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Central Kalahari feb 2020, self-drive


safarigirl.se

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safarigirl.se

Where do I even begin describing a place so special and unique as the Kalahari? Do I start with the magical sunsets, the feeling of origin or the wonders of all the animals adapted to this nature? It is the most spectacular place I have ever visit and I feel so blessed to have experienced it. 

 

We went on a guided self-drive in February 2020 starting in Gaborone and ending 12 days later at the same hotel, but we came back with new prospective of life and with memories that will last a lifetime.

 

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The Central Kalahari has been on high up on my bucket list for a long time. But I wanted to see not just the northern parts where the camps are, I wanted to travel through the whole Kalahari, and that’s not something you just do. It’s very remote and a tough environment and unexperienced self-drivers as we are not an option. 

We meet Brian in South Africa in October 2019 when we were visiting the kennel that Wildhood Foundation supports with our friends Jonas and Filippa (Filippa is the founder of Wildhood). Brian took us on a safari walk to find rhinos and also a drive in the Timbavati. 

 

We found the rhinos and that was my first rhino sighting in Africa, so special to see the animals that Wildhood protects alive and free! Brian is a very experienced guide and runs his own safari company - Open Skies Wilderness Safaris. We got to talking about self-drives and the Kalahari and Brian told us he did guided self-drives to the Kalahari! I didn’t even know that was a concept! Christian and I started talking about it and got very excited about the idea. Brian had some available spots on his trip in feb 2020, the green season in Kalahari. I have always preferred the green seasons going on safari, the nature is lusher and more beautiful and temperature more suited for us Scandinavians ;)

 

When we got home from South Africa we talked to Brian and a few weeks later we had booked two weeks in Botswana, we were going to the Kalahari in just 3 months! Sometimes it’s just meant to be right? :) 

 

Our route on the papers was a little bit different than the one we actually did but that’s the beauty of traveling to remote places, you have to be prepared to change the plan if necessary. This is the route we took: 

 

  • Cresta Lodge Gaborone - 1 night
  • Khutse game reserve - 3 nights
  • Xaka campsite, Central Kalahari game reserve - 1 night
  • Xade campsite, Central Kalahari game reserve - 1 night
  • Piper pan campsite, Central Kalahari game reserve - 1 night
  • Deception valley, Central Kalahari game reserve - Deception campsite- 3 nights 
  • Makadikgadi Pan, Kubu Island - 1 night
  • Khama Rhino Sanctuary - 1 night
  • Cresta Lodge Gaborone - 2 nights

 

I’m going to dive this trip report in to the places we stayed, and of course a big part of a self-drive is of course the driving itself. Already at home preparing for the trip we know we were going on a big adventure not just a safari :) Christian focused on learning as much as possible about off-road driving and a we found a new friend on YouTube, Andrew St. Pierre White - 4xoverland. Very entertaining and a good way to keep up the excitement before the trip. As a birthday present, I gave Christian an off-road driving lesson in Sweden, muddy and lovely, haha. We probably didn’t need to do that, Brian planed everything in detail and known exactly what to do in every situation, but it was fun and as we love to read up and learn thing before a trip this was perfect!

 

To kick of here are some of my highlights from the trip!

/Fanny

 

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Edited by safarigirl.se
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@safarigirl.se Like you I did not know that there is something like a guided self drive safari, so I am really looking forward to your trip report. We did a self drive into the Namibian part of the Kalahari, and from South Africa into the Kgalagadi TP, but always stayed “on the safe side”. 

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@safarigirl.se Beautiful photos!  Afraid I am past the age to be able to do this kind of safari....but am

eager to follow along and enjoy yours.

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Ritsgaai

What a blessing and privilege to be able to visit such a special place before the world wide lockdown, @safarigirl.se! Just in time. :)

The beauty and remoteness of CKGR in the green season is rare and unmatched. I'm looking forward to following your trip report. 

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BRACQUENE

@safarigirl.se

 

Great start to one of the last trips before we all went into lockdown and as I do prefer remoteness to crowds you have my full attention ; lovely opening photo of the two oryxes by the way .

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safarigirl.se

Thank you @Biko, @Ginny, @Caracal, @Ritsgaai and @BRACQUENE. We were truly lucky to have done this trip this year. When we left Sweden there was one known Covid-19 case in Sweden, but when we came out of the wilderness the world was completely changed. It make you extra grateful and made me cherish it even more. 

 

@BRACQUENE the Oryx was one of the highlights, so beautiful animals and one i haven't seen before. We really loved the remoteness and i think we gonna struggle being crowded again, maybe we did this trip to early, haha. 

 

 

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safarigirl.se

Let’s go -first stop Khutse game reserve!

 

This is Tess, her full name is “Ten tonne Tess” a Land Cruiser Station wagon, and a real beast. Her and Dolph Lundgren (we named Brians car Dolph) would take us through the whole of Kalahari (1000km) and a total of 2200 km start to finish. We loved her even if we had some troubles on the way, but what to expect right? :) 

 

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Brian and Owen meet up with us on Cresta Lodge and we started with stocking the cars with fresh food, drinks, drinking water and fuel, a lot of fuel! Everything we would need in the Kalahari needed to be fixed now as it’s no shops or fuel stations in the Kalahari. We would be able to top of some fuel just before entering the park and there is a place to refill water for showers and washing but nothing more. We brought

lot of luggage (to much) as we were a bit worried about washing clothes to save water, so the cars were absolutely stuffed. 

 

The other couple that should have come with us unfortunately had to cancel as they got sick, so instead of a three vehicles we were only two. I felt like we were going on an expedition just the four of us.

 

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First stop was Khutse game reserve, a reserve on the boarder to CKGR and a perfect first stop. We loved Khutse, it was a good start to our adventure, and we had so many lovely sightings and experiences here.

 

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Park rules, little would we know, but we would break a few of them ;)

 

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The drive to Khutse was fine and we got there in time for a first short game drive and to set up our camp for the next three nights. We were the only ones in the camp, and we didn’t meet anyone else during our stay. It’s a quite unreal feeling to look out over the waste plains with no other humans around. Even though the tents and beds were not as luxurious as on a normal safari, it felt so much more exclusive than any of our previous trips. 

 

This little guy was our first animal sighting, very different from the usual Impalas :D

 

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The Kalahari is still green but it's very dry. I'm amazed over how nature and animals adapt and find ways to survive. Today it's was terribly hot with temperatures going up to 40 degres celsius but the nights were cool and no trouble sleeping if you don't mind lions ;) 

 

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Time for dinner and drinks around the campfire. We went to sleep with lions roaring in the night, we could not wish for a better start!

 

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Good night safarilovers! :wub:

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mtanenbaum

wow can't wait to read more about this fantastic sounding trip! I would love to do one like that!

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offshorebirder

Sounds like an incredible safari - thanks for  posting this  trip report @safarigirl.se.

 

 

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Really looking forward to following along.

 

My interest in a similar trip is certainly aroused already!

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Atravelynn

When you start off with a tortoise, you just have to have good luck throughout the trip.  Gorgeous intro photo.

Your timing was perfect to pull this off, all part of the tortoise luck.

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  • 1 month later...

Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

 

I did Khutse molose before which was magical, in 2021 I will try central Kalahari for a week around deception vally, combined with moremi/savuti/chobe.

Looking forward to enjoying the sceneries 

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  • 2 months later...
safarigirl.se

Sorry for the delay but here we go again :D

 

Khutse - Part 2

 

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The night was pitch black and the only thing lighting up the dark was the stars, their is absolutely no light pollution in Kalahari. I always think it's special to wake up for the first time in a new place and get familiar with the sounds and smells, and this was our first Kalahari morning. Warm and peaceful, we didn’t even wanted to talk because it would disturb the magic :wub:

 

But before i tell you about our first day I have to show you some photos from last night that i forgot, the light was fantastic!

 

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In the night we heard lions roaring all night and we set of to try to find them. Breakfast was already in the car so why not take it to go? :)

The scenery is so beautiful and the best thing - no other cars! I love the antelopes generally and it was real fun seeing some new ones, Springbock and Oryx! I had really looking forward to see the Oryx and I was not going to be disappointed during this trip :D

 

We didn’t find the lions but we saw some tracks in the sand close by. We decide it was time for breakfast and we thought we would have a look at some of the other campsite and one of them was already occupied by this guy!

 

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Isn't that the cutest little creature you've ever seen? Very curious and he had chosen his accommodation with care because here the tenants usually brings free food. He took an All-Bran flake straight from my hand and hung around while we paused.

 

This day was crazy hot so after a late breakfast we decide to get back to camp and try to relax during the hottest hours of the day. This was easier said than done, normally on a safari when you stay in a lodge you can always take a shower, relax by the pool or even have AC in the room. But this time, saving water is important and and there is not a pool as far as the eye can see. I cope quite well with heat but Christian struggled. We had a sun roof that we could pull out from the side of the car to get some shade, he sat there soaking his shirt in water in front of one of our mini fans. BTW best buy ever, mini fans that you can charge with USD and power bank, perfect for sailing or this type of trips. After a while we gave up and decided to take a drive and enjoy the AC in the cars but also, why not sit and be hot out on the plains instead.

 

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We drove around for a bit, the animals were struggling as well with the heat and tried to find some shade under the few trees on the plains. We named the lonely hartebeest - Frank and camped out next to him under the trees, just reading and enjoying the view.

 

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Brian and Owen are amazing with birds and pointed them out to us, and sometimes identified them from their sound. I would like to get better at birds some day, but one day at the time!


When the heat started to cool down, we parked the cars in front of the only water hole in the area and waited if anyone wanted to join us. The weather changed very quickly and it started to rain softly. Far back at the border of the plains we saw the queen, a beautiful lioness beginning to slowly move toward us :) The springbock started to sneeze and making alarm calls and the oryx moved away a bit, everyone was on edge. But the lioness already had her hands full, we could see more movements in the grass - CUBS! I have seen lion cubs on previous safaris but never the teeny tinny ones, so fingers crossed! We communicated with Brian and Owen on the radio sitting in the car next to us, but they couldn’t either make out the age or how many cubs, we just had to wait. Owen has written a such lovely blogpost about this encounter on www.searchingforspots.com, you must read it, he is so much better than me to paint the picture <3.

 

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They took their time but finally they reached the waterhole, and three adorable little fury balls emerged making the cutes grows I have ever heard. Their mother really had a tough job keeping them in check and she really did not like that they would go far or near the water and constantly continued to carry them up a bit, but in the next second they ran back to the exact same place.

 

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We just sat there and enjoyed the little family until they were happy and slowly returned to their sheltered place in a bush. In the distance we could also see another lioness constantly guarding her sister and her cubs. It was an absolutely fantastic end to the first day and we returned to camp.

 

Back in camp we had a nice dinner around the campfire and we heard the lions roaring, they were getting closer and closer to us. Christian and I had the first shower and when it was Owens turn, we actually had to make a pause to let the lions walk pass us! You don’t really expect to share a bucket shower with a male lion right? Only in the Kalahari ;)

 

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But before we move on I have to tell you about our exiting night. Christians stomach wasn’t feeling very great and in the middle of the night we had to break out of the tent (Brian told us to stay close to the tent, but that rule was totally forgotten by now, he had to get to the toilet). Because of the emergency status, we tried to open the tent a but the zipper got stuck and we had to crawl out of the zipper on the bottom of the tent, haha. I was guard while C did his business. I must say that it felt semi-scary standing in the complete darkness with only a flashlight and a tree behind you, trying to make out eyes in the night, but misson successfully completed!

 

Next part is going to please all of you pastell loving safaritalkers, no filter needed! ;)

 

Edited by safarigirl.se
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Thanks for sharing, amazing experiences....

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safarigirl.se
On 7/15/2020 at 5:02 AM, Atravelynn said:

When you start off with a tortoise, you just have to have good luck throughout the trip.  Gorgeous intro photo.

Your timing was perfect to pull this off, all part of the tortoise luck.

 

You are right! And I didn't expect to see a turtle in the Kalahari! :wub: The sunsets were amazing so much color!

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safarigirl.se

@mtanenbaum- thank you! You should really look into it, we are so hung up on self drives after this trips we are going to struggle to get with the schedule on lodges even if it's nice with some comfort. A combi is probably the best :D 

 

@Anteeand @offshorebirderthank you so much! 

 

@mopsyand we have just started! two weeks in the bush coming up! 

 

@JPSOh, thats really nice! Did you enjoy Khutse as well? We loved Deception but one of our favorite camps was Xaxa, it's a bit remote but just lovely! Just one campsite infront of a waterhole and we had ellies joining us a night! 

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safarigirl.se
9 hours ago, JPS said:

Thanks for sharing, amazing experiences....

 

thanks for cheering! :D 

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Kitsafari

such a marvellous sighting of the teeny weeny cutesy  cubs! would have made my day too just watching them play and just basically making nuisances of themselves for the poor watchful mummy. It was interesting to see the lioness collared - did you find out which research project she was under? 

 

Thanks for sharing, and since I am very much grounded, I'm just beginning to go through all the recent TRs and am pleased you have continued with yours. 

 

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safarigirl.se

@KitsafariThank you! It was truly one of the highlights of the trip and for me, it was the first time I saw such little lion cubs. Absolutely amazing to see them so safe and playful under mother's protection. We do not know which project studied them but Brian believed she must have been a well-established female in the pride. 

 

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safarigirl.se

Sunsets in the Kalahari - Khutse part 3

 

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This day was just stunning and relaxing. It always takes me a few days to get into the safari tranquility, but somehow in Kalahari, it kicked in already on the second day, maybe it’s because we had so much time and we decided our schedule ourselves. Keeping track of time was never on the agenda, we took the day as it came.

Today is a BIG day because I finally I spotted my first Bat-eared foxes! This report is mostly going to be a photo diary of the sightings from the day :)

 

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Out there in the tall grass are the creatures I most looked forward to on the journey - Bat-eared foxes! They had chosen a well-camouflaged place so I'm glad we got to see them more times on the trip.

 

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Finally, we saw the lion male we heard at night and who wanted to join us in last night's shower. The lions here in the Kalahari are so incredibly beautiful and muscular and their black mane really gives them a powerful expression.

 

It was really a big difference from the lions in South Luangwa which are much smaller and many of the lion males we saw there had more of a mohawk than a mane :)

 

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The evening light over the plains was so beautiful this evening, everything was painted in pastel colors. The weather here in the Kalahari is so dramatic and swings so fast from scorching heat to rain to end in an explosion of colors. I love Botswana!

 

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Good night from our little tent, tomorrow we leave for the next stop - Xaxa!

 

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Edited by safarigirl.se
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safarigirl.se

Kalahari safari video, part one- Khutse

 

I made a video from our first stop on the safari, Khutse! Highlights in the video are a lioness with teeny tiny cubs, a black-maned lion, bat-eared foxes, and of course driving through the magnificent plains of the Kalahari.

 

 

Edited by safarigirl.se
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Thanks @safarigirl.sefor giving me a smiling start of an otherwise dull saturday morning. Lovely to see the lioness and her tiny cubs. Dung beetle also very much appreciated, I remember our trip to the Kalahari having my first sighting of a dung beetle.

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safarigirl.se

@Biko, thank you!  we need to do whatever we can to make the days a little bit happier and I'm glad if i can contribute :) This was also my first dung beetle, really enjoyed it! What part of the Kalahari did you visit? Any favorites? :) 

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  • safarigirl.se changed the title to Central Kalahari feb 2020, self-drive

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