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  1. #1
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    Default Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    After fairly extensive research, I booked a 2 week self drive Bots safari back in 2019, for May 2020, through an agent. Finally we (swambo and I) got to leave on 19 May '21.
    Trying to get all the preps done timeously and finish work things proved a larger and more costly task than imagined. My Pajero was running perfectly but I took it to MitsiTech for a check over anyway. Bad news - an engine mounting was broken, radiator needed flushing, gearbox needed a service and a few other things .... R26k later. I discovered 3 days before departure that my almost new NL 90 litre Twin fridge/ freezer dwas not cooling at all. Fortunately NL loaned me a similar unit.

    Khama Rhino Sanctuary was our first stop but, having not got through all the tasks on our checklist, we spent too much time shopping en-route and only arrived after dark. All we had time for the next morning was a quick drive around and unfortunately didn't see a single rhino.

    En-route to Maun I ignored a lesson previously learned - fill up where there is the opportunity to do so. 70 km after Rakops I realised we didn't have enough diesel to get to Maun and there was nowhere to get until Maun. So we ended up getting to Maun too late to get permits, meat, veggies. This is frustrating as it means wasting time the next morning.

    Eventually the real driving started halfway through the 21st May - Maun to Magothlo Camp (Khwai). Again we arrived late afternoon but found a nice campsite (we were able to choose as there were few bookings). Our 3 nights there were really enjoyable and in retrospect we should have stayed there, or in that area, another 3 nights or more. We were somewhat surprised at the sparseness of game. On previous Bots trips there have been elephants everywhere. There were a few around but nowhere near what I've seen in the past. We heard lion and hyena came close to the camp. Plains game was there but not the usual abundance.

    Next stop was Savuti and I have to say I was very glad we had only booked 1 night there. What a disappointing camp - the sand in our campsite was almost the thickest experienced on the whole trip. The drive there is only 85km but the road is thick sand most of the way with "whoops" that limit your speed to between 15 and 35 km/h. I have no problem taking on rough roads and challenging driving, if it is worth the trip, but Savuti was definitely not in our experience. They also allowed a safari group to play music and make a fair amount of noise, which is absolutely not on in a place where we go to hear the sounds of the bush.
    Again the game was sparse - we heard lion very close but the bush was thick after the good rains and they were lying low.

    Heading north our next stop was Thobolos Camp in the Chobe area. A stunning lodge and nice campsites overlooking a waterhole, a great "transition" camp.
    Next stop was closer to Kasane - "Muchenje Camp". Probably the best camp sites we have ever stayed at with great views over the flood plains. However it is a fenced off camp in a village, which means you have the noise of dogs barking all night and occasional cows bellowing. It is located close to to Chobe National Park though so convenient for day drives. There were good sightings of elephant, giraffe, crocodile, zebra, hippo etc along the river drive in Chobe, but almost nothing at all to see heading inland.
    We really enjoyed a boat trip with Kalahari Tours on the Chobe.

    On the homeward trip we spent a night at Elephant Sands, where I have stayed before. Sadly the lockdown has had a noticeable affect on the place but this should be no excuse for them allowing a group of local people to party in one of the tent/ chalets until late at night. Even here the ellies seem to have disappeared with maybe 12 visiting the entire night.

    Our last night was enjoyed at KwaNokeng Lodge/ Camp at Martin's Drift - this is a highly recommended stop-over. After a couple of weeks of camping it is a real treat to sit under their magnificent Jackalberry (I think)? tree on the Limpopo bank and enjoy a delicious meal.

    Lessons learned
    1. Educate yourself better on the wilderness areas beyond Maun. If I had understood it the way I do now, I would have stayed in the Khwai/ Moremi area and not bothered going all the way to Savuti/ Chobe/ Kasane.
    2. If using an agent to make bookings, make sure the agent understands what you are looking for. I expected all the camps we stayed at to be wild, unfenced, far from villages/ local noises and in densely populated wildlife areas. Only Magothlo and Savuti fitted this description.
    3. Never, ever, ever stay in or near a village/ town like Maun or Kasane ... ever! The dogs, traffic, local parties/ music etc really detract from a bush experience. It is definitely worth staying a ways outside the town/ village and driving in/ out. I expected this to be the case with Audi Camp since it is about 10 km out of Maun, but actually it is very much surrounded by village and dogs barking all night.
    4. Make sure the camps you book at are far from a "main road" - you don't want to hear traffic noise at night.
    5. Get your vehicle and equipment pre-checks done weeks before your trip. I thought I had weeks and the next thing it was just days. It always seems way in the future, but those last few weeks go by in a flash.
    6. If you go for a drive at night, leave a lamp high up in a tree at your campsite - it is incredibly easy to get disorientated at night and not be able to find your site.
    7. Get the Tracks 4 Africa map, it is MUCH better than others available. Sure you have the latest T4A loaded on your GPS, but a map is very useful to be able to see the big picture.
    8. If a jerry can leaks, it is usually the cap mechanism has been bent from trying to force it down harder, or the rubber seal is worn. Simply bending it straight can save you forking out 400 Pula for a new one (I learned this after buying a new one).
    9. Check that you know how to engage low range and test that it engages. Also what pressures to reduce tyres to for different conditions. Never be too lazy to reduce tyre pressure, or to re-inflate. I forgot to put my Pajero into neutral before shifting to low range, so low range did not engage and I was stuck for 30 minutes, wasting time digging and packing branches.


    Another interesting thing I found was that the only other time I had used my 90 litre fridge, it drained my battery and the solar panels had a difficult time keeping it charged. Obviously it had leaked gas and was operating very inefficiently, but I didn't know that so I added another large battery to my trailer. With the loan fridge unit operating efficiently, it made a massive difference and the solar panels charged the batteries back to full in like an hour, even thought we are now also running a water pump and more lights than we had previously. I am positive that the one 120 A/h battery and one 100W solar panel would have been adequate.
    Lastly - in my experience a simple, inexpensive "Easton" charge controller works way better than an expensive CTEK D250 in terms of the solar panels charging the batteries. I have both but now only use the CTEK for charging from the vehicle's alternator.

    Hope the points above help others out. Feel free to contact me for further info.
    Turning a 10 minute job into an hour
    Gary
    49 on Cherry Guesthouse
    2008 Pajero 3.2 GLX LWB (A)
    2012 Conqueror Courage


  2. #2
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Glad that you experienced Botswana first hand and now have first hand experience.
    1) This is why we always advise travellers to make their own homework before even taking a trip. The agent is not going to know which camp has dogs barking and which will not. So, before taking on a trip, do your assignment, and then tell the agent, I want this location and this location, and the agent can advise there and there.

    2) You have to look at bookings statistics and it it shows why Savuti is the BEST destination. Savuti is a very complex area and lot of travellers dont understand the area very much and get frustrated. 2 Nights minimum in Savuti to really get the best of the place. I have been there several times already this year including February when it was raining and never been disappointed.

    3) We can all talk about vehicle noise and traffic. We cant live without those. The reason why travellers stay in Maun, is to get all staff in shops and fuel ready and then have an early start. So, if you choose to stay outside Maun, you will be forced to wait for 0830 for shops to open and then buy and then leave, which takes time. Unlike spending one night in Maun, do shopping till late hours, fill up fuel and then leave Maun early morning to arrive early.
    Khwai Magotho can be noisy to, soo next time you book 6 nights there, dont be suprised that its now vehicle highway with tour operators and self drivers all over. Just that its covid era, less travellers.

    The point is, when you travelling, not everything will turn out as you want/planned, and the best decision is to focus on yourself and how you can enjoy your holidays.
    Last edited by PAT n WOLF; 2021/06/07 at 03:43 PM.

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  4. #3
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Thanks for reporting Eduroguy. Confirming lots of valuable tips and info.

    I must support the very experienced Pat (above post), and say that Savuti is definitely worth visiting for at least 2 or three nights. I understand that your comments are based on your personal experience, but we have been to Savuti many times, along with the rest of Moremi/Chobe. I would never deliberately leave out Savuti nor advise others to do so.
    Stanley Weakley.
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  6. #4
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Thanks for posting, threads like this help guys like me who want to but have not yet gone on a trip like this.

  7. #5
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    Thanks for reporting Eduroguy. Confirming lots of valuable tips and info.

    I must support the very experienced Pat (above post), and say that Savuti is definitely worth visiting for at least 2 or three nights. I understand that your comments are based on your personal experience, but we have been to Savuti many times, along with the rest of Moremi/Chobe. I would never deliberately leave out Savuti nor advise others to do so.

    Although I keep hearing from a good majority that Savuti is not that worth especially since the channel dried, well, I can confirm that Savuti is still a can't miss item as long as you understand the area as said above. Was there in 2017-2018 and 2019 (so never had the channel flowing)and it is in Savuti that I had some of the best sights to date. The minimum stay has to be at least 2 nights.

    @Pat - The channel is still not flowing right?
    Last edited by Nambots; 2021/06/07 at 06:49 PM.

  8. #6
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Quote Originally Posted by Nambots View Post
    Although I keep hearing from a good majority that Savuti is not that worth especially since the channel dried, well, I can confirm that Savuti is still a can't miss item as long as you understand the area as said above. Was there in 2017-2018 and 2019 (so never had the channel flowing)and it is in Savuti that I had some of the best sights to date. The minimum stay has to be at least 2 nights.

    @Pat - The channel is still not flowing right?
    Noo..it’s not flowing. All animals are Back to the three waterholes now for drinking.

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  9. #7
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    Post Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Savuti, as with everywhere, can be 'hit and miss' but it has a healthy lion population and you would be extremely unlucky to stay there 3 nights without seeing any... having said that, I camped with my family 2 weeks ago and only saw lion on the day of departure, after approx 100km of game drives over the 3 days. But it was well worth it - we had 4 lions to ourselves for the best part of 45 minutes. There is a good network of game drive roads and you aren't always seeing other vehicles, even when the area is busy. Another highlight was being surrounded by 40 ellies at a waterhole in the mophane forest.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    However I have noticed the campsite isn't as buzzing with wildlife as it used to be. Hyena don't seem to be as active (only visited once in the early hours of the morning) and it was very quiet in terms of wildlife sounds. The most noticeable sound, apart from a Pearlspotted Owlet in the tree in the campsite, was the generator from the tented camp which seemed to be running 24/7



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  10. #8
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Quote Originally Posted by andyrag View Post
    Savuti, as with everywhere, can be 'hit and miss' but it has a healthy lion population and you would be extremely unlucky to stay there 3 nights without seeing any... having said that, I camped with my family 2 weeks ago and only saw lion on the day of departure, after approx 100km of game drives over the 3 days. But it was well worth it - we had 4 lions to ourselves for the best part of 45 minutes. There is a good network of game drive roads and you aren't always seeing other vehicles, even when the area is busy. Another highlight was being surrounded by 40 ellies at a waterhole in the mophane forest.

    Click image for larger version. 

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    However I have noticed the campsite isn't as buzzing with wildlife as it used to be. Hyena don't seem to be as active (only visited once in the early hours of the morning) and it was very quiet in terms of wildlife sounds. The most noticeable sound, apart from a Pearlspotted Owlet in the tree in the campsite, was the generator from the tented camp which seemed to be running 24/7
    Even the DWNP generator goes off around 23:00. I once asked them why they switch it that late and told me, they also wanna watch Soapies on TV and warm the water. Yesterday,a friend posted pictures of a sighting of more than 100 eland herd at Jackal island, on the far end of the Marsh... most self drivers don’t drive there...

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  11. #9
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    I'm sorry that your experience in Savuti was not positive. We've been lucky I guess - last time we were there for 4 days, and really enjoyed every day. The wildlife has been prolific from our perspective. The sand is certainly soft, although it''s never been a problem.

    Thanks for sharing, and I hope you return there, and have a better experience.

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  13. #10
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    You as SADC are priviliged to stay in Chobe and Moremi for a fraction we from EU must pay, ie 50 US$ pppn for camp. Therefore we always stay in Muchenje, Dijara and Kasane and do just day drives to Khwai, Moremi and Chobe. Savuti is far from everywhere so unfortunately I will never have chance to comment if area is worth or not for stay.

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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Good write up mateIn NZ and looking forward to a Bots trip when things open up again.Enjoy for us! 😎
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Quote Originally Posted by PAT n WOLF View Post
    Glad that you experienced Botswana first hand and now have first hand experience.
    1) This is why we always advise travellers to make their own homework before even taking a trip. The agent is not going to know which camp has dogs barking and which will not. So, before taking on a trip, do your assignment, and then tell the agent, I want this location and this location, and the agent can advise there and there.

    2) You have to look at bookings statistics and it it shows why Savuti is the BEST destination. Savuti is a very complex area and lot of travellers dont understand the area very much and get frustrated. 2 Nights minimum in Savuti to really get the best of the place. I have been there several times already this year including February when it was raining and never been disappointed.

    3) We can all talk about vehicle noise and traffic. We cant live without those. The reason why travellers stay in Maun, is to get all staff in shops and fuel ready and then have an early start. So, if you choose to stay outside Maun, you will be forced to wait for 0830 for shops to open and then buy and then leave, which takes time. Unlike spending one night in Maun, do shopping till late hours, fill up fuel and then leave Maun early morning to arrive early.
    Khwai Magotho can be noisy to, soo next time you book 6 nights there, dont be suprised that its now vehicle highway with tour operators and self drivers all over. Just that its covid era, less travellers.

    The point is, when you travelling, not everything will turn out as you want/planned, and the best decision is to focus on yourself and how you can enjoy your holidays.
    Hi Pat and Wolf - you sound like you know Bots well - would you mind sharing your ideal 2 week route with us? Best regards
    Dave Hill

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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Morning,

    We drove through Savuti once and then went back to stay. We had an amazing stay with wild dogs and lions in the camp (trip reports here) besides epic lion and elephant sightings on our drives. Would never plan to miss Savuti on any future Botswana trips. Hoping to see the leopards next time.

    Regards all,
    Last edited by FatHuey; 2021/06/14 at 08:36 AM.
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Hill View Post
    Hi Pat and Wolf - you sound like you know Bots well - would you mind sharing your ideal 2 week route with us? Best regards
    Dave Hill
    Hie Dave
    Would you mind sharing a little more of your preferences,destinations, for me to help you. I can take 2 weeks and do CKGR alone, or I can spread my two weeks across Botswana depending on my point of entry. Depends mostly on you....

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  19. #15
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    I agree with Pat n Wolf.
    We once had a chap who baulked at the idea of 2 weeks for Lesotho, saying "I can drive around the country in a day".
    Enough said!
    Last edited by Mick; 2021/06/21 at 10:21 AM.
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Pat, I fell in love with Botswana and its people way back in 2005.
    Things have changed - not as laid-back and quiet like it used to be.
    My biggest problem at present is to get a booking done (and completed) for the CKGR.
    How do you inject life, energy, sense of urgency and commitment to client service into the DWNP staff?
    I can tell you a horror story of my dealings with them since mid 2019.

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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Quote Originally Posted by Footloose View Post
    Pat, I fell in love with Botswana and its people way back in 2005.
    Things have changed - not as laid-back and quiet like it used to be.
    My biggest problem at present is to get a booking done (and completed) for the CKGR.
    How do you inject life, energy, sense of urgency and commitment to client service into the DWNP staff?
    I can tell you a horror story of my dealings with them since mid 2019.
    Yes, I can echo these sentiments having struggled with DWNP. Found an excellent solution, deal with an agent in Botswana. This removes the tension and frustration, I can highly recommend Maile from NDM Travel Agency, a member of this forum. Their fees were only about BWP550.
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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Savuti is a must - but for more than a couple of nights at least.
    If you get the opportunity try and book for a couple of nights at Ihaha Camp (about half way between Muchenje and Kasane) with DWNP. Its on the flood plain and unlike Muchenje, in the Chobe NP. On one of my visits, I was lucky enough to see leopard on a impala kill in the camp in the afternoon as I arrived, lion stealing the kill from the poor leopard just after dusk and then a visit to my campsite by one of the lioness as I sat braaiing a bit later.
    But you will always see plenty of game on the flood plain and a drive around the area will always be productive.

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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Quote Originally Posted by PAT n WOLF View Post
    Glad that you experienced Botswana first hand and now have first hand experience.
    1) This is why we always advise travellers to make their own homework before even taking a trip. The agent is not going to know which camp has dogs barking and which will not. So, before taking on a trip, do your assignment, and then tell the agent, I want this location and this location, and the agent can advise there and there.

    2) You have to look at bookings statistics and it it shows why Savuti is the BEST destination. Savuti is a very complex area and lot of travellers dont understand the area very much and get frustrated. 2 Nights minimum in Savuti to really get the best of the place. I have been there several times already this year including February when it was raining and never been disappointed.

    3) We can all talk about vehicle noise and traffic. We cant live without those. The reason why travellers stay in Maun, is to get all staff in shops and fuel ready and then have an early start. So, if you choose to stay outside Maun, you will be forced to wait for 0830 for shops to open and then buy and then leave, which takes time. Unlike spending one night in Maun, do shopping till late hours, fill up fuel and then leave Maun early morning to arrive early.
    Khwai Magotho can be noisy to, soo next time you book 6 nights there, dont be suprised that its now vehicle highway with tour operators and self drivers all over. Just that its covid era, less travellers.

    The point is, when you travelling, not everything will turn out as you want/planned, and the best decision is to focus on yourself and how you can enjoy your holidays.
    Sorry to hear you had such a bad experience, but there are some very good tour operators, other than agents (which are office bound) , that have assisted us in the past, but sad to say...Botswana as a destination is still good...but the staff at some places are not at par for what you pay. As previous members were eluded to...community camps are not quiet, especially over weekends..same goes for camps close to villages or towns...it is all over Africa the same.

    There are some other spots in the Moremi that are far from these noisy places like Third Bridge or Xakanaka or Linyanti...maybe try them next time.

    In my humble opinion, Namibia's Zambezi Region (old Caprivi Strip) offers much more bang for your buck, as the same type of game viewing and species appear in that region along the rivers and marshes. I prefer nowadays to visit Mahango, Mamili and Mudumu (think the name changed to Rupara Nkasa?) game reserves.

    Safe travels (Safari Ngjema)
    Jannie Engelbrecht

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    Default Re: Botswana May 2021 - Valuable lessons learned

    Quote Originally Posted by Jannie Engelbrecht View Post

    In my humble opinion, Namibia's Zambezi Region (old Caprivi Strip) offers much more bang for your buck, as the same type of game viewing and species appear in that region along the rivers and marshes. I prefer nowadays to visit Mahango, Mamili and Mudumu (think the name changed to Rupara Nkasa?) game reserves.

    Safe travels (Safari Ngjema)
    I have the same opinion. Especially for oversea visitors the bang for the buck is much higher in Caprivi. I would add also Susuwe triangle. I call it "Okavango delta for poor". But nothing can be compared with Khwai Triangle in my opinion.

    Concerning the noise only one solution is to join the party with locals. We never avoid this opportunity. It was always nice so far, sometimes rather wild. Friendly locals make a piece of taste of Africa for us too.
    Last edited by schwott; 2021/06/28 at 09:29 AM.

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