKGR and the houseboat on the Chobe
    Favourite campsite: a tough choice between Ihaha, Piper 2, Linyanti 3 and Passarge 2 – but, if I had to pick one...can’t do it – only down to two – Passarge 2 and Ihaha.
    Fondest memories: see the list of highlights below J

    A few highlights:

    Two mating lions plus a second male 200m from our campsite in the Passarge Valley. The two males kept us awake most of first night by calling back and forth to each other. On the second night, the mating pair must have ditched the second male, which returned to our campsite and spent the night searching and calling for the mating pair. Sleep deprivation at its best!

    Three cheetahs hunting near our Passarge campsite one morning at dawn. What a way to start the day!

    Two leopards (mom and cub) feeding on a lechwe kill beside the road near the Magotho campsite in the Khwai Concession.

    A honey badger hunting/digging next to the road between the Khwai/Mababe transit road and Mababe Gate.

    Linyanti campsite #3 – the spectacular view and the two river routes.

    Tshaa campsite #3 for the lovely view over the river and the elephants that seemed to think it was their campsite.

    At Ihaha, when we were relaxing on site #9 at midday, a 6ft+ Mozambique spitting cobra came out from under a bush some 5m from where we were sitting and crossed our campsite. Such excitement!

    The houseboat on the Chobe was fabulous - great guides, a very friendly crew, wonderful meals, a lovely room (we could lie on the bed and admire the view as we drifted down the Chobe), three lion sightings (including two lionesses with a young cub, and the incident outlined below) and some of the best birding ever - so many fish eagles, kingfishers and bee-eaters.

    A unique kill witnessed from the houseboat - 4 lionesses from Chobe NP which had swum across the Chobe River and were killing Namibian cows. The staff from the houseboat, who were all Namibian and knew the villagers, frightened the lions away, but not before several cows were badly injured. In the end, we learned, four had to be put down. The village had lost five cows to the lions the previous week. Eventually, several villagers arrived in a truck and shot all four lionesses - a huge controversy in Kasane when we arrived at Bakwena two days later. It was dreadful watching the truck pursue the lions and hearing the gunshots. This all happened near where the houseboat was then moored for the night, and we could hear the male lion (who was a beautiful beast, with a stunning mane), which was still on the Chobe side, calling all night. So sad!

    On the Chobe riverfront early one morning we found a dead tree filled with dozens of carmine bee-eaters. So pretty!

    At Khwai, we came across about a dozen giraffe all in a row along the riverbank drinking from the river. Best giraffe sighting ever.

    At Tshaa, we had an elephant bump our vehicle while we were sleeping in the roof-top tent. That was a first!

    Our visit with master basket weaver Thitaku Kushonya in Maun - such a lovely woman and what beautiful baskets.

    Baines Baobabs #1 campsite - right across from the baobabs. A beautiful campsite with a stunning view. That sky! Those stars!

    From the tender boat on the Chobe River, watching the skimmers feed.

    On our way into Baine’s Baobabs, we passed an oncoming vehicle. After doing so, my DH, who was driving, happened to glance in the rear view mirror and noticed that one of the people in the other vehicle was out of the vehicle and waving at us frantically. We stopped and backed up, thinking that they were in need of assistance. To our utter amazement, the three men in the 4x4 are colleagues of my DH, who he sees every few years at an international conference. They had recognized my DH as we passed them. Are you kidding me?? They are from Germany, we are from Canada, and we meet in the middle of nowhere in Africa. What are the odds! We enjoyed a great chat and then took a photo to record the unlikely event.

    The hippos in the Khwai River at Tshaa - they sounded as though they were pacing frantically up and down the river, but they were actually stomping in place to stir up the vegetation. The sound went on for hours after we were in bed. Delightful!

    The testy plovers at the Nxai Pan waterhole - they had chicks and were attacking everything from the fish eagles to the BB jackals - great fun to watch. Such brave parents!

    Six lions at Piper Pan waterhole at dawn. The campers on site #1 had elected to sleep in, so we had the pride all to ourselves. Breakfast with the lions – is there a better way to start the day?

    The same Pipe Pan lions forced us to retreat to the 4x4 the evening before when their snarling and roaring was a little too close for comfort.

    Many elephant crossings while on the houseboat, including a group of 50+ with several young ellies.

    Two barn owls on Leopard Pan campsite, a spotted eagle owl on Piper 2, and two pearl-spotted owlets on Tshaa 3. No shortage of owls on our campsites.

    Sunday Pan waterhole – so scenic, and we could just sit there in the shade of the trees and wait for the abundant wildlife (giraffes, kudus, wildebeests, springboks, gemsboks, jackals) to come to us. It and Piper were our favourite waterholes of the trip. Game viewing at its lazy best!

    Piper Pan waterhole – this waterhole reminded us of those in Etosha, with a constant stream of animals to and from the waterhole – ostriches, springboks, wildebeests, kudus, bb jackals, gemsboks and even lions. The birding was excellent with many sandgrouse, red-billed queleas, black-headed herons, and a large group of lappet-faced vultures. Sunday Pan and Piper Pan waterholes were both fantastic.

    The Passarge Valley – so lovely and so isolated. We felt as though we had a little piece of the African wilderness all to ourselves.

    The crested barbets on our campsite at Xakanaxa – such beautiful birds – one of my favourites.

    We almost had Ihaha to ourselves - very few campers. How often does that happen at this beautiful campsite? A pride of lions had been hanging out near the campsite for the week prior to our arrival and we saw them frequently. On our first evening, we watched the sun set with the lions in the foreground. On the second morning, we discovered that the lions had visited our campsite, with their prints on top of ours.

    We sat down to lunch at Hilary’s in Maun and were given a not-so-subtle once-over by two burly men at a nearby table. I was embarrassed because we had just returned from the CKGR, and we and our clothes were a sorry sight – covered in dust. We were mess! I assumed that, in our current state, the two men felt that we were not up to the standard of Hilary’s. It was only a bit later, after we had ordered, that we realized that the third gentleman at the table was none other than Prince Harry, and that the two men who gave us the once-over were his bodyguards. Prince Harry gave us a warm smile when he and his bodyguards eventually left. Lunch with Prince Harry in Maun - who’d have thought!

    Nxai Pan South Gate campsite was wonderful for the elephants - we actually got trumpeted at here. An ellie took exception to our being on "his" campsite. We were on site #2 and, as long as you don’t mind very close encounters with elephants, it is a great campsite. The elephants come to the nearby ablutions to drink the grey water, and site # 2 seemed to be directly on their path/route to the ablutions. We had to retreat to the 4x4 on a number of occasions.

    Bakwena Lodge in Kasane was lovely - beautiful rondawels, lovely staff, and great food.

    Lions roaring, geckoes barking, jackals calling, hyenas whooping…loved the sounds at night from the roof-top tent.



    Logistics:

    Flights
    We flew direct from Cape Town to Maun on SA Airlink. Great flight – on time and only ten people on a plane that could hold 37 passengers. Given that the plane was so empty, there were no hassles about luggage weight or the number of carry-on pieces. Nice not to have to fly through JNB – saved us time and money. We flew back to Cape Town from Kasane via JNB – Airlink to JNB, SAA to CPT. At the time of booking, there was no direct flight from Kasane to CPT. I believe there is now. Flights were on time and both planes were full.

    Vehicle
    A fully-equipped Land Rover Defender with a roof-top tent rented from Safari Drive (www.safaridrive.com). Picked up in Maun and dropped off in Kasane. We have rented vehicles from SD since 2005 (Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Kenya, Tanzania). They are not cheap but, because we are two seniors from off continent who travel alone, the in-country back-up is important to us. It is comforting to know that, if we do not show up somewhere, we will be missed. The vehicles are always reliable. We research our own trips, draft up an itinerary, email it to SD, and SD offers their expertise and advice. They make all of our bookings and arrange all land transfers. Our trips always run remarkably smoothly – astonishingly so. In short, they make our trips – the logistics – very easy.

    Parks and accommodation/campsites (in chronological order):

    Royal Tree Lodge in Maun – our third stay here over the years. Safari Drive has a base at Royal Tree. Lovely tented accommodation, very good meals, helpful and friendly staff – a great place to be based. Some might find it a bit too far from town (~16km) when stocking up for a self-drive, but we love the peace and quiet. Not cheap, but we received a 20% discount because we were repeat clients.

    Central Kalahari Game Reserve:
    This was our first visit to the CKGR and we loved it. We would definitely return. The scenery (with the golden grass) even in the dry season was spectacular. The Passarge Valley was especially beautiful. The loops at Piper were lovely, and we spotted cheetah on the more northerly loop. We loved the isolation of the park. When we were in the Passarge Valley, we enjoyed almost two full days without seeing another vehicle. Despite the fact that it was August and very dry, we enjoyed excellent sightings – lots of lions, a honey badger and 4 cheetahs. Other than the notorious road from Rakops to Matswere Gate, and the road to Piper Pan from the Letiahau turn, which was very corrugated, the roads were in good shape. We loved the Sunday and Piper Pan waterholes – our favourites of the trip.

    When going to the CKGR from Maun, we took the Rakops (longer) route in the hopes of being able to top up with diesel in Rakops. Big mistake! Rakops had no diesel – wasted trip and the road from Rakops to Matswere was very rough and slow. When leaving the CKGR, the helpful ranger at Matswere called the station in Rakops and learned that there was still no diesel. As a result, we took the cutline route to Makalamabedi. That road was so much better (and faster) than the road between Rakops and Matswere Gate – some slightly corrugated sections and some short stretches of deepish sand, but nothing to speak of. In future, we would plan on taking the cutline route in both directions, and ensure that we have enough diesel to make a trip into Rakops unnecessary.

    If we were to do the CKGR again, we might consider the following route: Matswere to Sunday Pan to Passarge to Piper to Passarge to Sunday to Matswere. In other words, in order to spend longer in our favourite areas (Passarge and Piper), we would give the Letiahau Valley and the Kori area a miss. In order to shorten the return drive to Maun, we might insert one night at Deception before the final return to Matswere.

    Leopard Pan Campsite – we arrived from Maun not long before sunset and left at dawn for the Sunday Pan waterhole, so we really were not camped here long enough to do it justice. However, if we were to return to the CKGR, we would likely give it a miss and stay at the Sunday pan campsites, which are closer to the waterhole. We did enjoy the two resident barn owls at Leopard.

    Sunday Pan campsite #2 (confusingly booked as CKSUN-03) – this is a lovely campsite, with a view over the pan and close to the waterhole. Good shade at midday. On this campsite, several vehicles drove through the campsite at midday and then again at sunset. I assume that they were hoping to find it unoccupied. This was the only campsite where this happened. If I were to return to Sunday Pan, I would happily stay at this campsite again.

    Passarge 2 – it and the campsite at Piper were our favourites in the CKGR. The drive through the valley is stunning, the campsite is wonderfully isolated and has a lovely view, and we enjoyed fantastic sightings right at the campsite – mating lions, a honey badger, and 3 cheetahs.

    Piper 2 – we had asked for #1 but were assigned to number 2, which we liked very much – a little further from the waterhole but wonderfully isolated and private. We had lions on a kill next to the campsite, and we eventually had to retreat to the vehicle. If we were to go to Piper again, we would be happy on either campsite but I think we would ask for #2. We really liked the location.

    Letiahau – we lasted half an hour on this campsite. We were no sooner out of the vehicle than the bees descended, and they were incredibly aggressive – like none we have ever experienced. We had many bees at Sunday Pan 2, and have had plenty of experience with bees on the campsites in Tanzania, but nothing like these. We had not yet taken out any water or food, but the bees were all over us. We were both stung. It was miserable. It also isn’t a particularly scenic campsite and isn’t especially close to the waterhole. We would not camp here again.

    As an aside, although neither of us is allergic to bees, in future we will carry an epipen.

    Kori Pan – we had asked for campsite #3 but were assigned to number 1. We had just set up our camp in late afternoon when two vehicles drove onto the site and showered us unnecessarily in dust. The driver from one vehicle leapt out and told us rather rudely that they had the site booked for the night. We assured him that we too had a reservation and he demanded to see our permit, which we were happy to show him. He was a bit embarrassed – rightly so – when he realized that we were camped there legitimately and, after apologizing, produced his permit. In the end, we were an amicable group and we enjoyed an evening together around the campfire. I had not expected to be double booked in the CKGR and, when we left, the folks at the gate seemed genuinely surprised that the campsite had been double booked. We have sent DWNP an email with a photo of the two permits.

    We didn’t particularly like Kori Pan. Although the campsites themselves are fine (although rather close together compared to Passarge or Piper), and Deception Valley was very pretty (and the pan itself is well worth a visit – a fascinating sight, and exactly as described in the book, The Cry of the Kalahari), the campsites seemed to be rather in the middle of nowhere and rather far from the nearest waterhole. Next time, if we were going to stay in the area, we would book a campsite at Deception, which is closer to the Sunday Pan waterhole.

    Nxai Pan National Park
    If we were to do this trip again and assuming that we went at the same time of year, we would likely drop Nxai Pan from the itinerary. Apart from at the waterhole, where we saw wildebeests, a small group of ellies, bb jackals, ostriches, impalas, vultures, and zebras, we saw very little. When we left the waterhole and drove the loops through the park, we saw nothing – and I mean nothing. Some of the best viewing was at the campsite and, frankly, watching ellies drink grey water at the ablutions is not much of a sighting (and the smell was terrible). It is a long drive into the park and, although we loved our stay at the baobabs, our stay at South Gate was disappointing. Next time, we would likely take the three nights and add them to the CKGR.

    We had visited Nxai Pan in 2011 and enjoyed it very much. Our point of view this time may have been somewhat clouded by the fact that, while at South Gate, we had bad luck with neighbours. On the first night, we endured a large group that was split amongst three nearby campsites, and they insisted on shouting to each other between campsites. This went on until well after we were in bed. We sighed with relief when they did not return the second night. Unfortunately, that evening another group appeared, and this group allowed their noisy children to run wild through the campsite, screaming as they went. Given that we had just enjoyed eight peaceful nights in the CKGR, these two evenings were a test of our patience. The noisy campers may have coloured our impression of Nxai Pan, although the lack of any wildlife away from the waterhole was the major factor.

    The behaviour of people at the Nxai Pan waterhole was poor – people getting out of their vehicles to get things from their trunks/boots or take photos, doors sitting open, kids sitting on the roof of their vehicle, people talking loudly between vehicles, and even one man who walked to within 15m of an elephant near the waterhole to pose for a photo.

    Baines Baobabs Site #1
    We spent three nights in this park – the first at Baine’s Baobabs. At Baine’s Baobabs, we had asked for site #1 and were lucky to get it. It is the best site – directly across the pan from the baobabs. Spectacular! The campsite (4 sites) was full, so we were lucky that we did not have to share. If a 5th party had booked, they would have been put with us on site #1. The 6th would have been assigned to site #2 etc – so there is an advantage to booking a campsite with a higher number – you are less likely to be doubled up. There are no facilities of any kind at the baobab campsites.

    I wondered if we would regret spending a night at the baobabs, which left us only two nights at the Nxai Pan South Gate campsite. Not at all! The trees, the stars, the sunset, the sunrise…it was spectacular. We would definitely dedicate a night there again if we returned to Nxai Pan.

    Nxai Pan South Gate Campsite #2
    At South Gate campsite, we asked for and were assigned to site #2. It has a great view of the pan and a great shade tree. Some might find it a bit close to the road, but there isn’t much traffic – just the occasional truck coming or going to the new waterhole that is being built near the campsite. If you do not enjoy very close encounters (<10m) with elephants, then do not book this site. The elephants like to visit the ablutions (they drink the grey water out of the sewers) that are next to site #2, and the ellies seem to think that the campsite is part of their highway. We kept flicking on the flashlight and finding them next to the 4x4. For such big beasts, they are remarkably light on their feet. We thought the campsite was great, but it is not for the faint of heart!

    The ablutions at NP South Gate were the best we found on the entire (camping portion of the) trip. Absolutely spotless, cleaned twice a day, toilet paper and liquid hand soap provided, plenty of very hot water, toilets, sinks and showers all functional and well maintained, good lighting, lovely outdoor sinks for washing up dishes, and even a clothesline for those who might wish to do some laundry. The only downside of the ablutions – we kept getting trapped in the ablutions by the elephants, which come running as soon as they hear the water running.

    Other campsites at Nxai Pan South Gate:
    Site #1 – rather close to the ablution block
    Sites 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 – in the trees and lots of shade
    Sites 8, 9, and 10 – full sun so would be very hot at midday


    Moremi
    In some ways, I was dreading our visit to Moremi. We had visited twice previously, and knew it could be busy. We were also aware that we would likely have to share our campsite at Third Bridge. In the past, the crowds had not bothered us, but our visits had not been preceded by a trip to the CKGR. We feared that Moremi would suffer in the comparison. In the end, we were happy we went, but Moremi certainly ranked behind the CKGR and the houseboat.

    We spent our first night at South Gate campsite because we wanted lots of time to drive the Black Pools loops. Unfortunately, there was little water in the area so it was not, as Veronica Roodt has described the area, “teeming with wildlife”. That being said, it was a lovely area to drive around, we did see lots of elephants, zebras, and giraffes, and we were happy to have devoted a day to the area.

    From South Gate we headed to Third Bridge for a night. We had originally booked two nights at Third Bridge as it has always been a favourite, especially site #3. However, when it was confirmed by the Xomae Group that, unless we were willing to pay for 8 people/3 vehicles, then we would likely have to share the campsite, we dropped a night. We were happy that we did as we did end up having to share with two other vehicles/four people. Let me hasten to add that they were lovely people and we enjoyed their company, but we prefer to have campsites to ourselves. The campsites all looked very crowded, so I suspect that most campers at Third Bridge, if not all, were sharing.

    Unlike 2011, when many roads were flooded, getting from South Gate to Third Bridge was easy. There was a short detour around 1st Bridge, which we took because the bridge looked a tad rickety. There was no water. At Second Bridge, there was again no water but we took the bridge because the alternative was some rather deep sand and people had clearly been stuck.
    Third Bridge had a 15m stretch of water on the campsite side, before you get to the bridge. It was fairly deep, coming up to the hood of the Defender (but not over). We were happy to have a snorkel. The bridge itself is as rough as ever but otherwise fine.

    There was little water between Third Bridge and Xakanaxa. When the main road between the two campsites forked and there was a sign indicating “dry route to Xakanaxa”, we took the other fork, which was clearly being well used. We did not have to cross any water. We followed the tracks and drove around the rather rough looking 4th bridge. This involved crossing some very shallow (a few cm) water with a solid, sandy base – no worries.

    Before we left Third Bridge to head to Xakanaxa, we drove the Mboma Island North loop. It was lovely – one of the most scenic drives of the trip and good game viewing – spotted hyena, many giraffes, elephants (mostly near the top of the loop), a herd of hundreds of buffaloes, warthogs, impalas, parrots, hippos, and lechwe. The deep sand at the beginning of the drive almost caused us to turn back but, after that initial section of maybe 200m, the road was good (no water to cross, even at the top of the loop). If you are able to do only one side of the loop, we thought the west side was prettier (several lovely pools), but the east side has the hippo pool (with hippos, lechwes and good birding).

    It was so dry in Moremi that, when traveling from Xakanaxa to North/Khwai Gate, we were able to take some of the back roads into the Dombo Hippo Pool. The water was so low that the hide was a long way from the water.

    South Gate campsite #7
    This was a lovely campsite, the first campsite on the left as you drive in. It is rather nicely by itself, away from the ablutions, and has a great shade tree. We would happily stay on it again. The campsite was full but very quiet. After dark, it felt as though we were the only campers. There were spotted hyenas in camp, so families with young children should take care.

    For those who care about these things, the ablutions at South Gate had plenty of hot water, good lighting, were clean, and toilet paper was provided.

    Third Bridge campsite #3
    Still a favourite, but our site was a bit crowded with three vehicles, especially given that one was a rather large motorhome. I am not certain if it was the crowds, but the elephants did not visit the campsite in the night as they have always done in the past. The tree on site #3 was always a favourite of the elephants, which is why we like that site. We could count on the ellies visiting. If we were to visit again, and we would likely not given the sharing of campsites, we would ask for site #1, which is slightly larger than #3 and so would be better able to accommodate three vehicles. #1 also has a good location next to the water, and is at one end of the campsite, so it does not see any traffic.

    Good ablutions – toilet paper provided, plenty of hot water.

    Xakanaxa campsite #5
    It was our first visit to Xakanaxa and it is a lovely campsite. # 5 was next to the marsh and close to one of the two new ablution blocks and the old ablution block, which still remains. The latter is rather unsightly. Reasonable distance from the neighbours on either side. Good shade. We had a little difficulty finding site #5 as we did not realize that there is a second road that runs parallel to the main road through the campsite, a bit closer to the marsh. Campsites 4, 5 and 6 are all off this secondary road.

    Unfortunately, we had another large group beside us – 6 SA vehicles (and a lot of people) on site #6. They were camped/spread out all over the place, including on the secondary road between the sites. I thought there was a limit of 3 vehicles per site? If so, the rule is clearly not enforced. The large group was noisy, but at least they retired early. Next time, I would ask for sites 8 or 9. They are further from the ablutions and more private/quiet.

    Reasonable ablutions – toilet paper provided, not as clean as most (but because of the large group next to us, being used by a lot of people), water warm at best (probably used up by the time we got there – we like to shower after dinner).

    #5 seemed to be a favourite with the elephants – not a site to choose if you don’t wish to share it with elephants. At one point, a very large elephant tried to pull down a huge branch that was above our 4x4/tent. The elephants also liked to feed around the ablution block, so we were occasionally trapped in the ablutions by an elephant that was between the ablutions and #5.

    Khwai Community Concession and Tshaa/Xanagiae Campsite

    From Xakanaxa, we drove to North Gate/Khwai and from there to Tshaa campsite.

    The “new” transit road between Khwai and Mababe was dreadful, one of the worst of the trip - incredibly dusty (with that very fine, insidious white dust) and very corrugated/rough. The only road to rival it was the gravel road between Shorobe and the vet fence, on the way from Maun to Moremi South Gate.

    There was water at the new steel bridge north of the village of Khwai, but the two water crossings (which they warn you about on Tracks4Africa) between the Khwai/North Gate pole bridge and the new steel bridge were non-existent.

    We had a little difficulty finding Tshaa campsite because that is not the actually name of the camp – it is “Xanagiae” and “Xanagiae” is what the signs on the transit road, which direct you to the camp, read. Andre is no longer affiliated with Tshaa/Xanagiae, just Dijara so, if you wish to support fellow forum member Andre, then you need to camp at Dijara. We were not aware of this change until we arrived at Tshaa/Xanagiae, and we felt badly that we were not booked at Andre’s camp. We did drive to Dijara to introduce ourselves to Andre, and we sat on the viewing deck with him while we chatted. It is a lovely spot and Andre is a great host. Nice to meet you Andre!

    Tshaa is a lovely, peaceful camp, situated right on the Khwai River. It has six sites, and we were assigned to #3 – the best site, according to Andre and we agreed. The sites are spread out along the river, and each overlooks the river. I don’t think there is a bad site, although we thought 3, 4 then 2 and 1 were the ones to book. The campsite is run by Juba, a young, very friendly and impeccably polite fellow. He checked in with us a couple of times a day to ensure that all was well and to take away the garbage. Wood was available for sale at the staff area.

    I had read complaints about the vehicle traffic on the South Gate/Mababe road being intrusive at Tshaa. We did hear the occasional truck, but the noise did not bother us.

    We loved Tshaa #3. It was one of our favourite campsites of the trip. Lovely private ablution with a sink and running water, a flush toilet, and a shower with a donkey boiler. There was also a tap in the middle of the campsite, next to a log workspace/table. Such luxury! The site was right on the river, and we could simply sit on the campsite and watch the animals – elephants, giraffes, impalas, waterbuck, buffalos, monkeys, lechwes, hippos and, after dark, spotted hyena and pearl-spotted owlets. The elephants were very bold, and loved to come and shake the camelthorn trees (to get the seeds) on our site – so we had to retreat to the vehicle on a number of occasions. At one point, we had eight massive elephants on our campsite with us. One night, not long after we were in bed, an ellie bumped the 4x4. Again, not a site for the faint at heart!

    It is possible to drive down from Tshaa/Dijara to the Mogotha campsite area and go for a game drive along the Khwai River in the Khwai Community Trust area. Unfortunately, this involves a 14km (one way) drive along the wretched Khwai-Mababe transit road, but it is well worth it. The Khwai River area, although busy, was as lovely as always, and the game viewing was great. We enjoyed our best giraffe sighting ever (a dozen giraffe all lined up in a row along the river drinking), two leopards on a kill, lots of elephants, and great birding. That being said, we only drove to Khwai once, being quite content for the rest of our time at Tshaa to simply sit on our site, relaxing and letting the wildlife come to us.

    From Tshaa it was an easy drive to Mababe Gate and Chobe.

    Chobe National Park
    We took the Marsh Road to Savuti. No water but incredibly rough/rutted in places and very dusty. Lovely scenery. On our two previous visits, we had taken the sand ridge road, so it was great to finally be able to drive the marsh road.

    From Savuti to Linyanti: we were advised at Savuti not to take the direct route to Linyanti but instead to go via Ghoha Gate. We were reluctant to follow this advice as it is much longer and was contrary to what we had read on the 4x4 forum. However, in the end we followed the advice of the rangers and drove to Ghoha and then to Linyanti from there. We were happy that we did because I gather from offroadbiker, who we met at Linyanti, that the direct Savuti/Linyanti route would have been a challenge to we Canadians, who are not nearly as experienced as he is at driving in deep in sand. He thought the deep sand was fun. J

    The Ghoha road (from Savuti to Ghoha) had lots of deep sand and, judging from the sticks, many people had been stuck. We were early, when the sand was still cool, so we had no difficulty - although we were happy not to have met anyone on that ~200m uphill (going north) stretch just before the Ghoha Hills.

    The road from Ghoha to Linyanti involved a lot of deep sand, but even we inexperienced drivers had no difficulties (although I gather Defenders excel in sand). The drive would have been so much easier if a supply truck with a wide wheel base had not gone down the road ahead of us, pushing sand into one track.

    This was our first visit to Linyanti and, despite the long drive from Savuti via Ghoha, we quickly concluded that Linyanti was well worth the effort of getting there. We would most definitely return.

    The two river routes (signed river routes 1 & 2) at Linyanti are wonderful – lots of elephants and other game. The birding on site #3 was terrific. Although we did both river route drives, we were quite content to sit on the campsite enjoying the view and watching the birds and hippos.

    From Linyanti, we took the cutline route to Ihaha. The only challenge was a long uphill in deep sand just before Kachikau.

    The Chobe Craft Centre at Kachikau had some great baskets and very welcome cold drinks.

    The first view of the river was a shock – so much green after so much dust and so much to see as we drove to Ihaha - zebras, impalas, giraffes, egrets, herons, open bills, pelicans, buffaloes, carmine bee eaters, and even lions.

    We enjoyed the lions for the duration of our visit at Ihaha – 7 adults and 3 cubs.
    One of our favourite sightings on the riverfront was a dead tree full of dozens of carmine bee-eaters.

    We wished we had stayed longer at Ihaha but, on our previous/second visit, the night patrols (for bandits) rather took away from the experience. This time, we did not see or hear the patrols. We loved Ihaha. It was the way we remembered it from our first visit – amazing setting and fantastic sightings.

    Ihaha was surprisingly empty – ~50% occupancy each night. Perhaps the numerous incidents with bandits or the noisy night patrols have finally started to keep campers away. We were very happy to have spent two night at Ihaha, but we did feel a little vulnerable down at our end (on #9), where we were the only campers, and without the patrols (although offroadbiker, who was there at the same time, saw the day patrol – we did not hear the patrols at night – perhaps he did, although I would be amazed if we slept through them).

    Savuti campsite site #4
    Next to the channel, but of course the channel is bone dry. Thank goodness we were at Savuti for only one night. It is a lovely site, (#4 has not much shade at midday but it is very large – it could accommodate three groups/vehicles easily) but we were cursed with incredibly inconsiderate neighbours on #5, who ran their Toyota Hilux for an hour at the end of the day. I assume they were charging batteries. Normally, sunset is one of the loveliest times of the day, when we sit with a glass of wine and enjoy the sunset. It was impossible to do this and enjoy it with the 4x4 roaring nearby (much louder than a generator). The vehicles coming and going from the permanent tented camp and the generators in that camp were also noisy. We did not enjoy Savuti and would likely not go back.

    Next time, on the off chance we do go back, we would ask for campsite #6 – far from the ablutions, but set back from the other sites and quieter/more private (although I believe I have read that #6 is now reserved for mobile camps). We stayed on it on our first visit to Savuti and loved it. Otherwise I would try for site #5 – a little more protected from the wind than #4. On #4, which is a large open site, we and our belongings were sandblasted in the wind.

    The Savuti ablutions are clean, have toilet paper and lots of hot water.

    Linyanti site #3
    Site #3 is definitely the nicest of the 4 campsites at Linyanti – stunning view, lovely shade tree, and quite by itself. #1 and #2 are rather close together but otherwise share the same lovely view as #3. There is a new tented camp where the campsites used to be, but it did not seem to be open yet.

    The ablutions at Linyanti rivalled Nxai Pan South Gate – spotlessly clean and lots of scalding hot water (an on-demand system). Toilet paper and liquid hand soap provided. Our campsite was raked when we arrived and our garbage was removed daily.

    Ihaha #9
    #9 is a lovely site – no baboon tree, great view of the river, not far from the ablutions. However, very close to # 8 but luckily #8 was empty on both nights. There are still baboons at the campsite (they were doing the rounds of the sites), but they did not bother us. I think next time (in case #8 is occupied) we would ask for site #2 or #5, although we loved #9.

    Ablutions not as good as the other campsites – no lighting, limited hot water (only on one of the two nights), only reasonably clean, toilet paper provided. If you do not like spiders, you will not enjoy the shower stalls. J

    My notes about the other sites at Ihaha: #1 = no shade but otherwise lovely; #2 very nice and has shade; #3 = no shade; #4 = ugly, no shade; #5 = good campsite; #6 = no, but I don’t say why – baboon tree? Too close to ablutions?; #7 = no shade; #8 = no view due to bushes; #10 = lovely and isolated but no view of the river.


    Houseboat
    The houseboat was a highlight of the trip. We highly recommend it. The Zambezi Collection consists of the three Chobe Princesses (the former Ichobezi boats) and the Zambezi Queen. We asked for a Princess – they are smaller boats – four cabins, maximum 8 people. We were on Chobe Princess #3 – next time I would ask for #1 or #2, which have a slightly different layout, which includes an upper (3rd level) viewing platform. Everything about the houseboat was great – excellent guides, very friendly crew, great rooms, flexible activities, wonderful communal meals, and wonderful sightings from the houseboat and tender boats. Best birding of the trip, great lions sightings, and fantastic viewings of elephants swimming across the Chobe. Ask for a room where the bed faces the window so that you may lie on the bed and watch the view as you drift down the Chobe – fantastic!

    Our day consisted of: Coffee/tea/rusks at 6:00 and then leave in a tenderboat for sunrise just before 6:30am – on the river until 8:30 when we returned to the houseboat for a full hot breakfast; out in a tenderboat again at 10am – back to the houseboat around 12:30pm – lunch at 1pm – last tenderboat trip of the day from 4 to 6:30pm, dinner at 7:30pm. All of these trips in the tenderboats were optional – we were the only guests who went out at 6:30am – the other 6 guests all slept in. In addition to game viewing from the tenderboat, there were fishing and visits to a village offered. We stuck with game viewing/bird watching. The houseboat has two tender boats, and we were lucky that the other 6 guests were a group, so we usually had a tenderboat to ourselves.

    Bakwena Lodge, Kasane
    Such a lovely place - beautiful rondawels, such lovely people, and excellent meals. I wish we had stayed longer. The rondawels are a little close together so, next time, I would request one on the end – furthest from reception. We were in #3, in the middle of a row of six. #6 was next to reception, while #1 was furthest from reception. Ask for #1.

    Pangolin photo cruise on the Chobe:
    We were disappointed with this (sunset/3pm) tour – it did not live up to the reviews on Trip Advisor. Perhaps we misunderstood the purpose of the tour, but we thought it was to learn more about photography. To us, it seemed more about being given the opportunity to borrow their cameras with the big lenses. For example, as the light changed (as it grew darker), the guide would change the settings on our cameras without telling what he was doing or explaining why. He wanted us to shoot on “aperture” but it was not clear why. He allowed himself to be monopolized by one demanding guest - a tough situation, I admit. Several times, the driver placed the boat in good light but so that, no matter which way we tried to shoot, there were other boats in the background. After riding on the same river with the guides from the houseboat for three days (prior to the Pangolin tour), we found the photographic opportunities with Pangolin to be poor by comparison. Overall, I was disappointed. For the price and based on the reviews, I had expected more.

    Shopping:
    We did all of our shopping (other than meat/beer/wine) at the Spar and Woolies at the Ngami Mall. Between the Spar and the Woolies, we were able to purchase everything on our shopping list. The Woolies is incredibly small, and the isles tend to be taken up by flats of food that are being unpacked. It was easiest to park our cart in a corner and run the groceries to it. The Woolies had many of our favourite Woolies items – their sauces, biscuits etc. The Spar next door was very good - it had some very good produce and a better variety of fresh produce than Woolies. We used MasterCard at both shops. Both shops and the parking lot were incredibly busy – best to go early.

    Woolies in Maun receives a delivery truck Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and people line up when it opens at 9am for the fresh produce and baking. There is only one check-out, so it can be very slow.

    We purchased our meat at Delta Meat Deli at Riley’s Garage in Maun. Great selection of meat and cheese – some meat already vacuumed packed and frozen. We went in on a Saturday, put our order together, paid for it (MasterCard) and arranged to pick it up on Monday morning @ 7:30am all frozen and vacuum packed. Some of the meat we purchased: 4 beef burgers (p16.75); Grabouw and Traditional boerwors (P70.05 total for the two large packages); kudu goulash (P26.35); Sosatie chicken (P54.25) and marinated chicken steak (P25.00). We could have ordered and paid for our meat ahead of time online but I didn’t have a clue what to order. Luckily, when we went in on the Saturday, a kindly local woman must have recognized that this Canadian was a tad overwhelmed and in unfamiliar territory. She took me around the freezers and showed me some of her favourites. She was the one who suggested the chicken skewers and kudu goulash, and they were both delicious.

    There was a bottle shop across Koro Street where we purchased beer and wine.

    The Ngami Mall has a FNB bank with three ATM machines that were all functional when we were there. Daily max P2500.


    Other info:
    Despite all of the warnings at the gates, we had no problems with baboons - in fact, I don't think we had a single baboon on any of our campsites. We saw many, but not on the campsites.

    The vet fence on the A3 ~10km east of Xhana was very easy, perhaps because of our lame attempts to greet the inspector in Setswana – he liked our English/Setswana cheat sheet. He only asked what meat we had, and we answered honestly that we had only chicken. A female colleague wanted to search our fridge, but he waved her off and sent us on our way. We were fortunate to get the same inspector on our next trip through, on the way to Nxai Pan, and after a friendly chat, he waved us through again. They certainly were searching some vehicles, but only for meat.

    Our coldest night was in the CKGR on 9th August when it dipped to 3.3C. Our warmest night was 15.3C (6am) at Tshaa/Khwai.

    We had read much about the mice in the CKGR, but we saw them only on Piper 2. While in the CKGR, we placed cotton balls soaked with pure peppermint oil and moth balls throughout the 4x4 (gathering both up each morning), and had no difficulties with the mice whatever. However, it may well have been because of the spotted eagle owl – our own private mouse killer on Piper 2.

    Bees:
    Leopard (no bees, but we may have arrived too late in the day), Sunday #2 (many bees), Passarge 2 (no bees), Piper 2 (none the first night but many bees on the 2nd night – they swarmed the 4x4, attracted to the water tank tap), Letiahau (terrible! – see note above under the campsite info), Kori 1 (no bees). At all campsites, the bees left at sunset and then we could shower/cook.


    Lowlights – not many:
    The aggressive bees at Letiahau campsite.
    Having to share our campsite at Third Bridge.
    The noisy neighbours/campers at Nxai Pan South Gate and Savuti campsites.
    The transit road between Khwai and Mababe.

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  3. #2
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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Very detailed, thanks!

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    "Xakanaxa campsite #5
    It was our first visit to Xakanaxa and it is a lovely campsite. # 5 was next to the marsh and close to one of the two new ablution blocks and the old ablution block, which still remains. The latter is rather unsightly. Reasonable distance from the neighbours on either side. Good shade. We had a little difficulty finding site #5 as we did not realize that there is a second road that runs parallel to the main road through the campsite, a bit closer to the marsh. Campsites 4, 5 and 6 are all off this secondary road.

    Unfortunately, we had another large group beside us – 6 SA vehicles (and a lot of people) on site #6. They were camped/spread out all over the place, including on the secondary road between the sites. I thought there was a limit of 3 vehicles per site? If so, the rule is clearly not enforced. The large group was noisy, but at least they retired early. Next time, I would ask for sites 8 or 9. They are further from the ablutions and more private/quiet.

    Reasonable ablutions – toilet paper provided, not as clean as most (but because of the large group next to us, being used by a lot of people), water warm at best (probably used up by the time we got there – we like to shower after dinner)."


    Birdie, we were camped next to you in Xakanaka on site 4. Three vehicles with 3 kids, a trailer and one caravan. I think I spoke to you one evening in the ablutions when someone left the food there. I remember that big group and from when they arrived, we used the other ablutions to shower. That elephant was very close to your vehicle the one evening.

    "The “new” transit road between Khwai and Mababe was dreadful, one of the worst of the trip - incredibly dusty (with that very fine, insidious white dust) and very corrugated/rough. The only road to rival it was the gravel road between Shorobe and the vet fence, on the way from Maun to Moremi South Gate. "

    Absolutely agreed, everything was covered with white dust by the time we arrived at Dijara and our a bolt on our caravan broke on the road from Mababe to Shorobe, about 10 km before Shorobe. Our friends stayed a week longer and on their return they reported that the road was being graded.
    2018 Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 AT
    BushLapa 78 Now a Boskruier but with the same Zambia and CKGR bush stripes


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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Birdie, thank you very much. This is really a very informative and entertaining trip report. I enjoy the fact that you have added so much value with plenty of descriptions, opinions and impressions.

    I am sure that many will be more than happy to assist with any future trip planning. What you sow, so shall you reap.
    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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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Hi Birdie,

    Thanks for this. We are going next year April and this is excellent info.

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    lekhubu943 - yes, that was me. Such a pity that I did not know that you were a fellow forum member. I would have liked to thank you in person for the helpful advice you offered when I was planning the trip. You were one of many who answered our questions.

    I never did find out who belonged to the food, but it did eventually disappear. Hopefully, a staff member in need took it.

    Yes, we did enjoy the close company of a rather large ellie on one evening. It did it's best to pull a rather large branch down on our tent - thankfully, it was not successful.

    Of course, they would grade the road after we went through! :-)

    Thank you again - it was a pleasure to meet you.

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Likewise Birdie. Maybe our paths will cross again.

    That elephant was very close to you guys that evening. We had our hearts in our throats and I am sure you as well! He broke a couple of small branches next to our caravan later and the next night brushed against our friend's trailer. Needless to say the other couple in our group in the ground tent was very nervous.
    2018 Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 AT
    BushLapa 78 Now a Boskruier but with the same Zambia and CKGR bush stripes


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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Hi Birdie ,thank you for such a comprehensive trip report ,I am sure other forum members could only benefit from it .And it was my pleasure meeting you and chatting on the deck .Hope to see you back again soon .Take care
    Andre

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Thanks Stan! Your two CKGR trip reports (2011/2014) were so helpful, and our campsite selections were largely based on your input - Passarge 2, Piper 1, Sunday 2, Nxai Pan South Camp 2 - all your suggestions and all wonderful. Thank you so much for both reports - I have them saved on my laptop, and I pull them up from time to time to read them (especially on a cold, winter day when we are enduring -30C here in Canada) - very entertaining and informative. I also enjoyed your Slow Donkey blog - I followed along on your journey. I envy you that adventure.

    ...and you are most welcome. I am happy that you enjoyed the report. I am grateful beyond words for your assistance and advice.

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Hi Andre! It was a pleasure to meet you. Dijara is a lovely spot - what a place to live. I am very envious. I hope all went well/goes well in JNB.

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Thank you for putting in so much time and effort with your trip report. No question that it will enhance many forum users' experiences for a long time to come.

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Hi Birdie .Had my operation in Jnb already ,was a big one but I survived 😂
    Back at camp already for a week ,t am taking a bit of strain because of the heat here now .How are you chaps doing your side .Your winter is around the corner 😨😨

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    So happy to learn that all is well. I cannot think of a better place to recover than Dijara.
    Yes, winter well on the way in parts of Canada. Enjoy the heat! I'll trade you our -30C for your +30C.

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Thanks Birdie, extremely well detailed trip report. CKGR-heaven isn't it? As you say, best left for last I reckon.

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    This is an encyclopedia, not a trip report! Wow, thank you very much, we are doing the nxai pan -> moremi -> chobe trip in Aug 2017, 90% the same as yours, so this will help a ton! Unfortunately you burst my bubble a bit, we got the ugly duckling #4 @ Ihahai so lets hope it becomes a swan in the next 10 months!

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Great report.
    I was a little shocked to read about the lion being shot on the Namibia side.
    You would expect that this sort of thing would fall under Namibia wildlife authority or something.

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Thanks very much for your informative, detailed and entertaining report.

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Thanks Birdie for a very entertaining and informative trip report! brings back fond memories from CKGR. Next hear May we will do part of your trip including Nxai, I hope the game is more visible then!

    Thanks again!

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    Thank you so much for the information! A couple of tidbits to add that may or may not be useful. We were in CKGR and CHobe Oct 2015. Savuti #6 is far from the madding crowd but also a bit too far for our taste. We were continually driven out by a Bull elephant who didn't like us there one bit. Getting in our truck wasn't enough, we would drive to ablutions, wait, check, wait, drive back and a few hours later (all during the day) he'd come back. This wasn't the worst of it -- it was really having to trudge through very thick sand to use the ablutions and feeling a bit defenseless on foot that far away from our car or anyone else's for that matter - particularly given the elephant (and lion roaring at night). We'd prefer a closer site next time! Ihaha was deserted for us as well - we had lovely #10 and were the only campers for the first night with just 1 other camper the next two nights. No problems with army or river crossers, and just minor with baboons. We were surprised but quite happy with that. And we had zero bees at letihau campsite -- but possibly it was so dry and hot then they went to some other site where they might stumble upon people more often. The heat during October isn't for everyone, and animal sightings may not be the best, but we saw so much and only once did we need to share our sightings with another car - the whole time from CKGR, Nxai, and Moremi to Ihaha. So we're going again in October this year. One of these days, we'll see the country in green I hope!

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    Default Re: CKGR, Moremi, Chobe, Chobe Princess Houseboat - August/September 2016

    I just noticed as well you also had #5 at Nxai Pan. We had it for the one night we were there. Yes, not for the faint of heart - seems to be a thorough fare for ellies. We were newbies to this all, having just a week under our belts in CKGR and not having seen elephants. We arrived at night so couldn't see the downed trees and thought all the droppings were big rocks that people had placed across the path. A fellow camper came to warn us about the elephants and said something like Be careful, there are elephants that come through your campsite all the time. But we really didn't comprehend the sentence at the time. Either not quite thinking she meant elephants or thinking she meant "around" but not "through" -- as in a good distance away. Well, my hubbie was brushing his teeth and about the biggest elephant of the entire trip came silently by, nearly brushing into him - he will never ever forget that shock. How stealth they can be, how big they can be when you are next to them on foot, and the realiziation that this was going to be our life for the next 7 weeks . We now know to take folks literally for something like that.

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