Trip report Makgadikgadi-Moremi-Chobe-Khwai-KTP





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  1. #1
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    Default Trip report Makgadikgadi-Moremi-Chobe-Khwai-KTP

    Hi All

    In common with many people, I want to add my thanks to all the contributors to this forum who helped make our trip a success with up-to-date, relevant information. I did have the advantage of coming through this area regularly when I was an overland driver 20+ years ago but things do change - sometimes very quickly - while other aspects don't change at all! The forum smoothes out many potential problems, and this is my small way of thanking you all in return

    Basic itinerary: Jo'burg - Jobedi - Khama Rhino Sanctuary - Gweta - Kaziikini - Xakanaxa - Savuti - Ihaha - Linyati - Magotho (Khwai) - Dqae Qare (Ghanzi) - Kaa (KTP) - Swart Pan - Polentswa - Two Rivers - Mafikeng - Pilanesberg - Jo'burg. We had been booked to return through Mabuasehube, but there was no fuel in Nossob so we had to change our itinerary. Journey times are approximate and include stops, but should give you an idea as to how long the days were.

    Vehicles and people: We hired 2 new LandRover Tdi 5s from AJC in Modimolle - one of them had less than 500km on the clock - and both performed well. Both vehicles had 120L fuel tanks, with 45L water tanks, and we took an additional 80L fuel and 20L water in jerries. More about the vehicle hire in the review at the end. I had pre-loaded T4A onto a Nuvi GPS to bring with me.

    We (me and my wife Nancy) did the entire trip, while we took our friends from London, mums/daughters Trisha and Isobel (11), and Denise and Thea (12) north to Kasane, and came south from Kasane to Jo'burg with John and Nicky and their 4 kids - Rob (20), Andrew (18), Kirsty (17) and Scott (14).

    Day 0 (Aug 6th) - Modimolle. Nancy and I, Trisha and Isobel all arrived a day early at JHB and were met with one of the vehicles by AJC. After a cursory introduction to the Landy we headed off to Weesgerus near Modimolle where AJC had booked us a campsite for the night. Exactly the kind of holiday resort I try to avoid, but it ended up being fine. Also very useful to discover that the sleeping bags provided were not warm enough As it turned out, I saw my only new mammal for the trip here - a Marsh Cane Rat - and there was some decent birdwatching.

    Day 1 - Jobedi (2 hrs). While waiting for Denise, Thea and the 2nd vehicle, we stocked up in Modimolle. Discovered that the fridge wasn't working, and ended up waiting until mid-afternoon until everything was ready. Had a much better review of the vehicles, and the hire guys did a good job sorting out problems. Finally set off for Jobedi (south end of the Waterberg) and got there after a couple of hours - very happy that we hadn't arranged to go too far the first day. The girls had booked into the Rondavels for the night - these were very spacious and reasonably equipped. We camped between the 2 rondavels and had a better pitch than the huge flat field that is the campsite. Did a late afternoon game drive without great results - impala, kudu, wildebeest, reedbuck, croc - but still interesting. We'd seen some bontebok on the way in, so it was a good introduction.

    Day 2 - Khama Rhino Sanctuary (7 hrs). Went for a (self-guided) game walk first thing. Nothing around, so good to make everyone confident that they weren't automatically going to get eaten or bitten by coming to Africa Chose to go through the Groblersbrug border. Being a Sunday it was fairly quiet, but the paper-pushing exercise still takes time. Don't think it would have been a particular benefit to pre-book the paperwork through KwaNokeng, though it wouldn't have hurt. Did some shopping at the decent Spar at the crossroads just before Serowe and got to the Khama campsite about 4ish. Not too much time for a game drive, but as it was Denise and Thea's first time to a game park they were delighted with the giraffes and springbok. Finally saw a white rhino and calf in the distance from one of the pan roads - everyone thrilled - and then saw a further 18 on the drive back Arrived back slightly late, and caught sight of a Verreaux's eagle owl just outside the camp. Good atmospheric campsite, though some of our neighbours were rather noisy and the water was unreliable, but we all liked it.

    Day 3 - Gweta Lodge via Mkgadikgadi Pans (9 hrs) After a short morning game drive (no new sightings) we returned to the tar roads. Bit of a slog up to Lethlakane (more food shopping) before heading up the roadworks to Mmatshumo – finally we were off into the wilds. A maze of tracks leading up to the Pan, happy that I was following my nose rather than T4A as it’s very confusing in situations like that.

    Great view when the pans opened up in front of us, mirages and dust devils, and I loved driving over the flats. You could see where people had got stuck in very deep holes when it was too wet – a salutary warning. We made it to KubuIsland for a late lunch, but too late to spend more than an hour there, so no walking. Got stung for 300 Pula for visiting the cultural site – felt exploited, but at least it’s going to the Mmatshumo community. Back across Ntwetwe Pan on the track towards Gweta. I was quite disappointed with how little driving there was on the actual pans themselves – much of it was on dried out mud and rocky, very dusty, tracks which made for slow progress and somewhat irritable passengers. Finally got to Gweta around 6pm, and was delighted that the girls had booked rooms. Campsite was fairly basic, and the rooms were simple, but the bar and pool area was lovely and had a great atmosphere and helpful friendly staff. Someone in a 4 ton vehicle had just been rescued from the pans, so even though it was bone dry they still required care .

    Day 4 – Kaziikini via Maun (7 hrs) We unfortunately missed the Boteti turnoff to have a look at the gushing river, and arrived in Maun for a late lunch having stayed on the tar. I had to go to the LandRover garage (door strike plate screw was missing), get the Khwai Community paperwork for our stay at Magotho (glad I did this), see whether I needed to pre-book activities at Kaziikini (completely unnecessary), change money (best rate at the bank), and get my paperwork stamped by the DWNP as it had only been e-mailed to us (not sure this was necessary) while the others shopped for food (Spar not nearly as good as the one by Serowe, but great meat by Riley’s). Left Maun mid-afternoon for the 2 hr drive to Kaziikini, which is well signposted. The others had booked the reed cabins, so N & I camped by them. Everyone liked it here – each camp area is reasonably secluded, and atmospheric. There are hot showers in the afternoon and the ablution area is differently charming. They were just re-building the reception area when we were there, but I don’t think we would have felt like using the bar/restaurant area as the campsites were so nice.

    Day 5 – Kaziikini. You have to organise any activities through the Community Trust at reception, so we booked a game drive (45 Pula pp) which consisted of a trainee guide joining our vehicles up to the concession lands just short of South Gate. Unfortunately with the water having changed animal distributions throughout the north of Botswana, there was little game around but I’m sure that at other times we would have seen more.

    Nevertheless, we saw great elephants at the end of the drive (on the main road!) It’s almost all mopane forest with open pans, so not perfect for seeing animals but it still should have been better. In the afternoon we chose to do the ‘Cultural Tour’ of the nearby ‘Village’. Normally I hate this kind of thing, but it was actually done very well. Very interesting to see the traditional instruments, tools, traps etc of the Bayei people – a couple of hours well spent, not cheap at 80 Pula pp but not begrudged. In the late afternoon we started an evening game drive (had to provide our own spotlights). As you don’t get many opportunities to do night drives I wanted to make the most of the chance, but it ended up being a little repetitive. We went back up to the same area near the old Santawani lodge and there was still little around. Did however get a great (brief) view of a leopard hunting, and back on the main road saw spring hares and hyenas which somehow makes a long day easier to bear!

    Day 6 – Xakanaxa (4 hrs) Having collected a load of firewood in the concession area, we entered Moremi at South Gate.

    Park staff were very helpful and polite, and a mine of information about which roads were passable due to the flooding. We had originally been booked into South Gate campsite as Xakanaxa had been full since I booked in September last year, but the camp staff said it would be no problem to change the booking and sort it out at Xakanaxa which I wanted to visit as a) I hadn’t been before and b) South Gate is very similar to Kaziikini in vegetation and wildlife. We went the direct route to Xakanaxa, and arrived early afternoon. Fantastic setting with the waters coming right up to the edge of the site – and very few people there. Ablution facilities the same as the old DWNP ones, and I couldn’t see that anything had changed. Hot showers and (usually) flushing toilets, so it was more than acceptable. As there was little game around, we went for a boat trip out of Xakanaxa boat station which can be reached by foot from the campsite. It was about 700 Pula for 2 hours, and was very pleasant. Again, not much game to be seen (only lechwe and elephant) and the birdlife was quiet (I’ve never spent so much time looking at marabous), but it was an excellent alternative to a game drive. That night was the Perseid meteor shower (supposedly 50-100 shooting stars per hour) and the moon was fairly new and low, so I had great hopes. In reality, we saw very little activity, so after the others had gone to bed, Nancy and I took the spotlight and went 30m away from the fire to have another look. We checked for any animal activity and then turned the spot off. There was little to see, but suddenly after a few minutes there was a noise coming towards us that I can only describe as ‘galloping’. We switched the light on straight away and saw a hyena running towards us about 20m away. As soon as the light came on it disappeared, but it was a good reminder how careful you should be. A small boy was killed by hyena at Xakanaxa about 10 years ago, and we saw how easily it could happen.

    Day 7 - Xakanaxa Having heard about a pair of mating lions down by 2nd bridge, we set off early the next morning to see if we could find them. We surprised a hippo out of the water and settled down to watch him (and some wattled cranes) before heading towards 4th bridge. Many roads to the west were impassable, so we just stuck to the main track and trundled along. The bridge looked fairly rickety, but I drove over it in 2nd low and it was fine. Unfortunately, before Nancy could cross, a tour operator with a trailer coming the other way decided to jump in – and got thoroughly stuck.

    I got out to help him, but nothing could be done until more vehicles came along and we could lift/push/tow him out. After an hour he was free, but there was a logjam so we chose to drive round the bridge in the 2nd vehicle. Water was over the bonnet, but the LandRover had no problem. Great fun, but heart in mouth as the door seals are not the best. We crossed over rickety 3rd bridge and through the 2nd bridge pool, but our lion search was in vain, so we decided to go back to camp. Unfortunately, we met a vehicle coming the other way in soft sand who refused to move, so I had to pull violently out of the tracks into some mopane. There was a rushing of air, and I looked at 2 fair-sized spikes of wood sticking into the side wall – ah yes, it was Friday 13th. After changing the tyre, we headed back to 3rd bridge where an elephant in the campsite prevented us from having lunch there, so we drove back to our own site where we had a late lunch. It was probably the least successful game drive I have ever done, but not the least uneventful. Chose to have a lazy afternoon in the camp – much appreciated by all. At night, there was a tremendous racket as an elephant wandered through the campsite, tearing off branches. I had visions of the others being so scared that they wanted to head back, but in the light of day he hadn’t been within 40m of the camp and everyone else had been blissfully unaware.

    Day 8 – Savuti (8 hrs) We checked at the Xakanaxa gate about the road via the hippo pools to North Gate, and the staff said it was passable with care so we opted to go that way. Unfortunately, both the green park road signs, and T4A were unhelpful here and we accidentally headed off towards Paradise Pools. We fairly soon realised our mistake, but it took a while to rectify it. It used to be that the Parks were very strict about leaving at the correct time, so I was concerned about making it to the gate in time, and we rushed down the correct road towards South Gate before taking the left turning after approx 15km towards Khwai Gate. There were a couple of feet-wetting floods on the road near Hippo Pools, but nothing I felt would be particularly awkward, and we made it to the Gate on the stroke of 11. As it turns out, the guys are very understanding about timings so I needn’t have worried (the guy at Mababe Gate said he was happy for people to arrive hours late). Again the parks guy at Khwai (Colin) was very helpful about the specific ways across the river outside Moremi. After Khwai village (a bit of a dump), we followed the instructions carefully about the crossings, and walked them both, before coming to the new bridge on the transit road.

    They weren’t actually as deep as some of the crossings in Moremi, but still required care. The levels are changing all the time, and the guys in Linyanti thought the river was still rising in late August, so it may yet go up again further downstream. The transit road makes it a breeze to drive to Mababe Gate, so we got there for lunch. We were recommended to take the old Sandridge Road (straight on 400m north of the gate rather than left) so we gave it a go. It’s a bit bumpy for about 15km across the plains, but no real problem. You rejoin the main track just before the sand ridge so still have the joy of all that deep sand. I had been really impressed with the performance of the Tdi5 in soft sand, so chose not to drop the tyre pressures as we only had one spare tyre between the 2 vehicles. We only occasionally had to drop to 2nd Low (most was in high ratio), so I was happy with the choice. With (still) very little game around, we made it uneventfully to Savuti in late afternoon. Our campsite had been double booked, so we just camped in an empty area near the ablutions and no-one questioned us. 3 of us did a short afternoon game drive, but saw nothing new and headed back to camp after a well-deserved sundowner near Leopard Rock. That night, on the way for a shower, we saw a honey badger, and then I disturbed 2 more which were inside the elephant proof ablution block raiding the rubbish bins. A large bull elephant was also grazing nearby, so care was needed.

    Days 9-12 – Ihaha (5 hrs Savuti-Ihaha) Having made the rocky crossing of the Savuti river right by the gate, we took the direct route to Gcoha gate (roan antelope en route) where we turned left along the Linyanti cutline before taking the main cut toward Kachikau.

    The route requires a little care as you can drive fairly fast, but the sand can be soft (and there's the occasional tree ). Stocked up on wood again in the forest reserve, and then managed to miss the turn off to Kachikau (not signposted, halfway up a soft sand hill) onto what I though would be tarmac road. As it was, this turned out fine as we stayed on the old sand road, came past a fairly intact elephant skeleton and rejoined the new road just south of Ngoma. Finally, Chobe and what I hoped would be decent wildlife spotting. I was not disappointed! As soon as we dropped down onto the flood plain after entering Ngoma Gate, I could see the animals were still congregating along the river. Herds of impala, zebra, buffalo, some magnificent sable and loads of water birds on our way to Ihaha. We were in campsite 10 and had a great view onto the floodplains. There were Namibian fishermen in mokoros (mekoro!) right opposite and I was initially concerned about security but this dissipated. Took an afternoon game drive down to the old campsite at Serondella where the elephant life was superb. Watching them crossing the river in line, trunks held high with the sun setting was just one of those classic moments.

    At night, did a quick spotlight round the campsite and saw an African Wild Cat on its way out for hunting – fantastic. On the second day we left the girls at Chobe Game Lodge for a breakfast and lunch and Nancy and I went into Kasane, passing a leopard surrounded by safari vehicles on the way. Here we discovered that there had been no fuel for 3 days, so I was very happy for the extra 80L that we were carrying. There was a herd of 30 sable that afternoon, and yet more classic elephant sightings. We turned off the engines in one herd and just sat as they walked past us. One of the young males sniffed at our tyres, and then I though he was going to stick his trunk through the driver’s window, but he ambled off. On the third day, the 4 girls left for VicFalls, and we picked our friends, the Abraham family.

    We swapped over at Chobe Safari Lodge, a pleasant place for lunch. Fuel had finally arrived in town, but the queues were huge so we decided to come in the following day and do the restocking of food, fuel and water. The huge holes in the tyre were repaired at TyreMax in Kazungula for the princely sum of 25 Pula (USD3.50). On the penultimate day in Ihaha, we had to change campsites as I had not been able to 4 continuous days and moved to site 6, which was even better than 10. There were baboons roosting in the trees, but we didn’t park underneath them, and they stayed clear of us in the morning. I had however popped along to say hello to Spook from the forum (Tina and Willem) and I think most of the wildlife had been playing with their trailer while they were out, so saw bushbuck, banded mongoose and baboons in their camp. Finally got fuelled up in Kasane, and ready to depart. Saw (yet) another leopard in a tree on the final game drive back to Ihaha, which was a suitable farewell for a fantastic visit to the Chobe river.


    Day 13 – Linyati (7 hrs) At last, a morning game drive with the sun behind us! We headed west towards Ngoma and followed the tracks as close to the river as possible. By the bridge, this led us right into no-mans-land between the border posts. It obviously wasn’t the first time it had happened to the Botswanan security guard so he was very understanding and we went back to drive up the hill to the entry post. This time we took the new road to Kachikau. As this was entirely under construction when we did it, I would have preferred to take the old sand road that we had followed on the way north, but 2 of the kids had to get to Kachikau to get their exam results by text (well done Roo for getting into Cambridge, great AS results Kirsty). We backtracked on the cutline towards Gcoha and then took another cut towards Linyanti. I was disappointed to find that there was little game in the area, and no river front tracks, but the campsite was beautiful and secluded.

    There was another family there who had been misguidedly directed there by parks staff in Kasane when they couldn’t get into Ihaha. Great pity, as there was clearly some scam going on in Ihaha and people were being let in without reservations, just paying cash up front to the camp staff. We had to ask one couple to move from in front of our camp in Ihaha who had just turned up on spec, so the poor German family could have done that rather than slogging all the way out to Linyati camp. When planning the trip, I had considered the option of returning to the Khwai river via the private Linyanti concessions, and discovered it was permitted to do this. While in Kasane I went to see Linyanti Explorations who were happy for me to do the route, but unsure about the Savuti crossing and suggested I contact Wilderness in Maun. I phoned them from Kachikau and was told that even the camps couldn’t get across! My final question was to a supply truck we met on the Linyanti cutline who was going to a northern Linyanti camp. They had had to rescue a government Tdi5 which had fried its control unit while attempting the crossing. Maybe next time…. A beautiful night with hippo serenades. Even the baboons were gentle the next morning, respectfully ignoring our breakfast while they fed from the overhanging fig trees.

    Day 14 – Khwai Magotho camp (6 hrs) I had asked the SKL camps guy at Linyati (very conscientious about cleaning the camps and hot water) about the old road direct to Savuti rather than taking the cutline to Gcoha. He said he had taken it northwards the day before and it was fine if you didn’t mind soft sand. Going south, there were some hard stretches and we once had to drop into 1st Low, but I still kept the tyre pressure up with all the cut mopane on the route – more interesting than driving on wide cutlines. From Savuti, it was much easier crossing the sand ridge southwards (same temp/time of day) as there is a slight downhill gradient. Left Mababe gate about 1pm (no problem leaving late), and took the transit road towards Khwai. I was surprised to see Magotho camp signposted southwards on the Chobe/Moremi cutline as my copy of T4A had it marked off to the west of Khwai village, but I followed the signs and we soon made it to the camping area. Though there are no facilities, I thought this was a magical place. There were quite a few people camping in the area, but we found a secluded site looking onto the lagoon which was magnificent. Just up the track, we came across a couple of mating lions on an afternoon game drive (us, not them). There were 5 vehicles watching them in total, but no evidence of the scrum that you often find. Further up the track, we stopped by the river and stretched our legs a respectful distance from the elephants who were playing in the water.

    I loved the freedom to get out of vehicles, sit on the roof, and come back after dark which you can’t do in too many areas. Spotlighted a genet and some jackals on the way back to our camp, and I surprised more jackals and a honey badger right by the camp.

    Day 15 - Magotho camp After a lazy morning being photographed in our camp by tourists from the nearby lodges and tented camps, we crossed the cutline back into Chobe (geographically) and came across a somewhat rancid giraffe being guarded by 2 young lions. The tracks were pretty rough in the area as the main routes had been flooded, but it was still a magnificent place for viewing game. We decided to see if anything else had found the giraffe that night, and headed back to the area. It was surprisingly spooky following the narrow tracks, but on reaching the spot we could only see the female devouring the carcass. We sat and watched for a while, trying to ignore the smell, but moved on when we could bear it no longer. As we were leaving, the female started roaring – and the male replied from very close by. Hugely impressive to be surrounded by such a wall of sound in a pitch black environment – an experience that really quickened the heartbeat.

    Day 16 - Dqae Qare (Ghanzi) (9 hrs) We returned to the transit road towards Mababe village and crossed over the Khwai on the shiny new bridge – very easy. From here it was fairly quick to Maun though we did stop on the way for a leopard sighting when it ambled along beside the road. One thing I had neglected to take into account when planning the trip was that today was a Sunday, so we were unable to restock booze, refill the gas cylinders or have a slow puncture repaired in Maun, though we wasted a lot of time trying to sort things out and everyone got a bit tetchy in the (relatively) hassly environment. We headed out of town for a late lunch and then sat on tarmac for the next 3 hrs down to Dqae Qare. I had hoped that we would catch the last day of the annual Kuru San dance festival, but it had all wound down the previous day. Fortunately, a tour group was there who had pre-booked some Bushmen dancing and they kindly let us join them. Not something I’m usually a fan of, but it was very atmospheric under the full moon listening and watching the dancers really get into it. I liked this place more than I expected – when we arrived, reception told us that the camping area had been trashed during the dance festival (glad we weren’t there for that), and let us camp by the huts with plenty of hot water and wood. Very friendly and welcoming.

    Day 17 – Bushcamp north of Kaa Gate (10 hrs) Today was very hassly and long, but ended up at a fantastic campsite in a beautiful area. In Ghanzi, we needed to sort the things we couldn’t arrange in Maun, and buy meat as we had already crossed the vet fence. Things never work to plan, so we were already late when we left town without booze or cash on the way to Kang. I had originally intended to take the direct, dirt route to Hukuntsi instead of faster tar via Kang, but canned that idea in the light of the timing. We farted around further in Kang after re-fuelling, and then set off on the slightly potholed (but under repair) tar road to Hukuntsi, maintaining 80-90 kph. It’s confusing leaving Hukuntsi as you initially head NE on the track to Ncojane, but sporadic signposts to Kaa gate confirmed we were on track. T4A came into its own here, as it saved a lot of messing around checking directions. A badly corrugated road took us down to Zutshwa, and then we entered paradise. At Zutshwa, the road disappears, and we headed off into soft sand in search of the tweespoor track. For anyone who’s driven in West Africa or the Sahel, it’s like being in the villages in Mali, Niger or Sudan where you drive around people’s houses looking for the best route. Once we were on track, we headed SW on the 70km track to Kaa Gate. This has to be one of the most attractive areas in Southern Africa, and I wish we had spent longer here, particularly in the 30km south of Zutshwa. There are 2 pans, roughly 20 and 30 km south of the village which are gorgeous. En route, we came across a meerkat burrow complete with meerkat guards, big herds of eland and gemsbok, and good numbers of springbok and red hartebeest. As we had bookings at Swart Pan, we pressed on but it became apparent that we wouldn’t make it in time, so we had the good fortune to find the final pan 50km south of Zutshwa for a bush camp.

    There is a tented hunting camp on the ridge above the pan, but fortunately it was unoccupied and we had a fantastic campsite. Lions were roaring on the other side of the pan which made for a great atmosphere.

    Day 18 – Swart Pan (7 hrs the long way) Having completed the final 20 km to the gate we entered (slowly) and headed towards our campsite at Swart Pan. For some reason, I had it in my mind that this was only 45km, but it turned out to be 70km – very glad we didn’t try to make it the previous evening. The first vehicle were fortunate to see a male cheetah on the route, but there was little apart from this. We chose to take the longer (120km) route via the southern pans and their campsites – Sizatswe (not worth it), Thupapedi (pleasant and probably the best option), Gnu Gnus (nice camp but uninteresting pan) and finally Swart Pan (best pan, water tap, but a LONG way). Nothing here compared with the area south of Zutshwa, so my one regret of the trip was spending a day getting here. Even the remoteness was somewhat marred by having the Bots Army roaring up the roads. Having said that, we had a lovely sundowner, watching bat-eared foxes, meerkats and antelopes on the pan.

    Day 19 – Polentswa (7 hrs) We retraced our drive to the main Kaa-Nossob track and headed south along a pleasant 3rd/4th gear soft sand track towards the Nossob valley. Not much wildlife, but the miles ticked over as we trundled along at 30-40 kph. I was horrified when we reached the Nossob track as we were on a wide, heavily corrugated track [Rant coming] The road was a disgrace and SanParks should sort it out. They try to shift the responsibility to drivers by asking them to reduce tyre pressure, but I don’t consider it to be drivers’ responsibility to increase their risk of puncture, instability and damage to their vehicles. Furthermore, we saw Parks’ vehicles and visitors trailer rigs hammering along well over the speed limit – these are the guys who do the damage. [Rant over]. Polentswa pan is heavily vegetated, so we went down to the nearby waterhole in the late afternoon, but little was around. The camp itself was fine, without being great. There’s no water available, but the long drops are fine. Our site, number 1, has a bat roost in the A-frame shelter. Not sure what they were, but there very fast and about the size of pygmy falcons. We could hear them from the tent coming back to roost in the pre-dawn.

    Day 20 – Two Rivers (8 hrs) The plan had been to re-fuel at Nossob and drive over to Motopi and the Mpayathutlwa in Mabuasehube. Unfortunately, this was scuppered almost immediately when there was no fuel at Nossob, the nearest fuel being Twee Rivieren which is 3.5 hrs south. The camp staff kindly turned a blind eye to us having a shower at Nossob, and offered to send someone to TR for fuel but as he wouldn’t have returned until 5pm, we chose to drive south ourselves. Fortunately, we crossed westwards into the Auob valley which IMHO is much more attractive than Nossob. We were rewarded almost immediately with a brief sighting of a cheetah chasing springbok (unsuccessfully). The mother then settled down with 2 adult cubs to drink in the valley – fantastic. Further down the valley, a pride of 7 lions were lolling in the sun having gorged themselves on something with sizeable thigh bones! Lovely to be seeing decent numbers of animals again. SanParks had offered to book us the campsite at TR for 1700 rand (USD 250) for the night, but as we thought this excessive we talked to the Botswanan staff who let us stay at the Two Rivers campsite for free. Helpful, understanding and friendly – a great advert for Botswana. The camp had running water, and though I would have preferred to go to Rooiputs, it ended up being a really good outcome.

    Day 21 – Mafikeng (10 hrs) Not much to report as this was a slog, relocation day. As were missing out on Mabua, I decided we could get a final day’s game viewing at Pilanesberg. We took the corrugated dirt road past Van Zylsrust to Vryburg and then went up to Mafikeng. At sunset we found a place about 30km north of town where the karaoke and traffic noise kept us all awake. T4A had suggested camping at the Mafikeng Game Reserve, but this doesn’t appear to exist any more (?).

    Day 22 – Manyane Camp, Pilanesberg (3 hrs) What a (fortuitously) great place for a final day. Cheap (180 SAR for the campsite), great facilities and good game viewing. No problem finding white rhino, and we ended the day seeing 5 lions on a dead elephant, and the tiniest giraffe I have ever seen, its umbilical cord still intact. Fantastic finish to a superb trip. A short drive back to JHB to return the vehicles, and all we had to do was take 33 hrs to get home to Bath.

    Review:

    Vehicle hire – I was really impressed with the Tdi 5s, and while there were a few minor gripes such as the rubber door seal falling out they generally behaved well. I always felt there was more power available if I needed it. Having seen some of the other hire vehicles out on the road, I was very glad I had chosen AJC to rent from, though I did also see good Bushlore vehicles. AJC weren’t particularly good at communication by e-mail, sometimes taking a couple of weeks to (not) answer a simple question, but everything was always sorted in the end. The internal layout, while sufficient, wasn’t particularly well thought out. For example, it was nearly impossible to fill one of the vehicle’s water tanks, but generally stuff all worked.

    Itinerary – While I think many South Africans would consider this a very speedy itinerary, I was happy with the way this worked out (with a few minor exceptions). For our friends who may only visit Botswana once or twice, I think they saw a lot of variety in a relatively short time. Crossing the Pans from Khama to Gweta was a long day, but the alternative was a longer drive on tar via Nata, or stopping overnight at Kubu (not so good for the kids). In another year, the game viewing in Moremi and Savuti would probably have been different, so we could have seen more wildlife. Linyati was a bit out of the way, with little variety but would have been essential if the Transit route had been passable. In retrospect, I wouldn’t bother to visit Swart Pan, and probably would have had an extra day in Mabua, though our amended itinerary worked well with the penultimate day being both short and relatively close to the airport.

    Disappointments (minor) – Mkgadikgadi Pans not as much fun to cross as I expected, wildlife very dispersed in Moremi and Savuti, unnecessary visit to Swart Pan.

    Things we did wrong – Didn’t bring enough warm clothes/hats/gloves, our own tents and sleeping bags were/would have been better than the ones provided, relied on (unreliable) ATMs too much (should have changed more cash), didn’t consolidate the equipment between the 2 vehicles and ended up carrying redundant gear (e.g. 2 toilet seats)

    Things we did right – Pre-booked parks accommodation as early as we could, got new hire vehicles (they really do get shaken around), carried extra fuel and water, didn't aim to go too far the first day, used T4A as a helpful backup, ate good food by preparing daily menus, tried new things, but had contingency plans

    Highlights – Fantastic elephants in Chobe, the freedom of camping at Magotho (Khwai), gorgeous, remote scenery near Zutshwa, the whole driving experience.


    I've attached some photos as a taster, and will add more when the others send me theirs.

    Cheers

    John Coppock
    Itchy Feet
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  2. #2
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    Wow, great report - thanks for sharing your experiences - I am sure they will help others and ensure that there are more "itchy feet" out there

    cheers

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    What a meticulous, well-written report!! Seems like it was quite enjoyable and trouble free, which is particularly encouraging I love the picture where you have the ellies crossing the river in an amazing sunset. Thank you so much for posting such helpful information!

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    Great report John!

    Must agree, that pic of the ellies at Chobe is a winner!

    Johan
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    Great report John!

    Sounds like you had a brilliant time, we must have crossed paths somewhere along the line as we were up in the Savuti, Linyanti and Ihaha areas for 7 days while you were there. Here is a link to our trip with pics

    You have some really good pics too!

    Thanks again,
    Mike
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    Hi John

    Thank you for a fantastic report with lovely pics.

    However, I must disagree with you on your view about road conditions in KTP and reduced tyre pressures. Dropping tyre pressures to between 1.2 and 1.4 makes an enormous difference to both your own comfort and the condition of the road. It is the responsibility of all of us to do so. Also, you are protecting your vehicle by reducing the strain placed on it.
    they really do get shaken around
    Of course this doesn't only apply to KTP where there is a greater traffic volume.
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    Hi John,

    What a great report and written up so meticulously.
    Like your pictures, the first prize is already chosen...

    Tell me something: The cut-line Savuti-Linyanti-Chobe seems to be freshly graded and it seems possible to continue directly up to Ngoma. Can you confirm this?

    In all the years I have seen it as overgrown with several two-spoor tracks and no option but descending to Kachikau and the road construction sites.
    I am up there the next 2 months and would make use of the cut-line instead the lousy bypass tracks where the Chinese build the new highway.

    And on tyre pressure: I agree with j-ms - but after all it was a rented vehicle . Unfortunately everybody thinks along these lines and we suffer the consequences with worn out track.
    SanParks could do better with grading, but then speeds are adjusted accordingly - a vicious circle.

    Thanks for bothering coming back to this cut-line question.
    Cheers /// Walter
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    Thanks for the kind comments, guys. Unfortunately, I can't take any credit for the photos - they were all Nancy's work on a Nikon D70.

    Mike - We let the long convoy of Saffers pass us as we left Ihaha for Linyanti (38 of them in 2 camps ), so I suspect you passed us while we were in Kachikau handicraft/drinks store waiting for the kids' exam texts! Sorry to have missed you.

    J-MS/Walter - as you say, it is a bit chicken and egg with the roads in KTP. The main problem is of course the road substrate, but there's little option in that! Certainly it's less bone shaking if you reduce your tyre pressures, but you also increases puncture risk (admittedly pretty low in KTP), reduce fuel efficiency and reduce stability. I've never had a vehicle with a rooftop tent before, and I felt it was unpleasantly top heavy and dangerous to swerve quickly, so I did stick with the higher pressures. The point I was making was that SANParks are passing the expense/risk to the visitor. I would prefer to see the roads graded properly, and more policing of speeds and vehicle loads, but either way round I suspect it's never going to be the easiest road to care for!

    Walter - The cutline from Gcoha Gate to Linyanti is all freshly graded wide track with the occasional soft sand area, making it about an hour to get between the 2 gates. As you will know, the track going NE straight out of Gcoha gate towards Kachikau still exists, but we went about 7km towards Linyanti and then turned NE on the wide, graded (and pictured!) track heading towards Ngoma. You can turn left on a tweespoor track towards Kachikau when you see the radio mast, but we (accidentally) kept on the wide track. This remains wide for another 10km or so and then becomes a pleasant, firm tweespoor 40kph track around which the bush has been thinned. It continues past turnoffs for Kavimba and Mabele before rejoining the new Kachikau road a few kilometres before Ngoma. There is one sharp left turn just before the ellie skellie, but other than that it's a pleasant trundle. A bit slower, but a much nicer route than taking the bypass tracks on the new highway. Hope this helps.

    Cheers

    John

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    Quote Originally Posted by Itchy Feet View Post

    Mike - We let the long convoy of Saffers pass us as we left Ihaha for Linyanti (38 of them in 2 camps ), so I suspect you passed us while we were in Kachikau handicraft/drinks store waiting for the kids' exam texts! Sorry to have missed you.
    Hi John,

    I'm pretty damn happy that we missed that group too, the camps were fairly quiet when we were in them

    Cheers,
    Mike
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    Great report, Thank you!
    David Wolmarans

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    Thanks John,
    I know about the argument of tyre pressure, but again the top heavy aspect and deflated tyres would possibly apply for speeds well above the ones suitable in parks, so I see no risk in this.
    Thanks for the elaboration on the cut-line, I know the direct track from Gcoha Gate NE, it's a nightmare of soft sand and bumps, you can't build up momentum so all in low gears and high revs. I think everybody is now using the littel detour via the Linyanti T-off.
    I will make use of the track as you describe and give Kachikau and Kavimba a miss.
    In the past it looked completely overgrown and a risk of ending in thickest, so I always left it alone.
    Thanks for the tip /// Walter
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    You got any GPS tracks to share? Doing a roundtrip from Khama -Kalahari Central - Moremi - Chobe - Makgadigadi - Khama in September

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    Very nice report, John! Many useful information for our next trip.

    I have a picture of the cutline between Gctha and Linyanti:

    A very wide track indeed.

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    ECW - Unfortunately, I managed to delete everything useful from the Nuvi except for my last few days in RSA, so I don't have anything of benefit to you - that'll teach me to put my glasses on before messing around with the GPS . I have to say that I used T4A far less than I expected to and largely followed my nose, and listened to what the parks staff had to say. In the current conditions, new tracks are being made all the time so there may be better alternatives for you than someone else's old track. On the other hand we did get some misleading advice - while we were waiting for the 2nd vehicle to cross the first water hazard after Khwai Gate (you can just make me out walking it in the picture), a local truck came through the middle of the hole and suggested to the 2nd driver that they do likewise which would probably have flooded the unit, so maybe I just have a dislike of GPS technology The safest route at that time was as far right as you could go (south to north), just inside the fallen tree.

    Cheers

    John

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    Hi John

    Beautiful photos and detailed report! I have a photo of the same water crossing (one of the ones from Khwai to Savuti) at more or less the same angle. The water seems to be more or less at the same level. We went through this one at just after 7h00 in the morning on 19 June. The terrible thing about doing it this early is that you do not have enough direct sunlight to see where the deep spots are and walking through it at 7h00 in the winter…..not going to happen….. I was the only one in our group of 3 without a trailer and ended up having to navigate the scary water crossings 1st…..
    ___________________________
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    nICE REPORT, ENJOY IT.
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