While we have decided to visit Botswana and Namibia by 4×4 on this part of our trip, our time is limited (4×4 hire is not cheap!) and there are so many places to see, we have to compromise. Namibia being trickier to visit and wilder and Botswana easier and more popular with tourists, you can guess what choice we make: we decide to follow our friend Martin’s advice and concentrate on Namibia. We are very lucky he has travelled around Namibia extensively and has given us many tips on places not to miss. We will therefore push through Botswana quite quickly.
Botswana has the unmistakable feel of Africa that we remember: maybe it is because of the heat, or just cultural, but everything moves ever so slowly. People dawdle then stop, and they drive the same way, suddenly stopping or slowing down, even in the middle of a main road. We noticed the difference with places in SE Asia where there people rush around everywhere, mopeds, taxis and cars everywhere. Here, people walk, dawdle. We have seen few bicycles, 2 motorbikes only. They must walk incredible distances!! But then we have also seen a handful of ridiculously fast BMW and Mercedes cars…
Animals eat along the road side, another sign of the current drought. So many bush pigs, goats, donkeys, cows, horses. How apt our common English expressions are: greedy pig, don’t be an ass, silly goat, silly cow, cheeky monkey.
Our first night in Botswana is full of mixed feelings. We see our first African setting sun, simply stunning, as we arrive at our first camp. “Woodlands” outside Francistown is fully booked we are told so we will have to take a chalet or take our chance looking for somewhere else… I am sure sheets in a brothel are cleaner than the ones in the chalet… Double rip off – luckily, it was the only time this happened to us so definitely not a reflection on the country. It is fine as we wanted to practice setting up our pop up tent anyway and we pass with flying colours!! Our first night under canvas. We are happy.
Because we decided to push through Botswana, we were not going to visit Makgadikgadi but it was too tempting not to. I really wanted to see giant baobabs. We turn off the main road outside Gweta and head south but when the track got smaller and narrower and sand got deeper and deeper so we turned back. Some kms later when we saw another sign for Makgadikgadi and couldn’t resist. The lovely lady at the gate cannot give us an entry or camping permit as she doesn’t have the book but allows us in, asking us to pay when we exit at the far end of the park. We have a great chat with her, enjoying her sense of humour and friendlness, before setting off.
Njuca camp doesn’t have the view we had hoped for so we continue. We get to test our and the car’s skills in some 30kms long deep sand stretches, having to change into L4W a couple of times. We’ll get better at this driving over time…
We arrive at Khumaga Wildlife camp outside Mababe. A very basic and quiet camp. What a lucky find. There are 2 other 4×4 there and we pick our spot. Perfect!!!
I am in my element. Our ‘neighbours’ Kim and Dave give us a few more tips on places to see, and even help us test our compressor as the have the same model as ours. We are now ready to tackle the sand roads coming up.
The next morning, we drive down to the river and see wilderbeast, kudu, impala all grazing on the grass along the river bank. There can’t be an crocodiles there as it would be too dangerous and there must be heaps of elephants based on all the fresh (massive) droppings around – we must start getting up earlier…
I would happily stay longer but Namibia is calling. Next Stop is Maun for supplies and see if we can visit Moremi or Savuti even ever so briefly. On the way, we see numerous road signs: danger! Elephants! This time, we see more than droppings. We decide to make a short detour to a lodge we had been told about by fellow travellers – the Elephant Sands Lodge. Those poor elephants are surrounded by fancy lodges around a man made water filled trough. Too sad.
In Maun, we go to a couple of places, KRL and Botswana Footprints, to check on accommodation: Moremi, Savuti and Linyanti parks are all booked out but Dijara outside Moremi and recommended by Kim and Dave at the previous camp is available. Perfect. We book 4 nights.
Dijara was our type of camping site – quiet, huge secluded campsites, clean outdoor shower and toilet, great views and so much wildlife. Each camping spot was designed to allow game to move freely to and from the river. Eating outside or simply sitting and enjoying our surroundings, we were constantly scanning for wildlife. We have a huge tree for shade humming with bees as the tree is laden with small purple flowers. Not sure how many of those flowers we ate and drank!! Getting too close to the water’s edge was not a good idea because of crocs and hippos. Spot the hippo in the next photo:
I amused myself at making note of each new sound as the night was falling, while we were safely in our roof top tent for the night:
Tic tic tic
Gzzzz zzz gzzzz zzz
It is amazing how quickly silence falls, frogs and insects stop when larger animals approach the water. The noise of elephants splashing in the water really made me laugh. A better reaction than the sight of the destruction of trees made by those amazing animals…
The next evening, we meet a young French couple, Roxane and François, who needed help pumping a tyre that had deflated a lot as their compressor was playing up. Well, it turned out that it wasn’t just playing up, it was literally burning and melting. And they had more than one problem: their sat phone was not working nor was their fridge. They were heading basically the same way as us but 2 days earlier than us, to Kasane, via Savuti first for them but Kasane for us as we had been told in Maun that all accommodation in Savuti was booked out. The road to Savuti was going to be slow with deep sand stretches. And they only have an 80l tank of fuel of which they have already used half. Feeling we had a duty of care not to let them take that road alone, we decided to cut our 4 day stay at Dijara short and offer to follow them the next day. We decided we wanted to leave by 7am as it was going to be a long day for us, and not having any accommodation booked, we wanted to arrive by mid afternoon. 7am, our friends announce they have another problem, the tyre is flat and needs changing. We leave a little later than we had hoped but the road is a lot easier than expected: being at the end of the dry season, with temperatures of around 40 during the day, the sand is deep and hot and we are told at the gate to take the Marsh road instead. So easy!!! We bid farewell to R&F and off they go to register for their campground. Our journey to Savuti being delayed and slower than had we been alone, we thought pushing onto Kasana was going to be too much for us so we decide to try our chance at staying in the park too. No, it is fully booked. Luckily for us R&F overheard and offer to share their campground with us. Very sweet! And very lucky as I had wanted to visit Savuti, renowned for its lions.
R&F set up their tent and all 4 of us set of for an early evening game viewing drive around the park in our car. I will let the photos do the talking:
After a relaxing evening with R&F, hearing the hyenas closing in on us and seeing their eyes in our torch light, sleeping to the sound of numerous hyenas and other animals, and we set off together again at 7am. We start our days early as the sun comes up and heats up fast. They will be turning off short of Kasane and we’ll look for a camp site there. On our way out of Savuti, we come across this:
We have been constantly amazed at how well animals are camouflaged. Spotted this one on our way to Kasane:
Wild camping is not allowed in Botswana apparently. We decide to try our luck at the Chobe Safari Lodge camping which was recommended to us. They have vacancies in the camp site, and lodging. We weaken and chose to stay in a rondavel!
We think our bodies have been craving for something different to tinned fish and chopped raw vegetable salad!! The lunch buffet is calling. It is funny to see how we both piled our plates with the same options: chicken, cooked vegetables and pasta. Anthony finds a bread roll too, I take a bite and it reminds me of our holidays in Spain when I was little but I resist … until “bugger that” comes out of my mouth, I get up and get my own.
We bump into the same French family traveling with their 2 young kids whom we first met in Maun and enjoy an evening drink at their camp. It is nice meeting like minded travelers. While we’ve enjoyed the different experiences of traveling in 4×4 and the air conditioning during the 40 degree days, we do miss the accessibility to locals that traveling on bikes provides, the physicality of riding bikes, the ‘wind in the hair’ and the road courtesy accorded to bikes. But we couldn’t have travelled on most of the roads we’ve travelled on as they mostly go through national parks.
A great week in Botswana which we will remember fondly and the cleanest country ever visited, I think. Too many photos missing here but the internet is too slow for now. And I hope the photos I have tried to include here come out but the internet speed prevents me from seeing the finished post, so here it goes anyway. Next, Namibia…