TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain





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  1. #1
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    Default TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Back from yet another beautiful holiday in Botswana (27th of Jan to 12th of Feb) we have a few interesting experiences to share as usual - alas sometimes without photos to prove as they either happened during the night or we forgot to take the camera into our rooftop tent (even a smartphone would have been great - it will NEVER happen again).

    Our original plan was:
    1 night Thabazimbi, Marula Cottage GH
    1 night Khama Rhino
    6 nights in CKGR (2 x Kori 03; 2 x Passarge 02; 2 x Sunday 04)
    1 night Maun
    2 nights Nxai Pan South Camp
    1 night Baines Baobab
    1 night Elephant Sands
    1 night Ihaha
    2 nights Senyati

    And what we really did:

    Part 1:
    1 night Thabazimbi, Marula Cottage GH
    1 night Khama Rhino
    4 nights in CKGR (2 x Kori 03; 2 x Sunday 04)
    1 night Maun, Queness Inn
    1 night Nxai Pan South Camp

    Part 2:
    1 night Moremi South Gate
    2 nights Moremi Third Bridge
    1 night near Mababe

    Part 3:
    1 night Savuti
    1 night Senyati
    1 night Ihaha
    1 night Senyati

    Campsite bookings for Khama, CKGR and Nxai/Baines were done by Botswana Footprints, very satisfied with their service.

    Part 1:
    We arrived on 27th of Jan in JNB around noon. Takeover of our Bushlore Hilux Double Cab took longer than we had hoped but as we intended to stay in CKGR we were keen on making sure that everything was ok - glad that we did as the PIN code of the satphone was not correct and the compressor did not work properly. Apart from these two issues we were very satisfied with the car's performance and general standard - this cannot be taken for granted as we later learned from a couple who had rented their car from Britz and had all kinds of problems with both car and equipment.
    After big shopping at PicknPay we spent the first night at Marula Cottage GH near Thabazimbi. Wonderful small place to stay, quiet, good food and nice hosts.

    Next day we headed towards Martin`s drift. Border crossing took us more than an hour and we arrived at Khama Rhino in the middle of a thunderstorm which alas brought more wind and clouds than rain. After a shower and coffee with rusks we did a short game drive and found a group of 8 rhinos near Malema's Pan, all huddeling close together. Had someone offered them a hot water bottle I think they would have gratefully accepted. During the night and breakfast there was a light drizzle of rain - not really appreciated when we packed our things but we left for CKGR with much expectations.

    Prior to our departure we were quite a bit worried about the draught in CKGR as we had followed the weather reports for some time and knew that it had not rained much during this season. Alas, we were right - while we appreciated the dry conditions on the road from Rakops to Matswere (you could see where people must have had an awful battle during the last wets!) it was very obvious that due to the lack of rain vegetation was in a very poor condition.
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  3. #2
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Kori 03 was our home for the first two nights. It is a large campsite, has good ablutions and is close to the pan (but you do not have a real view). As far as I remember we did not do a game drive in the afternoon - we just made camp and enjoyed the silence and bird songs and celebrated our first real night in the bush with a few ice-cold ones. The night was quiet. There was hardly any sound - no jackal, no lion but plenty of barking geckos and we also heard the "ho-huuu" of a nearby owl.

    Next morning we rose early and left at first morning light towards Lethiahau waterhole. To be honest, it was not really an overwhelming experience: during the whole ride we saw a few springbox and oryx but generally it was very VERY quiet and dry. En route we met some people who told us that they had once spotted cheetahs near Passarge but no other cats during the 6 days prior. At the waterhole itself we saw a beautiful giraffe - the only one in our 4 nights in CKGR. Back in camp early afternoon Matthias started to look for the owl and soon found it in one of the bigger trees near the pan's edge. How he managed to capture it on photo with this incredibly heavy lens without a tripod it a mystery to me! We think it was a Spotted Eagle Owl - correct?

    On 1st of February we moved on to Sunday Pan Campsite 04. For these 2 nights we had bookings for Passarge but I had the feeling that such a dry CK was not what I had hoped for - I found the dry wasteland rather depressing and was not keen on driving all the way to Passarge . Just as we left Kori grey clouds were rapidly growing and we had high hopes for rain but it was only dust and wind. On our way to Sunday Pan we saw that indeed there had been some rain in this area but of course in general it was as dry as Kori Pan. CKSUN04 is a beautiful campsite on the edge of the pan with a very nice view down on the pan. We spent an hour at the waterhole and saw some oryx and springbocks but they were very shy. Back in camp we were visited by a cute and curious slender mongoose and later waited with a certain anxiety if someone with a reservation would arrive but it was only a gamedrive vehicle from one of the lodges that passed. Shortly before sunset we put up our tent and had an enjoyable evening braai.
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  5. #3
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Thanks Anne, will be following this report.

    You are correct, it is a Spotted Eagle-Owl.

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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    At around midnight I could no longer sleep so started to read a bit. About half an hour later I heard a sound that I thought could be a leopard's call. It was still very far away but every 10 min or so it was repeated so I decided to wake Matthias. At first he was skeptical but gradually the call got louder and louder and we were awestruck when suddenly a second leopard answered and it was also close-by. We cowered in our tent and peered through the net with much excitement and believe it or not, we spotted one of the leopards about 10 metres from our tent, it was clearly visible in the moonlight! We heard the creaking sound of a dry bush where the leopard maybe left his marking or lay down, we do not know what it was but after a few precious moments it decided to move on and we heard both leopards' calls getting fainter and fainter. WOW, what an experience! It still gives me the goosebumps when I hear its impressive call that we recorded the moment it moved through our camp.

    When we got up it was a rare foggy humid morning in this harsh land. We went down to the waterhole which must have been the only source of water for dozens of miles but except for a few birds nowbody appeared. The water looked muddy and unhealthy and we wondered if this was the reason. Later we checked the leopard's pawprints in our campsite and we could see that it came up from the waterhole, crossed our campsite and moved on into the bush on an old hardly visible track.

    In the afternoon we explored the area around Leopard Pan but really only saw the occasional forelorn oryx or small numbers of springbock . Some the bat-eared foxes kept us entertained in the hours before sunset but kept their distance or even moved off when we stopped to look at them. The evening was quiet again, no barking geckos but lions roaring very far away and again a leopard called in the night but of course did not appear on our campsite again (though it would have been very welcome).

    Next morning we conferred on whether or not we should stay another two nights in CKGR. As much as we enjoyed the solitude (we met a maximum of 2 other vehicles per day) and sweeping views I was disappointed of the lack of game in general. It must be an amazing place at the right time of the year but not for us this time so it was decided to head for Maun, buy some fruit and veggies and spend the night there. On our way from Sunday Pan to Matswere via the Transversal road we encountered an incredible amount of fresh elephant poo and ripped-off branches and it was clear that they had moved through this area only a short while ago. We followed their spoor up to the old game scout camp where they had veered-off into the bush. Later at the gate they confirmed that elephants were in this area where the bush was much greener than around Kori or Sunday.

    At Matswere the lady gate asked us if we could take one of her colleagues to Maun. Sure, we shortly made some rearrangements of our things on the back seat and made acquaintance of Onti (that's what I understood) who had to do some errant in Maun and would later go back to CKGR on the same day - phew! On the way back to the tar road Onti casually remarked that he had just seen a big snake on the side of the road under a bush. Given our speed of around 40 km/h and we are still speechless how on earth he could see the snake just by looking out of the window but he was certainly right: we reversed and found a black mamba coiled up under a bush! It was a my side so I struggled with the heavy camera to get a shot of the creature who started to move up into the bush. Fortunately at some point the mamba decided not to move for a while and gave us a cold-eyed stare. A deadly but beautiful creature indeed!
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  9. #5
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    I have to post the photos in two parts as I get the message that the amount of data is too big
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  11. #6
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    Default the midnight leopard's call at CKSUN04

    If you have loudspeakers integrated into your computer you will hardly hear it. But if you have these small stand-alone speakers it might take you right there to CKSUN04 on 31st of January . Hope it works.

    Enjoy,
    Anne

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=164...-ReGXA9O3ZXqiu

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  13. #7
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Once we arrived in Maun, Onti was loaded off at Riley's Garage and we headed for Queeness Inn north of Maun where Tara had reserved us a room for a night. Being a day early was not a problem and we were even given a small suite with kitchen, living and sleeping room. Although it is a bit dark inside and has a rather sober atmosphere, we enjoyed the peace and quiet and it was very clean and well equipped. Shopping accomplished we had a lekker dinner at an Indian restaurant near the airport.

    Next morning we left in high spirits for Nxai Pan National Park. Some parts of the road a really badly potholed but the vegetation got greener and greener. Just when we passed the border with Nxai Pan/Magkadigkadi NP we were greeted by the first elephants and saw a wonderful herd of giraffes. Xomae at the entrance gate did not have a problem with us arriving 2 days early so off we went in search of the big herds of migrating zebra. Impressive amounts of elephant poo again on the road - we were in heaven and arrived at South Camp with high expectations. On the map the ranger kindly highlighted the recommended areas for gameviewing and warned us that after the rains there would be some muddy sections which had to be avoided.

    South Camp has nice shade trees and we had chosen no. 2 as it was said that elephants often pass through this site. After a light lunch we headed out for our first game drive. It was rather grey and overcast and not too warm so we hoped that game would be more active than on days with scorching heat. The loops around in the South-Western and Central part of the NP did not bring much excitement, we saw a few dozen zebras and some wildebeest but no elephants and the poo at the waterholes also looked as if it had been deposited days or even weeks earlier. We met a gamedrive vehicle and the guide said that the elephants had moved towards Boteti. WHAT? Boteti was a very poor trickle of water when we crossed it - why would they? Well, either they had moved south or were hidden in the woods, the fact is that we never saw one, not this day and not on the following. After a very quiet night we rose to grey sky, wind and a steady drizzle of rain. It looked like a typical autumn day in northern Germany, only that the roads were much more slippery. Morning gamedrive rewarded us with big puddles and the sighting of 4 depressed wildebeest, standing stoically in the pouring rain and ONE impala. Not so stoic was me, I was getting really annoyed about the weather, about the elephants for having left, about the zebra for not arriving in hundreds, about the lions and bat-eared foxes for hiding in some cozy dry place where we should have stayed as well, even about poor DH for not having ordered the right weather. And it did not really help when he pointed out that it was me who did the rain dance in CKGR....

    After a second breakfast we decided to leave South Camp since it looked as if the rains would continue all day. The question now was whether or not to head to Baines for a night - after all we had a booking for this, but from my point of view it did not really make sense to stay there and watch the baobabs being slowly drowned. It was already on our way south that we met a couple from the Netherlands who enquired about our experience at Nxai Pans. We honestly told them about our personal impressions and asked where they had spent the last days. It turned out that they had crossed Chobe and Moremi with stops in Savuti and Third Bridge and they were enthusiastic and said that road conditions were still acceptable and it was no problem to get a camp booking. This got the ball in my head rolling as I had been dreaming of going to this area for some time but never had the guts to really do it in the rainy season. After a short discussion where DH thankfully gave in to make me happy we decided to gp tp Maun and see if we could get further information there. Soon the sky started to clear up, the sun came out and we even saw a few elephants on the way to the gate! After check-out we sailed west, again trying to avoid some nasty potholes on the A3. The closer we came to Maun the darker the clouds and the skies opened again and it poured heavily until we reached Maun where it started to rain cats and dogs. Down the drain went our dreams of exploring Moremi, we were frustrated and decided to get advice from Botswana Footprints or DWNP, only then realizing that it was Sunday and the offices were closed. Life can be bloed! After lunch at Wimpys we headed to Queeness Inn again when I suddenly remembered that Tara had sent me a list of phone numbers of the NPs' gates so we asked the very friendly lady at Queeness Inn reception if we could call the gate from there. To our big surprise South Gate confirmed that they did not have any rain this day and that there was space for us so after profused thanks to the kind lady at Queeness we bought a few things at the supermarket, topped up on fuel and at 4pm were on our way to South Gate. It was a fortunate decision!
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  15. #8
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Great! Thanks for the effort, looking forward to the next parts.

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  17. #9
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    Default Re: the midnight leopard's call at CKSUN04

    Quote Originally Posted by Anne_W View Post
    If you have loudspeakers integrated into your computer you will hardly hear it. But if you have these small stand-alone speakers it might take you right there to CKSUN04 on 31st of January . Hope it works.

    Enjoy,
    Anne

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=164...-ReGXA9O3ZXqiu
    beautiful!!.....
    2007 Fortuner 3 D4D, 4x4
    2015 Ford Ranger 2.2

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  19. #10
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    You were lucky with the accommodation because it is a relatively quiet time of the year in Botswana in Jan and Feb.
    Malcolm van Coller - retired 2013 but remained in Johannesburg (maybe will look at moving south, Robertson or Wellington type of town, once the wife retires)
    2011 Nissan Pathfinder 2,5 CDi LE Manual (with front Lokka) - My Platkar...
    2008 Nissan Patrol 3.0 TDi GL with front Lokka (Use it mainly for Safari business)
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    Ex 1999 Nissan Terrano 2.7 TDi
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Thanks, Anne. Eagerly waiting for next installments...
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
    -------------------------------------------------------------
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Part II: Moremi

    On our way from Maun to South Gate we saw more animals than in 24 hours in Nxai Pans and every elephant, giraffe, impala, zebra and mongoose was greeted with much enthusiasm and cheering. Vegetation next to the road was dense and incredibly green - soooo wonderful with a ray of sunlight thrown inbetween! On arrival at South Gate we signed in for a night and were informed that we could choose any campsite - there was nobody and they did not expect anyone.

    Campsite no. 7 at the edge of camp was our favourite with a beautiful large tree in the middle and plenty of space and we immediately proceeded to putting up our tent and have tea and rusks in these beautiful surroundings. Birdlife was exuberant as dusk approached, all kinds of birds had their performance on stage, our beloved doves, the woodland kingfisher and many other calls that we sadly cannot yet identify (but we are working on it), it was a real bird symphonie, food for our soul and ears. Normally we climb up into the tent rather early but this night we so much enjoyed the sounds of Moremi - it was pitch-dark and we were sitting next to the big tree when DH suddenly jumped up - a cute mouse was climbing up the tree and he had heard its claws on the bark. Phew! Continued listening to Moremi sounds - DH jumps up again, almost throwing over his camping chair - this time something bigger went up the tree, a beautiful spotted genet which was not shy and peered at us with its big round eyes. This evening could not get much better so we climbed up into the tent and drifted off to the sounds of whooping hyeana.

    Next morning we woke around 6.20 and lay awake listening to the wonderful birdsong. Me drifting back to sleep again when we suddenly heard a herd of impala storming through the campsite. Matthias wondered "why are they in such a hurry?" and me answered sleepily "maybe wild dogs were chasing them". Silence again, DH peering through the side mesh of the tent. A moment later an urgent whisper: "Anne, I can see wild dogs approaching! Me unsure of whether he is joking slowly getting up and peering through the front mesh when a group of 20 wild dogs slowly passes about 10 m in front of our tent. One by one, in beautiful morning light, not in a hurry but certainly with the aim of getting breakfast - 2 minutes later they are gone and we are in awe, speechless, me almost in tears. Never in our travels to Africa have we seen wild dogs, this was so special. An incredible way to start the day, we had a lazy breakfast and savoured the moment. Alas no photos as we did not even take a smartphone "upstairs" but this magical moment will stay in our mind forever, that`s for sure.

    Later in the morning we left for Third Bridge. I did not really prepare for this trip to Moremi as we were supposed to be in CKGR at this time but remembered that Bodumatu Loop and Xini Lagoon were recommended in some trip reports so that's the way we went. It was rather cloudy with a bit of drizzle from time to time but never mind, we saw plenty of game and the scenery was diverse with mopane woods, swampy areas, patches of grassland and clearings in the bush. We had an exciting encounter with an elephant who chased us with loud trumpeting until we were a certain distance away. Every time we stopped to let him approach he would start to chase us again, he must have had a bad day. A cute mongoose was posing nicely for photos, zebras, kudus and impala all seemed to give us a warm welcome. Around 10.30 we were in the Xini Lagoon area when we stumbled upon a herd of 6 giraffes, always appreciated, 2 adults and 4 youngsters. We switched of the engine and admired their dignified posture - really graceful creatures! Something was unusual, they did not pay us much attention (and giraffes are curious) and also the impala were all nervously looking in one direction and the birdsong was not sweet but raucous. We waited for some time, nothing happened and decided to continue. After only 100 m DH said "Lets get back, something is really wrong, they have not even looked at us when we started the car". So back we went, killed the engine again and waited. A moment later, a movement ahead of us and - out came this beauty, very relaxed, the first leopard that we ever discovered ourselves. She (we think it was a "she") gave us an indifferent look, stretched, sat down for a while and then slowly ambled into the bush as if butter wouldn't melt in her mouth. Far too soon she was gone but we were ecstatic: wild dogs before breakfast, leopard before lunch - this was by far the best day of our trip!

    At some point in CKGR we had studied the package insert of our anti-malarial and it had mentioned that side effects could include seeing and hearing things that are not there. Hey, we will continue taking these pills until our last days if these are the side effects!
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  24. #13
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    more photos
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  26. #14
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    everybody watching after the leopard.

    We with disbelief, the game with relief.
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  28. #15
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Thank you for taking time to report in detail. I know that feeling when one can at times feel a little let down by few to no animals - but then Bots always comes up with unplanned good surprises making the trip all that more appreciable in the end. Dog and Leopard ! Look forward to the rest.
    "To look is one thing, to understand what what you see, is something else"

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  30. #16
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Thank you for the great report and photos. Luckily overcast weather results in beautiful colour saturation.

    It's amazing to see Moremi so green - we always visited in the dry season.

    Wrangler Sahara 3.8
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  32. #17
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    I love the leopard photos. It is always special to come across cats and you never know what is around the next corner.

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  34. #18
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    What a day! Thanks for taking the trouble

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  36. #19
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Thanks Anne, great report!!!!

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  38. #20
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    Default Re: TR Botswana Jan/Feb 2018: of highs and lows and draught and rain

    Thank you Anne! Don't stop please.

    Sad to hear you did not enjoy the CKGR, I know you pondered hard about that leg of your trip. At least is seems that Moremi awarded you 100 fold.
    2018 Toyota Fortuner 2.8 GD-6 4x4 AT
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