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50 Days Southern Africa: Self-Drive Safaris in Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe


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50 Days Southern Africa
Self-Drive Safari through Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe 


Well, it was 50 days from flight there to flight home. Then there were a few transfer, relocation, and shopping days. All in all, we had 36 pure safari days where our main activity was game driving. Now we don’t go to Africa to relax at a pool or read in the shade; we have plenty of that here at home. Our main focus is finding animals, observing animals, shooting pictures, and taking videos. Our game drives start before sunrise and last until sunset or gate time, whichever comes last. In between, we stop at safe spots for breakfast and lunch. Only rarely do we return to camp, and if we do, it’s to catch hot water for our shower in the afternoon. In the evening, we grill, eat dinner, do dishes, shower, and go to bed around 9pm which we call “midnight in the bush”. Going on a self-drive safari is work, but it’s also fun to be totally self-reliant, free, and work as a husband-and-wife team. Only on safari is my husband drying dishes next to me! We are now 67 and 72 years old and driving around the backroads of Africa and camping is getting a little harder. But as long as we are healthy, we plan to keep on keeping on!
In the past, I have posted five trip reports here: two to Southern African countries, one in 2014, and another one in 2016, two to Northern Tanzania; one in 2015 and the other in 2018. Lastly, I posted a trip report of our first time in Kenya in 2021, during Covid times. 

I think this time, I will mostly stick to some highlights and include some lowlights as well. Luckily, this trip only had a few. 


Time: July 31-September 18, 2023
Flight: RSW-EWR-JNB with United
Rental Namibia: Motorhome IVECO through Bobo Campers
Rental South Africa: Hilux 4x4, 2.8 Liter with a flat roof top tent, from Bushlore Rental Company
Camping Reservations Namibia: NWR contact
Camping Reservations Botswana NP: Botswana Footprints agency. 




I did the reservation for the Campervan through Ideal Travel who gave me a cheaper daily rate than Bobo Campers themselves. 
A tip from my sister let me to a great agent at Bushlore and I had very good contact with him about the car, an automatic, and its equipment. We especially appreciated the upgrade to a flat roof top tent that is opening with pistons. Very easy to erect and take down and, in addition, the mattress is thicker since it didn’t need to be folded over. A great plus for us seniors!

I contacted the two campsite booking agencies more than a year in advance and both agencies were able to book the dates and camps I had specified. So Kudos to NWR as well as to Botswana Footprints. 




About the Itinerary:
In Namibia, we wanted to visit Etosha NP for the fourth time and spend almost two weeks there. We added Marakele NP, in SA, which was new to us, and would break up the trip from Johannesburg to Botswana. We were curious about Hwange NP in Zimbabwe, a new park for us, and practically on the way to Chobe anyway. 
The other two new stops were Elephants Camp and Senyati Camp. 





Here is the trip itinerary:


July 31: Fly RSW to ERW to Johannesburg
August 1: Garden Court Hotel
August 2: Fly JNB to WDK with Airlink
Rent Bobo Camper Iveco
Overnight: Urban Camp campsite, Windhoek
August 3, 4, 5: Okaukuejo site 35
August 6: Okaukuejo overflow site
August 7 and 8: Halali campsite 34
August 9 and 10: Halali campsite 37
August 11, 12, 13: Namutoni campsite 12
August 14: Okaukuejo campsite 36
August 15: Return Camper Van
Fly WDK to JNB with Airlink
Overnight: Garden Court Hotel
August 16: Rent Bushlore Toyota 4x4 Hilux 2.8 liter
Overnight: Marakele NP, Bontle Campsite
August 17: Bontle Campsite
August 18: Cross border into Botswana at Stockpoort
Overnight: Woodlands Stop-Over, campsite 5, Francistown, Botswana
August 19: Elephant Sands Lodge, campsite
August 20: Cross Border Pandamatenga to Robins Camp campsite, Hwange NP, Zimbabwe 
August 21 and 22: Main Camp campsite
August 23: Sinamatella Campsite
August 24: Robins Camp, campsite
August 25: Chundu 1 campsite, Zambezi NP, Zimbabwe 
August 26: Cross Border, Kazungula, Botswana
Senyati Camp, campsite 4, Kasane
August 27: Chobe Riverfront Game Drive 
and Nkwe privat Chobe boat tour
Overnight: Sandpiper Lodge Room 10, Kasane
August 28, 29, 30: Ihaha campsite CI 3, Chobe NP
August 31 and September 1: Savuti campsite CV5
September 2 and 3: Maghoto campsite, no number
September 4 and 5: Khwai Northgate campsite MK 3
September 6 and 7: Xakanaka XA 8
September 8 and 9: South Gate campsite 8
September 10: Acacia Cottage, Maun
September 11: Khumaga campsite KK1, Makgadikghadi NP
September 12: Nxai Pan NP, South campsite 2
September 13: Boteti River Camp, campsite 5
September 14: Woodlands Stop-Over, campsite 9, Francistown 
September 15: Cross Border Stockpoort, Berchtesgaden Game Lodge, Chalet, Vaalwater, SA
September 16: With friends, Olifantsfontein, Pretoria
September 17: Fly JNB to ERW to RSW



I hope some of you are up to accompany us through some game-rich parks in Southern Africa. No bumpy tracks, no bugs, no dust, just sit back in the comfort of your home and let yourself get teleported to Southern Africa. First Park: Etosha NP.

Greetings and a happy new year from Katrin




Edited by KaliCA
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What a wonderful itinerary and 36 safari days is a long time to enjoy the African bush and it’s inhabitants. Look forward to following your adventures.

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Looking forward to accompanying you! Love the first photo of the lioness - took me right back to Africa. That is a beautiful photo


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Thanks for posting this! So jealous of so many days on safari!

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I am very impressed by your safari.36 days is quite a long time on safari.

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@KaliCAReally looking forward to this trip. 36 days must give a lot of great sightings. I read several of your other trip reports and they are always very inspirational to me. So really looking forward to this. I, like you, think that the most enjoyable way to go on safari is doing self drive, you can decide for yourself what you wanna do, stay at a sighting as long as you want (which has given me a lot of great sightings during the years) and not being constrained by other guests or guides. 

I always use Bushlore, when I am in southern africa, but I am curios about the motorhome and how that worked out. 

Also very curios about Nxai Pan, I have most of my bookings done for next year (in july/august), but I am thinking about including a couple of days there. The alternative would be a couple extra days in Khwai/ Moremi. 

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Hopefully more highlights than lowlights in those 36 days.  What an epic adventure you two have been able to share, drying dishes and ALL.

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@Treepol@KiwiGra@mtanenbaum@optig@JayRon @Atravelynn

Thank you all very much for your interest. Thats great to hear and helps my motivation. 

Yes, 36 days is a long time but luckily it didn't feel like too much, since we were at different locations. 

Read below regarding traveling in a Campervan in Etosha!

Greetings from Katrin

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Posted (edited)

July 31 has finally arrived and this means it’s Going-to-Africa day! Our flight from Florida is leaving late, so we have to run through the Newark Terminal to our gate. After being paged, we are the last people to board and then wait another hour for take-off! Of course!
We make it to Johannesburg and a shuttle is taking us to our hotel. The next day, we board an Airlink flight to Windhoek and take over our Campervan from Bobo Campers. Not five minutes after we leave the depot, an oncoming construction truck is spraying pebbles all over us and the windshield. You guessed it! One hits the windshield and a crack is growing and spreading quickly; and we just declined the extra insurance! Of course!


Campervan at Urban Camp. The glass damage was on lower right so no visibility issue



We do our big shopping at the Maerua Mall and spend our first night in Namibia at the Urban Camp in town. We get in touch with the Depot and they are sending two men to stop the crack from spreading and also check on the water pump, which only works intermittently. Of course!
The next day, we enter Etosha NP through the Anderson Gate and Okaukuejo camp is our home for the next three nights. This is our fourth visit so we know our way around a little and it’s great to be back. 


The Himba mothers yell at me when I take a picture. They want to be paid for it.



Campervan at Okaukuejo campsite

Okaukuejo is famous for its productive waterhole. It is lit up at night and the animals come into the light then disappear as if in a theater. We visit the waterhole every evening for sunset and again after dinner. The first night we see two male lions drink, accompanied by a lioness. My lion heart is full!

Many black rhino mothers with babies appear, as well as rhino bulls who often snort and get into tussles with each other.  Elephants, Giraffe, Jackals and Hyena are also frequent visitors. 













Etosha is THE place to see Black Rhino



You can see how magical some of those appearances on the nightly stage truly are. Much better in person!

Etosha features a lot of solar pumped waterholes, but also has a few natural springs that flow at the edge of the huge pan. So no water shortage but food is scarce. The area is in a prolonged drought and a wide area around camp is eaten bare and looks like a wasteland. Where do the animals find food?  Zebra and Ellis have left for the East and other animals walk miles between water and grass. All in all, we see less game around Okaukuejo than in the past. 










Our motorhome is great when we stand and live in it as we have everything we need with us: Cold drinks, snacks, toilet….all very comfortable to watch animals at a waterhole. But when we drive the roads in this park, we curse and get mad. The corrugated tracks are absolutely awful to drive. When going slow, we feel each bump; when going fast, the van feels as if it is going to fall apart. We lower the tire pressure and still, not much better. We see that sedans and game drive vehicles are having the same issue. So we grin and bear it, but it takes away the joy of leisurely game driving, as you can imagine.  We are hoping to have a sighting of the elusive “GRADER” but it was not to be…of course!







Edited by KaliCA
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So wonderful to drive around Etosha with you and I really like the pink giraffe photo at Okaukuejo waterhole.


Bad luck about the windscreen, hope the repair got you back to base safely.

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@JayRonRegarding Nxai Pan: this was our fourth time fourth time there. We used to be very lucky with lions in the past, but not this time. We heard that lions are less frequently seen there now. I would say better spend more time in Moremi, like Xini Lagoon and Black Pools. Better chances for good sightings. The road to and from campsite is a big pain. but maybe you want to see the Baobabs?


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@TreepolThank you! yes, it was not a problem during the trip, but we had to pay up big time when we returned the van.

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What an epic trip! Great photos from Etosha, looking forward to more. Sorry to hear about the car damage. 

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Glorious! As one whom Iveco gave the chance to start travelling, I am interested into your thoughtss and comments about the campervan, and is it useful on Namibian roads in comparison to roof top Hilux.

Edited by xelas
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@michael-ibkThanks! I’m glad to have you along. Well, the glass damage was actually the least of our problems…until the very end when we got the bill..

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@xelasHi Alex! Glad you found my report since you are a fellow self-driver. Too bad you had to miss our meeting in Savuti. We were lucky there with my favorites: lions, still to come…

So regarding the Campervan: it’s great for camping and I much prefer it to the RTT for many reasons. But… in Etosha the game driving was really a nightmare since they mostly do a poor job of up-keeping the gravel roads, even the main road to Namutoni. (There are plans to upgrade and maybe even pave the main road)

We drove from tar straight to horrible corrugated tracks, so I have no idea how the Camper would fare in the rest of Namibia. Bobo campers allows Etosha and even Spitzkoppe, but we only did Etosha this trip. 

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Here is one of my personal highlights from the waterhole in Okaukuejo:

When an Ellie walks onto the stage, I watch him through the binos, and by chance spot two lionesses right below him crouching on a brown patch of elephant dung. They are hard to spot in the dark with the naked eye and my husband is even having trouble finding them through the lens.

Then the giraffe who hesitated to drink come closer to the water, almost stepping on the two lionesses but not realizing that there is danger at their feet. The giraffe bend down to drink and then one lioness gets up and crouches closer and closer. Finally, the giraffe realize there is a predator behind them and start to run. The lionesses make a short sprint and it’s all over. 



Spot the lionesses?




Half-hearted sprint of the lioness. Looks like the ellie was aware the whole time

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Posted (edited)

The story continues with a definite lowlight followed by a small highlight:

I had originally planned to spend two nights camping at Olifantsrus in the Western area of Etosha, but we never made it:

The road is still bearable until Sonderkop waterhole, even though there are a few miles of construction obstacles. We see an Ellie drinking but the hartebeest and zebra seem frozen and don’t come to drink. 




The sandstorm is raging here too, and it’s grey and bleak all around us. When we leave, we stop for another Elli approaching the road and this is when a tourist is pointing to LIONS across the road. Yay! My lion heart rejoices! There is a lioness and three half-grown ones by a termite hill and another mother with two young ones under a Mopane bush. We are very happy, but the lions less so and keep their heads down in the sandstorm. 






 Bad conditions for good pictures! Now we understand why the herbivores were on alert.

We continue driving west over a very deeply corrugated track and we can only drive 5-10 km/hr. And we have 40 km to go. At one point we decide to QUIT. It’s just too much of a strain on the vehicle and our nerves. With a heavy heart, we turn around and are very disappointed that we will not see Olifantsrus this trip or the area beyond that, all because of the horrible condition this road is in. We return to Okaukuejo Camp and reception is assigning us an overflow spot. The second night I can add to our Halali stay. 

So maybe a Campervan is the wrong vehicle for Etosha after all...

Edited by KaliCA
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2 hours ago, KaliCA said:

Too bad you had to miss our meeting in Savuti.

Yeah, Daniel told me about you being there but alas, no luck for us.

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On 1/6/2024 at 9:35 PM, KaliCA said:

@JayRonRegarding Nxai Pan: this was our fourth time fourth time there. We used to be very lucky with lions in the past, but not this time. We heard that lions are less frequently seen there now. I would say better spend more time in Moremi, like Xini Lagoon and Black Pools. Better chances for good sightings. The road to and from campsite is a big pain. but maybe you want to see the Baobabs?


@KaliCAThanks for the answer, I am really into wildlife (like you it seems :) ) , so we will not be going to Baines Baobabs. I think we will skip Nxai Pan this time and see if we can get a couple of nights at South Gate. 

Back to the trip report, I really the photos from the waterhole at Okaukuejo (actually the first place I went on safari in 2003). Must have been very exciting to see if the lions would succeed.  And you really captured the sandstorm, also great photos. 

Looking forward to the next installment .

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Sandstorm, vehicle issues, you had an ADVENTURE. Beautiful waterhole shots.

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Your trip reports have always been some of my favorites, this one looks epic! Thanks for sharing.

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@Atravelynn@Paul B Thank you both for your kind words! Glad to have you along!

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Our plan was to spend two days in Halali, but we ended up spending four,  because we couldn’t reach Olifantsrus. On the way to Halali we see two male lions, but far away. We spend every morning at the Moringa waterhole with tea and rusks and watch the sun light up the Halali area. We are almost always alone and it is so peaceful and serene there, and the little squirrels run circles around us. We watch Impala, Zebra, and Kudu come in to drink and reflect in the water.









Every evening we would hike up to the waterhole and sit on the rocks, waiting for the nightly appearance of the various actors to the stage. Many Black Rhino with babies, Hyena, Ellies, and Jackals come to drink. 












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