To Botswana

 Posted by Elizabeth at 7:19 pm
May 102011

We left Roys Camp and headed towards Popa Falls, stopping in at Rundu for fuel and money which is the largest town we have seen in some time having 4 supermarkets and all types of shops and banks.

Popa Falls, which are really just rapids, were not to be seen as the river is in flood, although the water is starting to drop now. Ngepi Camp was our overnight stop but unfortunately we could not get to the riverside camp sites as the road to them was too flooded. Getting into camp was a bit of an adventure in itself. The camp is about 4km off the The road to Ngepi Campmain road, and maybe a kilometre or so away from camp we suddenly ran out of road with just an expanse of water in front of us. A camp employee was stationed by the side of the road and informed us to engage 4wd and drive between the stakes, which made a curving track in the water, and we would be fine. That bit was 150-200m and we managed fine, although it was reasonably deep being above the side steps on our car, which conveniently gave the car a bit of a clean and got rid of some mud. Then around the next bend there was more water to cross. This time not as deep but it was across the river and flowing reasonably fast. The last bit was directly in front of reception where we had to cross a large lagoon that was also reasonably deep and then park up on the bank and climb out. So our first proper water crossings were to get into camp, not as I imagined it would be!

The road to Ngepi CampThe road to Ngepi Camp, Popa FallsThe road to Ngepi Camp, Popa Falls

The camp itself is known for its quirky toilets and showers. They are all open air built in amongst the plants and trees. The pictures explain it.

Ngepi Camp, Popa FallsNgepi Camp, Popa FallsNgepi Camp, Popa FallsNgepi Camp, Popa Falls

Last night was the first night we have heard hippos, we still haven’t seen one though. The river that the camp is on is full of them and they do come into camp, but not last night.

Today we travelled through Mahango National Park to get to the Botswana border. Lechwe, Mahango Game National ParkIf you are transiting there is no cost, so of course we were transiting but just happened to accidentally take the river road and do a game drive rather than the direct route through the park – bargain! We saw some new animals for this trip, some Tsessebee, Sable Antelope and Lechwe along with the usual impala and zebra.

Entry into Botswana was easy and took all of 10 minutes to leave Namibia and be in Botswana. The total cost for road tax, insurance and the road fund was 100 Pula, however as we didn’t have Pula we could pay in Namibian dollars, but it would be $160 (it was still only $23). Given that the Pula and the Namibian Dollar are almost equal that was a pretty big rip off and a great way for the government to make more money, but what can you do when there is no currency exchange at the border?

We are now at Tsodillo Hills where there are a large number of rock paintings done by the San people thousands of years ago. We will do the walk to see them in the morning with a guide. Things are definitely getting more rustic now and I think our luck has probably run out with civilised, clean amenities with hot water! The amenities are not particularly clean, and even though there is supposedly solar hot water, there was not a bit of warmth in the water (lucky it is still pretty hot at the moment). I also had to tackle wasps and other flying bugs in order to go to the toilet this afternoon – peeing in the bush is just so much easier some times!

Tomorrow we will head to Maun to try and get the car serviced, get money and food and try and reserve camping sites in the Kalahari (fingers crossed we are successful).


 Posted by Elizabeth at 10:08 am
May 122011

Rock paintings at Tsodilo HillsOur night at Tsodilo Hills was interesting. There were cows throughout the campsite, one of them with a lovely LOUD bell on it! We chased them out of camp several times but they kept coming back. At one stage during the night we could hear one of them right below our tent making one hell of a racquet. I don’t know what it was doing exactly, but boy was it noisy.

Our guide was supposed to arrive at 7.30am so we could do the walk to see the rock paintings. Not surprisingly, given this is Africa and he probably didn’t wear a watch, by 8am he had not turned up. Luckily the curator of the museum took us instead. It is a 2 hour walk, part of which you need to scramble and climb up over rocks, which was pretty hard work and then there is an even longer section where you need to scramble down, which thankfully wasn’t so hard but was slow going being careful not to slip and having to ease your way down. The rock paintings were interesting to see and the walk was quite pleasant so I am glad we did it. Elephant on the way to Maun

We left there and headed towards Maun, passing through a couple of roadblocks, none of which were any issue. Our fridge was checked once for meat but that was it. We saw our first wild elephant on the side of the main road yesterday which was cool. It makes a change from the hundreds, if not thousands of cows, goats, donkeys, sheep and horses we are normally dodging on the roads. Hopefully we will start to see more wild animals along Elephant on the way to Maunthe roads as we head north.

We arrived in town just after 3pm and managed to book our car in for a service for this morning and organise our campsites for the Central Kalahari all by 4.30. A miracle in African time! The campsites in the Kalahari are managed by the National Parks and Bigfoot Safaris. Only the NP Office is in Maun, the other is in Gabarone, so you need to coordinate between the 2 to organise your bookings (you cannot turn up without a booking). The ladies in the NP Office were very helpful and rang Bigfoot for us and we managed to get sites between them for 4 nights. We have 2 nights at national park sites (at only 60 Pula or $9) and 2 nights at Bigfoot sites (at 336 Pula or $50). just a slight difference in cost and I doubt the sites themselves are any different! We head off tomorrow to the Kalahari, which we are looking forward to as it is remote, we should be camping by ourselves without amenities, and we might get lions in camp (even though I will be scared if that happens it will be awesome – just hope I am in the tent!).

Last night and tonight we will spend at Audi Camp. It is quite nice with a pool, bar and large restaurant. We ate in the restaurant last night and had a few drinks for a total of about $40. They also have Wi-Fi (that you pay for) which allowed us to finally update things. There was an overland group and a couple of other largish groups in camp but they didn’t disturb us, I could imagine though that it could get crowded and quite noisy at times.

We are currently waiting for our car to be serviced and will then stock up on food, water, fuel and money before we head off into the Kalahari tomorrow.

Central Kalahari

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:07 pm
May 162011

We left Maun and headed for the Central Kalahari where we would spend the next 4 nights. At Makalamabedi we crossed the veterinary fence where the car had to drive through a solution to wash the wheels and we had to step in some liquid that was apparently soda ash to clean everything in order to contain foot and mouth disease. In typical African style, there was no concern that we had cow dung splattered all over the wheel arches and other shoes that we didn’t wash.

The road along the vet fence to the Central KalahariWe immediately turned right and followed the veterinary fence all the way to the entrance of the Central Kalahari. stopping to collect firewood along the way. At first it was reasonably soft, dry sand which definitely needed 4wd and low tyre pressures, but it became much more solid after a while and less bumpy, so it didn’t take as long as we expected. (Our GPS said something like 6 hours from Maun to the entrance and the lady at the National Parks office said 3, but you can’t always believe their estimates as half the time they haven’t driven there anyway). We were pleasantly surprised that it was only about 3 hours and she was right. At the entrance gate we filled up all our containers with water for showering to see us through the next 4 days (the water at the gate is far cleaner than the water in Maun).

Gemsbok, Central KalahariThe Central Kalahari was not at all what either of us was expecting. Everything you read says it is a sandy desert and arid, so of course we expected a real desert. It was nothing like that. Yes it is a desert as there is very little water, however there was long golden grass everywhere as well as lots of bushes and even trees. We were told by a local guide that the grass does disappear later in the dry season, but even so, there are still bushes and trees.

There are a lot of animals there, most of which congregate around the various pans (Deception Valley being the most popular) however the variety is lacking. There were thousands of gemsbok and springbok, very closely followed by wildebeest and then ostriches. We did see a couple of bat eared foxes, which we have never seen before, a couple of kudu and warthogs, several steenbok and I think we saw a couple of  Gemsbok, Central KalahariSpringboks, Central KalahariWildebeest, Central Kalahari

caracals, but they disappeared too quickly to be sure. We didn’t even manage to see a lion, although we were told by a couple of other groups that there was a lion sitting about 200m from where we were camping, and we only heard them once, which was quite disappointing when everyone else seemed to be seeing them, but that is the luck of the draw on safari. On our last night we think we heard some sort of antelope being killed, presumably by the lion that was near our camp, as there was this squeal of pain which got weaker and then was gone. After 4 days of gemsbok and springbok we had definitely had our fill.

Vultures, Central KalahariCentral KalahariStarling, Central KalahariSteenbok, Central KalahariYellow-billed Hornbill, Central KalahariBat-eared fox, Central Kalahari

Kori 4 Campsite, Central KalahariWe camped the first and last night at the National Central KalahariParks owned Kori 4 and Kori 1 campsites for a total of $9 each night, and the 2nd and 3rd nights at the Bigfoot owned sites Passarge 3 and Sunday Pan 2 for a total of $50 each night. The sites are 100% identical and if I were to do it again I would use only the National Parks owned campsites and take day trips to the other pans, although the NP sites are around Deception Valley which seems to be the most popular place for the animals anyway. The campsites are the real bush experience with pit toilets and bucket showers, but they were great as they were remote and not fenced and you could not hear another person. Ground Squirrel, Central Kalahari

Even though it was not what we expected, I am glad we visited even if we didn’t see the lions and would probably do it again, but as I said base myself around Deception Pan the whole time, taking trips to Passarge Valley and the waterholes.

Khama Rhino Sanctuary

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:33 pm
May 172011

After one final game drive we left the Central Kalahari and headed towards Rakops for fuel and if we were lucky, some meat. As you can only take chicken through the vet fence into the Kalahari, after 4 nights we were a bit over it. No such luck, so pasta with veggies and tinned spam for dinner then, which is not as bad as it sounds, just add a bit of chilli and it’s fine.

White Rhino, Khama Rhino SanctuaryToday we passed through 4 vet fences, none of which stopped us, so a load of good they are doing! We arrived at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary just before 4pm, in perfect time for a game drive, so off we headed. 5 minutes in and we had seen our first white rhino at the pan, along with the inevitable springbok, gemsbok, wildebeest and impalas. A few minutes later and the next rhino grazed right beside us and then crossed the road in front of our car. Maybe 10 minutes later when we reached the Serwe Pan there were 4 rhinos in the pan right in front of us, another 4 off to the right a bit and we had passed I think another 3 on the way there! We sat and watched them for a while and another 2 joined Eland, Khama Rhino Sanctuarythem. It was almost too easy! (We did a game drive on the way out in the morning and didn’t see one rhino, so the afternoon is definitely the time to go). Driving a bit more and we had 3 rhino, including a baby graze beside us and in front of the car. We also finally saw some Eland which are new for us, but they are near impossible to take a picture of as they are so shy and by the time you see them they have darted off into the bushes. To add some variety we also saw a group of giraffes, a few kudu, some warthogs and some steenboks. The sanctuary is definitely worth stopping at if you are passing through, especially if you have not seen rhino before.

Khama Rhino SanctuaryWhite Rhino, Khama Rhino SanctuaryWhite Rhino, Khama Rhino Sanctuary

Steenbok, Khama Rhino SanctuaryThe campsites are nice, all separated from each other, although you occasionally heard traffic noise from the main road and there was a phone tower glowing red right in front of us, so not exactly the perfect bush experience. They did though have wonderful hot showers which we took full advantage of, especially after having to conserve water in our bush showers over the last 4 nights. It rained a bit during the night which helped washed some of the dust off the tent and car.

Tomorrow we head for the border & back into South Africa for about a week.

Chobe National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:10 pm
Sep 132011

We left Hwange National Park and headed for the remote Botswana border at Pandamatenga. When we arrived at the Zimbabwe side there was only one guy around who seemed to just man the boom gate. The customs guy turned up a few minutes later and the immigration guy probably after 10 minutes smelling freshly cleaned. I am sure he must have been working and needed to wash and change before he appeared. The police representative also had to be called from their house. Chatting to them it seems that this border crossing may not get any cars at all and at best maybe a few each day. We drove to the Botswana side where the officials were all sitting out on the verandah. Our passports were stamped but when we tried to do the paperwork for the car the lady was not around so they told us just to go. Bargain as you are supposed to pay some taxes etc for the car.

Next stop was Kasane for some money, fuel (which we didn’t get for 3 days) and food. In typical African style there was no diesel to be had anywhere near Kasane the day we arrived. No problem, we should have enough although we wished we hadn’t donated the 20L in our jerry can to Hwange National Park so they could run the pump at Deteema Dam. The next day we came back into to town to try again for fuel and beer. Nope, can’t buy any alcohol on a Sunday in Botswana. Diesel – one place was expecting a delivery but didn’t know when. The second place was in the process of getting a delivery but it would be 4 hours before they could pump it and we wanted to get back into the park before then. The third place had diesel but no power to pump it! As they say – This Is Africa! On our third day of trying we finally managed to fill our tank.

As it is peak season we were unable to book a campsite at Ihaha in Chobe so had resigned ourselves to staying in Kasane and doing day trips. Whilst we were in the park office asking for some info on our future plans a group of people walked in. (Maisy at the gate is extremely helpful by the way). We started to chat to them and found out they had just picked up their hire car but as there was no fuel in Kasane they could not fill it. Anyway, in the end they said that we could share their campsite in Ihaha whilst they were there for the next 2 nights – awesome! After paying our park and campsite fees we ventured into Chobe.

Chobe National ParkChobe National ParkSable, Chobe National Park

Wow Chobe is very different this time of year. When we have visited in the past it has been February or March and the park has been very green with lots of grass and bushes. At this time of year all the grass is gone and there is very little greenery. It is amazing to think that each year everything greens up and grows yet the ground is pretty much just sand. The Chobe River still has a fair amount of water in it but we have seen it right up to the river road but now it is nowhere near it. The roads are quite sandy in parts which we did not realise when we entered and therefore we had not let our tyres down. Oh well, we’ll deal with it when we get stuck, which we did quite quickly. Not a problem as we quickly let our tyres down and were on our way again in a few minutes.

Chobe National ParkKudu, Chobe National ParkChobe National Park

As usual there were heaps of elephants, especially around the river. I think they are probably the most placid elephants you’ll encounter. They let you drive right next to them and don’t bother to move even when they have babies with them. On our last game drive we saw a group of 9 lions lying in the shade on the riverbank. We decided we would sit and watch them to see if they got up and did anything. After a while they started to stir and one of the lionesses, half asleep still I’m sure, took off after an impala. She was kidding herself if she thought she had any chance of catching it, but it was cool to see her take off and chase it. One night in camp a honey badger ran past us which is something we have never seen before so that was pretty exciting. We also saw kudu, warthog, zebra, sable, roan, topi, giraffe, impala, heaps of birds, crocodile, hippo, baboon, banded mongoose, buffalo, bushbuck and red lechwe (another first for this trip).

Chobe National ParkChobe National ParkChobe National Park

Ihaha Camp is in a nice spot on the river although not too many animals came near camp whilst we were there. We did though have bushbuck, baboons, buffalo, impala and elephant walk past our tent during the night. Only hyena and baboons were heard during the night, no lions unfortunately. The camp has nice, clean ablutions with slightly warm showers. Each site is large and a reasonable distance from the next one.

Sable, Chobe National ParkKudu, Chobe National ParkChobe National ParkChobe National Park

For those wanting to camp at Ihaha but have no booking this is what we did and saw. On the first 2 nights we managed to share a site with another group who had booked. (Hang around the gate and see what you can organise). Our third night we stayed in Kasane. For our fourth night we spoke to one of the guys that works there a couple of days in advance and explained that we had a really long drive from Chobe to Third Bridge and asked whether we would be able to camp somewhere at Ihaha to shorten the drive. Originally he said no but relented and told us to just turn up. Sure enough when we showed up at least 3 of the 10 sites were unoccupied although they were booked. After talking to the manager it seems that this is a frequent occurrence. If they were full they said they could put us on one of the other larger sites anyway. So my suggestion is to turn up there at 6pm and ask if you can stay. If they are adamant and say no you can make it back to the gate in an hour or so but you will be after closing time, but they do night drives so there will be someone at the gate. Chances are though there will be a vacant site or they will double you up.

Chobe is definitely worth a visit, probably at any time of the year, At this time of year though most animals seem to hang around the riverfront so you will spend most of your time driving along the roads there.

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