Trip report: Vic Falls - Caprivi - Panhandle - Kaa - Mabua

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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Cape Town
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    Post Trip report: Vic Falls - Caprivi - Panhandle - Kaa - Mabua

    In way of thanks to the forumnites for making this a fantastic trip, here is my trip report from June.

    I'm not sure it covers much new ground, except perhaps for the Kaa conservation area (NOT the National Park, the section before it, around the Kalahari villages).

    I've tried to add photos that show you some of the road conditions too.

    Please message me if you think I can help you out in anyway!

    Joburg – Limpopo – Gweta -Vic Falls – Chobe – Caprivi – Tsodilo – Panhandle – Ghanzi – Kaa Conservation Area – Mabuasehube – Upington – Tankwa Karoo – CT.

    Day 1 (May 29): Joburg – Mokopane (Timbale Camp)

    Flight CPT – Lanseria, then picked up vehicle from Bushlore – highly recommended, wonderful vehicle and fitted with everything you could need.
    Hopes of getting to Mapungubwe faded with the light, so stopped off the Timbale camp outside of Mokopane…excellent food, nice site, toilets not brilliant. Great hospitality, despite Stormers v Bulls final

    Day 2: Mokopane to Limpopo River Lodge

    Decided the remaining night of the Mapungubwe booking would be better spent en-route to next camp, since Pont Drift was closed due to high water. Happily, Platjan was open. What a fantastic border, friendly and helpful and driving across the Limpopo is magic! Thank goodness they let us pay the entry fees with Rand, as I totally messed up getting Pula before we left.

    Limpopo River Lodge is as good as everyone says. It’s quite expensive, but you get (ready lit!) firewood in the price and there’s only a few sites, making it very tranquil. Bathrooms wonderful!

    Day 3: LRL to Gweta

    Very long drive to Gweta. Gravel road along the Limpopo River in the Tuli is quite bad, but picturesque. Zanzibar to Gweta is good tar (it would have been quicker to go via Zanzibar and N11 rather than going out of our way going via Alldays).

    Francistown in the rain is pretty uninspiring, happily, the weather cleared heading to Gweta, but the Nata-Gweta road is fairly potholed, so care is required and don’t expect to do 100km/hr.

    Planet Baobab. Camping pitches are reasonable, the bathrooms are lovely and the bar area is nice too. The setting in the grove of Baobabs is just wonderful!

    Day 4: Day trip to the Pans

    Gweta is a lovely little place, with a great village butcher (as long as you don’t mind the odd cow head).

    The GPS was essential, I don’t think we would have made it out of Gweta otherwise! Lots of bush tracks to navigate, and it’s a good hour long drive down to the pans. The area is beautiful and we enjoyed a quick stop at Green’s Baobab. We didn’t drive far onto the pans, the area around the pans was still quite wet but fun driving! We went across to the vicinity of Jack’s Camp, the up the edge of the National Park. It’s an easy road to negotiate and we saw Elephants crossing just in front of us.

    Day 5: Gweta to VicFalls.

    The infamous road from Nata to Pandamentenga was not as bad as expected, though maybe because they are working on re-doing the road. There is currently a newly laid temporary section, but that was pretty broken up already. As long as you don’t push it (the elephants are reason enough), it’s actually fine. We weren’t pushing it but got caught speeding…everyone should be aware that speeds for intersections and villages aren’t sign posted, so know the speed limits before you go!!

    We crossed at Panda border post (they hadn’t seen anyone for 5 days). A little austere at the Zim side, we parted with horrible amounts of US$ for Visas (the problem with a UK passport!!), car tax, carbon tax and 3rd party insurance.

    Anyway, we soon forgot that, because the road from Panda to the A8 through Matetsi is just wonderful. Its so picturesque, I think it was one of my favourite routes of the trip. It’s easy going gravel, but still fun.

    You pass some very poor villages, but it was interesting to see just a little of Zimbabwe until I get to visit again.

    Vic Falls is about like any other tourist town, too many street vendors, but the Tourist Police are wonderful and very helpful. They line the route to the falls, so it’s fine to walk around, which is really much better than driving (espec when you have RT tents!)

    Vic Falls Rest Camp is about as charming as a town camping spot can be, the trees and facilities are nice enough and the staff where kind enough to tell us not to camp near the southern fence due to the bar that goes off all night… It’s much better to listen to the Falls instead!

    Day 6: Vic Falls.

    Visiting the falls from the Zim side is really well laid out. I went previously in August and I was way more impressed to see the falls in full flow and getting soaked to the skin! Just wonderful!

    We found the Spar in Vic Falls to not really have much meat other than frozen items (understandably..) so rather bring your own or go veggie like we did. We also got some old US$ given in change, which we’ve not been able to change

    Day 7: Vic Falls to Ihaha

    The road from Vic Falls to Kasane is lovely, along the lazy Zambezi. We had no problems at the Kazungula border, though it was the busiest we went through the whole trip. Kasane made a good impression on us, the Spar is the best in Botswana and pies at the Hot Bread shop shouldn’t be missed!

    Chobe was amazing with its concentrations of animals, we loved it. Ihaha is just beautiful, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be. Shame about the music coming from some jolling Namibians on the other side of the river! Ha!

    Day 8: Ihaha to the Caprivi Strip

    Despite less animals than on the Kasane side, we saw beautiful Sable antelope and amazing birdlife, so it’s worth spending some time on this section.

    Easy crossing at Ngoma into Namibia, although you have to stop to buy car insurance in Katima Mulilo. The highway from Katima along the strip is really interesting, so many beautiful little villages, fascinating to see.

    Camp Kwando on the Kwando River is really picturesque. Preference is given to those in the tree houses and island tents position wise, with the campsite a little further from the river but under wonderful trees. It’s grassy, quiet and very beautiful. Good washrooms too. The bar area is heavenly.

    Day 9: Day at Kwando

    We had a restful day around Camp Kwando and walked up the road to visit the nearby Kwando Village. It’s always a bit of an unknown quantity visiting villages, but I really recommend it as the guide was really open to all questions and discussions. It’s N$50, which goes to the village (all very formally done and has been set up by the village). They’ve got a section of how they used to live traditionally, then you get shown around the main village as it is now. There is a full time guide there, so you can visit when you like and I think he was happy to have some work! We learnt so much, and it made the rest of the drive along the Caprivi much better as a result as we understood a lot more about a Caprivian lifestyle.

    Day 10: Kwando to Tsodilo.

    Saw some game along the Golden Highway, and crossed at the very friendly Mohembo border post. Shakawe is a brilliant place to get provisions..I highly recommend meat from the Choppies supermarket.

    The drive to Tsodilo is pretty ok now that the road is gravel (though, not the best gravel road ever). They seem to be building more roads around there??

    We had to push fairly hard with the authorities to stay at the bush camping at Malatso, I think they are trying to get people to stay near the office, and use the facilities there even though there was no hot water. Still, we got to Malatso (GPS handy again) and it was a beautiful spot. Tsodilo really is magical, especially as the sun goes down, but at night there were very strong winds..Apparently happens often, so anyone who goes should cover the fire extra carefully because the popping acacia pods sound like the bush is on fire

    Day 11: Tsodilo

    You can now only visit the paintings with a guide. It is 50BWP each but to be honest, we found him invaluable and interesting. Sounds like there’s quite a few snakes etc (Black Mamba apparently!) so having a guide serves a vital purpose on many grounds! It also gives the Community something back and you can’t argue with that now that so many visitors make it there these days (I am not sure I agree with it being a ‘tick box’ stop for overlanders..).

    We spent the rest of the day enjoying Malatso and the beauty of the hills.

    Day 12: Tsodilo to Guma Lagoon Camp.

    Turns out there isn’t really much in the way of provision stops between Nxamaseri and Etsha 13, so we went to Etsha 6, which had basics (but no meat) and fuel (cash payments only).

    From the edge of Etsha 13, we had no idea where to go to Guma Lagoon Camp, so I rang the camp and they suggested we went in convoy with another group and with a staff member leading us. It went against our pride, but thank goodness we did. It’s a pretty hardcore route for anyone not used to driving through water and for anyone who doesn’t have the luxury of a snorkel for back up. To be honest, the water never went above the wheels, but it seems a lot higher! There is also no route as such, so without exact GPS co-ordinates (NB The Bradt Guide ones are USELESS!), you would have no idea where to go. It takes a full hour, but its one of those brilliant drives you remember for a long time.

    Err..where's the track?!

    The camp is lovely, though we had the best spot by far right next to the lagoon. The pitch has its own toilet and shower, which we liked, especially the instant hot water! Such a luxury! The bar area is wonderful too.

    Day 13: Mokoro Trip

    We did the obligatory Mekoro trip, and whilst I wasn’t expecting much, I loved every second! The boat ride across the lagoon to the mekoro area was also fun, but the mokoro was just magic. I thought the panhandle might be a disappointment, and though I’ve not been to the Delta ‘proper’, it was a wonderland. Moreover, our guide just made the whole trip; he was from the area and was the most knowledgeable person about the environment that I have ever met! Guma Lagoon must be very proud to have such wonderful staff.

    Whilst Guma camp is brilliant, the food is a bit overpriced, which was the only disappointment we had there.

    Day 14: Drive to Ghanzi

    This was a long, boring and frustrating drive. There was no diesel between Etsha 6 and Sehitwa, and even though they apparently take credit cards at Sehitwa fuel station (we checked before filling up), the 'chip and pin ' credit cards that we all had wouldn’t work and if we hadn’t had some Rand and Dollars left over, I think we might still be there now…

    Stayed the night at Thakadu. It wasn’t quite as nice as I expected. The pitches are ok, but the bush isn’t terribly picturesque and the camp and facilities aren’t worth writing home about. Moreover, it was clearly a main first night stopover for the hordes of raucous GPers escaping the World Cup fever: I had to ask our neighbours to turn the music down so I could sleep. Having said that, I felt pretty bad for them when they woke up to find that everything they had left outside of the bakkies (chairs, tables, etc) had been pilfered. Stark reminder to always pack everything away at night, even if you think you’re out of town…

    Day 15: Ghanzi to Kaa Conservation Area (Ncaang Village)

    Decided to pack up and head out of Ghanzi a day earlier than predicted. Had to do major shop first: the Choppies is so much better than the Spar. The meat section is phenomenal, lots of venison.

    Headed off down the Trans-Kalahari highway, turning off onto the tiny track (again, GPS very helpful..) that leads to Hunhunkwe. Tweespoor but a good track

    it makes sense to go this way than via Kang when coming from the north. We headed for the campsite at Ncaang. The road from Hunhunkwe to Ncaang is fairly thick sand, but it only took 1hr in the end.

    At Ncaang, we tried to find the chief to ask permission to stay, and after a bit of too-ing and fro-ing, the chief’s son jumped in the bakkie to show us where the site was. We wouldn’t have found it ourselves, you head out of the village, round the pan and then bundu-bash up the hill (site is at S23 28.396 E21 14.145) Turned out that nobody had stayed for a year and a half, so it was a bit overgrown and the long drop a bit dusty. Still, the camp is charming, they’ve built a kraal area for the braai and eating area, and another for the ablutions. Don’t expect much else, except for a beautiful view across the pan!

    The next day, we caught up with Mr Malebo, who is in charge of the camp site (taking payments and issuing the receipt for the Qhaa Qhing Conservation Trust). His house is at S23 26.718 E21 13.515 and we promised recommend the camp to everyone on this forum!

    Day 16: Ncaang to Zutshwa (via Matseleng)

    I wanted to see Matseleng, so we headed on the newly graveled road to the village of Ngwatle and then found the track (thanks again to the GPS) to Matseleng. It’s a beautiful little track there

    and Matseleng pan had some game on it, so we stopped for lunch. It is a popular place though, with the two camps already full and another two cars passing us during our lunch. We headed back to Ngwatle, then on the same gravel road to Zutshwa.

    We saw lots of boks around the road that leads to the Kaa Gate. There are new roads being built to Kaa Gate too.

    At Zutshwa, we had the same game as at Ncaang, trying to find someone who could tell us where the camp was (it’s at S24 09.054 E21 15.049). It was great fun in hindsight, but a little exhausting going to 5 different houses after a long day’s drive. Still, we persisted and the person in charge here is Odele (Odele’s house is at S24 08.422 E21 14.831). They’ve made a great effort on the camp at Zutshwa (with a boma and long drops and showers) but it’s in disarray and being so near to the village, you do get a horde of interested kids to contend with. We found out that other visitors had complained about this, and they are moving the site away from the village. Still, it’s another great view across the pan and I really like the efforts that the Qhaa Qhing Conservation Trust have gone to with these campsites in the Kaa area. The cost per person per night is only P25 and some of that goes directly to the village. Our stay in the Kaa area was on a whim, but I think it was one of the best parts of our trip.

    Day 17: Zutshwa to Mabuasehube

    The great thing about Zutshwa is that it makes the drive to Mabua more manageable than from Kang. Zutshwa to Hukuntsi is 30 mins on gravel. Hukuntsi to Lokgwabe is tar, then it’s deep sand from there on (though, my favourite track, so beautiful!).

    Mabua was fully booked (we had a reservation), but I didn’t find it as busy as people said. Our camp at Lesholoago was very picturesque, it’s only a small pitch.

    Day 18: Mabuasehube

    We moved camp to Mpayathuthwa 2 and when we got there, the previous occupants looked a bit surprised to see us (despite us arriving a hour after the required vacation time). I found that pretty annoying, no apologies or anything, but it’s a big site, so we shared the site for a bit…

    We enjoyed sunset by the water hole on the pan, watching the amazing birds and peregrine falcon hunting, and a Bateleur too. No signs of lions, until we were braaing back at camp, and you could hear lions on the pan. The next morning we saw prints on the track going past the camp, and found a pride closeby on the pan.

    Rant time: I wish people wouldn’t leave litter lying around and food in these camps, we cleared quite a bit of rubbish at Lesaloago and the guys had left food at Mpayathuthwa so we had a jackal being very brazen in the camp. I was also pretty unimpressed with the group driving around the pan at night time, when the lions started up. This kind of behaviour ruins the experience for others, I find it very selfish.

    We had ice on our tents the following morning the next morning, so putting those RTTs down before breakfast was terrible, it really hurts your hands (but we were happy to have them when the lions started up the previous night

    Day 19: Mabuasehube to Upington

    I had wanted to stop at the lovely Oppi Knoppi Camp just by the McCarthy’s Rest border, but with the road from Mabua to Tshabong now gravelled half way,

    we made it to the border earlier than I thought, so we pushed on to Upington, to help the next day’s drive.

    We turned up after dark at Sakkie’s Arkie Camping, and I was really happy that Upington now has a brilliant little camping site, right next to the river and on the town side (and walking distance to Le Must restaurant and O’Reillys… so much better than Die Eiland for anyone with RTT) It’s really a brilliant spot, I can’t recommend it highly enough, clean facilities, hot water. Sakkie was very kind to let us in late at night too. Upington also looked surprisingly picturesque due to the -5 deg weather making the River steam in the morning!

    Day 20: Upington to Tankwa Karoo (via the R355)

    The R355 was another route highlight. You get to see some wonderful Tankwa Karoo landscape, the road is quiet and in good condition (we didn’t have any problems with punctures, though apparently it’s quite bad?).

    Would have loved to stay in the National Park, but the entrance was just too far out of the way for a night’s stay. So we stayed just on the southern border of the park at the Tankwa Tented Camp at the Stonehenge private nature reserve. You can either stay in one of the very nice looking permanent tents, or camp between them. The ablution facilities are excellent, and the permanent on-site manager Bernard really looks after you! I think he also enjoys some company too! There aren’t that many places to stay along the R355, and I was really happy with this little place. Wonderful overnight spot, make sure you’re there for sundowners!

    Day 21: Tankwa Tented Camp to Cape Town

    What a spectacular route back to Cape Town. I must give a big thanks to the forum for the R355 suggestion (rather than the busy N7!).

    Ceres and Bains Kloof impressed as always, though you could also go via De Doorns. We were back in Cape Town just after lunch, perfectly in time to drop off the Bushlore vehicle that we had become very attached to!

    What I learnt from this trip:

    The ridiculous amount of pre-planning was worth it, especially for route planning and knowing road conditions in Botswana, thus preventing any nasty journey time surprises.
    Don’t expect to buy Pula in anywhere in Cape Town a few days before leaving.
    Don’t expect to use your credit card in Botswana, even if they say you can.We had a big problem that very few credit card machines worked with our ‘chip and pin’ cards (ie, all of our cards). Most of the staff just shrugged their shoulders and had no interest in it being a problem with the machines and that a manual override would work fine. The same happened at ATMs, so we were totally stuffed for cash as well!
    The Kaa Conservation Area was an unexpected jewel. Support the villages and stay in the designated camps.
    Wee-Johns are ideal for concerned Mothers. They are overpriced at Safari Centre, try your local pharmacy first.
    A GPS is essential, but it doesn’t have to be an expensive one. It does have to have T4Africa on it.
    Last edited by Liziwe; 2010/09/06 at 03:36 PM. Reason: typo

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Thanked: 966


    Excellent trip report, thanks Liziwe for the efforts.
    As for the looks of it, we should venture more into this Kaa area, from your report it looks it's pretty organized but not overly exploited.
    Definitely a target area next time westwards travel is in the books.
    Thanks for the GPS details, albeit the Shell map has quite a few but they seem not to match what you found.
    Keep it up and hope you visit Botswana again, the Delta is certainly another "must do".

    Maybe fly in to Maun and rent from there....?
    Kalahari Safari
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  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Thanked: 2


    Oops Typo there.Thanks Lizwe.Great report.I like the info on the Caprivi(Kwando/Guma lagoon).Will really consider the Kaa area in future.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Cape Town
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    Thanks KS and Deano

    If I didn't have to work in all the 'must do's' like Vic Falls, I would probably just have spent 3 happy weeks in Kaa and Mabua, lazily driving back to CT. But that's a bit selfish if you've already seen those places and you're actually planning a trip for your folks who've not been to Botswana!

    The beauty of Kaa is that it's off the beaten track and that you literally have to go the villages to ask permission to stay, pay the next morning etc. I love the landscape round those parts (especially Mabua), but I felt that a bit of interaction with the locals gave a more rounded experience than just cruising around looking for animals. And the locals were thrilled (albeit slightly perplexed) that you had come to stay.

    Having said that, asking for the bookkeepers by name will save a lot of time though, as a lot of villagers don't have a clue what you're talking about and the chief is invariably in Lehututu...

    I hadn't been to Botswana for 10 years and now I can't wait for another trip! Looking at second hand 4x4s ....Moremi next! And Hwange. And Tankwa Karoo. And revisiting KTP and the Caprivi..whilst enroute to Zambia?!
    Last edited by Liziwe; 2010/09/06 at 04:16 PM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2014
    Cape Town
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    Default camping botswana

    Liziwe, I hope you still are corresponding. I love your blog and we will be going to a lot of your places and several based on your blog. Is there a way we can get in touch, email or call. We live in Cape Town and are planning our trip for 26 Aug-20 October. We are also visiting Namibia.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2012
    Thanked: 2


    Wonderfull to get some more info about caprivi & ka-region, Liziwe. Thanks for all the tips with names/GPS coordinates of the lesser mentioned campspots. You certainly inspired us.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Nov 2012
    cape town
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    I am planning a trip from Cape Town to Vic falls in December 2016. Some of the vehicles don't have 4x4 so we might have to skip the real sandy parts. Any advice would be appreciated with regards to the best routs and accommodation, both camping and chalets. Thank you

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2008
    Cape Town
    Thanked: 2611


    Quote Originally Posted by sean flanagan View Post
    I am planning a trip from Cape Town to Vic falls in December 2016. Some of the vehicles don't have 4x4 so we might have to skip the real sandy parts. Any advice would be appreciated with regards to the best routs and accommodation, both camping and chalets. Thank you
    Hi Sean, could I suggest you start a new thread with a clear heading, and give some info of the route you want to take, and how many days you want to spend on the road - you'll get a much better response rate like that. Useful as well to add which route you want to go - via Namibia, Botswana, SA to Zim etc.

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