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19 Days of Bliss on Self-drive Safari


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I know everybody loves to read a trip report and though self-drive is not the norm for the average tourist on this forum, I hope you will enjoy what I have to share about our recent trip to Botswana.

We spend 19 wonderful days in August 2017 driving from home in Krugersdorp (Johannesburg) through Botswana and back. Because it was during the dry peak season we booked all our camps in March 2016 to assure we get our favorite campsites in each park.

We had to pack virtually everything as most of the areas we visited had no shops or restaurants. We had a 1 night stop in Maun where we could fill up on supplies (food, drinks,fire wood and diesel). Fortunately the long distance fuel tank was sufficient between Maun and Kasane, as it was 10 days of driving in deep sand and water tracks before we could fill up with diesel again. Supper was prepared on a fire every night (braai) :D and firewood was essential. Camping and a campfire also goes hand in hand for us and is food for the soul. :)


Herewith then our first camp in Khama Rhino Sanctuary - 7 hours from home.


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The afternoon drive through Khama Rhino Sanctuary was very productive and we counted 12 white rhinos - the only rhino sightings for the entire trip.IMG_3408.thumb.JPG.a99c01b026403a26dec56d43ada0070c.JPGIMG_3494.thumb.JPG.bd7544d1e154c22183dc9c2c2a845c98.JPG 



These were also spotted - the waterhole had lots of activity. 


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I hope I am doing this right. Please let me know if I do something in the wrong way. It is my first TR here.

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Last few for Khama Rhino Sancruary




Crimson-breasted Shrike





Fastening precious firewood on the front roof rack. 





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You are doing everything exactly right. Thank you for sharing your adventure with us, I'm looking forward to seeing more.

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3 hours ago, michael-ibk said:

You are doing everything exactly right. Thank you for sharing your adventure with us, I'm looking forward to seeing more.

Thanks a lot for your confirmation and feed back.

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The next booked stop was in Nxai Pan National Park. We decided to visit Lekhubu Island en-route en then approach Nxai Pan NP via the track crossing the Makgadigadi  Pans southeast of the park.

We had a long day ahead and left Khama Rhino Sanctuary early after a sound and peaceful 1st night back in the bush. 

We looked forward to the wide and outstretched landscapes of the pans. 

Driving small, remote tracks has always create a lot of excitement to both of us and we were in 7th heaven when we turned of the tarred road.







And then eventually onto Sowa Pan.






Making a wide turn we had mud flying everywhere. The dry appearance of the landscape can be very deceiving and we discovered very quickly how wet it is under the thin, dry crust. Savest is to stick to the tracks.




Lekhubu Island ahead of us



The small island consisting of rocks and beautifully shaped baobab trees is a photographer's paradise. The previous time we visited, we slept over for the night. To experience sunrise there is very special and I took lots of photos then, This time it was around midday and obviously the light was all wrong and too harsh. But it was just for fun and still very special to spend some time there.










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Welcome Ritsgaai, and thanks for sharing your trip with us.


Terloops, ek was vir 'n paar jaar in Krugersdorp op skool. Daai skool waar die kinders mekaar met swaarde jaag deesdae...


That first baobab tree you get to as you reach Kubu from the south, the one with the plaque under it: I got married there. It is definately time for a return visit.


Looking forward to the rest of your trip!

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Die Afrikaans is nou 'n groot verrassing op hierdie forum, Peter! Baie dankie! Twee van ons drie seuns was ook in daai skool...gelukkig ook voor die swaarde voorval :(


A few months ago I read your wedding story and thought it was so very special! You must definitely make a plan to get back there and relive the special day.

Thank you for reading the TR and your feedback is highly appreciated and valued.


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A sincere and big thank you to everybody reading the TR and showing your interest. 


From Lekhubu/Kubu Island we followed the track across the pans in a north-westerly directions as indicated on the Tracks4Africa map. We never saw another car all day.



If the line showing in a lot of the photos make you wonder...it is an antenna fixed on the bumper for our 2-way radio that we use when we have other vehicles in convoy with some of our safaris. I love to take photos through the windscreen of the track ahead ^_^


Along the way there were lots of evidence of what the route can dish up during the wet season! :blink:



The open spaces were overwhelming in it's beauty and in the end we camped in the middle of nowhere... just us and nothingness... but also everything. It was dead quiet and peaceful. 








We took a long walk over the pan... heading to nowhere. We found lots of imprints in the clay of game that passed through during the wet season. Giraffe, elephant, brown hyena, etc.




Sunset was really beautiful.




Unfortunately I do not have the equipment to do night photography. the evening was amazing. The moon was very bright and shone through the broken cloud cover. The whole landscape was illuminated because of the white clay that reflected the moonlight. We laid a blanket on the ground and tried to capture the night in our memories forever.


A camp never to forget.






Edited by Ritsgaai
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What a great start!  Seems like quite an adventure! :)

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That night on the pans seems quite magical!

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Good start to your trip, l like the sunset, are you hiding the sundowner?

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Thank you @kittykat23uk.  It was a fantastic trip for us. What made it extra special this time, was that it was only my husband and myself and it was really good to have the time alone. A friend who was supposed to go with us got seriously ill and had to cancel. It was a big disappointment but in the end we enjoyed the focused time together. 

@Peter Connan You've got it right! 

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Thank you @CDL111 . Seems to me there is no evidence of sundowners. Only of coffee the following morning :D


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It was now the morning of day 3, but felt like an eternity after the very special day and night spent on the pans. We said to each other: "Can anything be better than this?"

Hubby dug a small hole to cover the ashes of the previous night and we left leaving the spot, well, as spotless and untouched as possible. We feel very strongly about it to only leave footprints behind and not spoil the area for the next visitors. 

The landscape changed after a while from this



to this



and that meant it was becoming alive again!

Secretary Bird



Northern Black Korhaan



Lilac-breasted Roller



By 12h00 we reached the entrance to Nxai Pan National Park - booked for 2 nights at South camp. South camp is approximately 40 km from the main entrance and the track consists of very, very deep sand.



The famous Baines Baobabs are within this park and as we were early, we made a detour there first. They are very impressive, on an island in the middle of a pan, huge and with beautiful shapes. There are 3 camping sites but as the only permanent waterhole is situated more than 20 km away close to South Camp, wildlife is scares in the area around the trees.  


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Baines Baobab is such a cool place, I was there in 2013. Green Season then, how different it looks in your pictures.

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I can imagine it must look very different with leaves, @michael-ibk. The previous time we visited Kubu Island it was autumn and this time the end of winter. I managed to find a photo of the same tree in different seasons.

Winter - shot during midday.


Autumn - shot just after sunrise.


Edited by Ritsgaai
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Day 3:

Afternoon and evening at South Camp in Nxai Pans National Park

Setting up  and breaking camp takes about 10 - 15 minutes as the rooftop tent has gas lifts to push the tent open or pulling it down for closing. The bedding stays inside the tent. The table and ladder slides into special brackets in the roof of the canopy. So claiming our stand is the norm when arriving at a new destination by putting out the table and 2 chairs. Unfortunately there are campers around who like to "hijack" camp sites should they feel they like your stand better than the one they are booked at. We experienced this unfortunate event twice on this trip with our carefully selected camp sites that was booked 16 months before.


Shady South Camp sites




The camp had  very good ablutions - clean and tidy with hot water from solar geysers. We gathered quickly, seeing the measures taken outside the 

ablution blocks to secure it, that there are regular elephant visitors. We experienced that 1st hand every night as well as during the days. 




We spent some time at the nearby waterhole and  saw some pretty big elephant bulls hanging around.




Black backed jackal



Bat=eared fox



While having supper the first elephants arrived in and around camp. They were after the run-off water from the ablutions and lifts the lid off the man-hole to satisfy their thirst. This carried on throughout the night. We woke up several times from the rumbling noises in their stomachs or trumpeting sounds as they walk right pass our vehicle... like 2 or 3 meters away while eating from nearby trees. It was scary but also awe inspiring! To watch these giants moving softly around us in the bright moonlight from inside the rooftop tent was very, very special. This was repeated the following night.


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Day 4 - Nxai Pans


After the eventful night it was time to explore the park. We took a long drive through very scratchy and thorny terrain but wildlife was scarce away from permanent water. 


Dried up elephant playground


Back at the waterhole action started. One can spend hours here as there was always something to watch every time we got there.




Edited by Ritsgaai
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Self-drive trip reports are always my favorite. I love the sense of adventure. I am hoping to do a Botswana self-drive in 2019. Thanks so much for taking the time and sharing.

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This bull did not like sharing :D



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Late afternoon on our way to the waterhole we found these beauties close to camp.




Later on a collared lioness that was walking very unsteadily, joined them and was warmly welcomed. We were worried that she might be sick or injured. The next morning at the waterhole we met a lady from Maun who told us she is involved with a lion research. The lioness was darted the previous day and we saw her while she was still recovering from the tranquilizer. What a relieve!


When we returned to camp, the elephants were already gathered round the manhole outside the ablutions. On the photo you will see people watching from a very close distance. The elephants were very busy in camp all night again with trumpeting, rumbling and tip toeing :rolleyes: next to our tent!





Edited by Ritsgaai
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Thanks @Paul B. Enjoy the planning of you trip!

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Nice report and very interesting as I would love to do a self drive in Botswana one day. Camping out on the pan looks amazing!

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