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


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We go back to MK 3 and there is an Eli grazing in the river in front of our campsite and Hippos are grunting nearby. 







We start dinner prep and the sky turns nicely orange. 

Potato packets and pieces of chicken are on the grill. I hear a noise and when I look to the grill, there is a Honey Badger scurrying around and it has moved the grill grid. We scare it off with the beam of a flashlight. 

After dinner, we walk to the ablutions with the dirty dishes and our shower bags. 

I end up going into the men’s side, since there is no water at the dish washing station and no hot water in the lady’s sinks or showers. 

As Phil is taking a shower and I’m washing dishes in the sink, two men enter and are quite surprised to see me, a female, in their space. I explain and they are cool with it. While Phil is shaving, I take my hot shower and then we walk back to our site. 

Some situations, especially in Africa, just ask us to solve a problem by being inventive and maybe finding unconventional solutions. 

Often, we call self-driving in Africa as “traveling off the sidewalk,” so if you do, be prepared to problem-solve all the bumps and hiccups that may come at you. Life lessons learned while on safari!

Good night from Khwai Northgate!

Edited by KaliCA
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Off the sidewalk agrees with you!


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6 hours ago, KaliCA said:

the Hide looks even scarier and more decrepit than in 2016, but I carefully climb up anyway. It’s a tradition!


You're a brave woman! Even six years ago I looked at that and said "No thank you, I'll be fine down here." :D


About the sidewalk-thing, I learnt in Africa "We'll make a plan" is the perfect answer (and attidude) to counter all nervous "What if..." worries.B)



Edited by michael-ibk
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Thank you for taking your time to write this travel report, it really gets my travel fever  going :) Luckily I am going to Botswana in july and also staying at Magotho and Savuti and if we only see half of you seen so far, I will be happy. Lions, leopard, wild dogs and honey badger.... Still looking forward to the next installment  

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Thank you all for your lovely comments and Likes! Off we go to the Khwai area.



On our last full day in the Khwai area, we drive down river and take all the game driving tracks to the left that lead to the river. We make it all the way to across the Maghoto area from two days prior. We have a lot of sightings of the usual suspects, especially elephants in the river, and Lechwes, even a herd of Roan Antelopes with young ones who don’t run away. 

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Back at camp, we drive out to Khwai village to find gas and bread, but the lady at the supermarket is out of both . We circle around the village trying to find  Patrick Brown, a seller of gas, but either can’t find him or he is not home. The attendant at the Park Office is selling gas at an outrageous price. He is demanding $50 for 20 Liters, which is about $9 per gallon. Since our second tank has been started and we see the needle go lower every day, we buy gas from this man who is basically extorting us. His attitude is take it or leave it; I don’t care either way. Ooh not a good feeling…

Our afternoon game drive is taking us upriver again where we see Buffalo, elephants, and a lot of lechwes. Some of the Ellis are chasing hyena. 





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Back at camp, we have to confront a big mess in our site. The baboons were evidently having fun doing gymnastics on our furniture. So now I have to clean off the dust before anything else. 



Later, a smallish Hippo is grazing close to our site and while we are grilling, a Honey Badger is scurrying around the grill station. This place is certainly hopping with animals.



Tonight, we are going to sleep carrying some stress and anger into our dreams. We have stress because we have a lot of kilometers to drive to Maun and our gas is dwindling rapidly. We are angry at the park official for overcharging us for gas, just because he can. It’s not the money… just his attitude and we feel he took advantage of our situation.



Good night from Khwai campsite!


Edited by KaliCA
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Perhaps the beautiful campsite overcame the stress and anger to produce sweet dreams of leaping lechwe and such.

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@AtravelynnOh, that's a nice sentiment, but as self-drivers we probably worry a lot more about stuff than people on a guided tour. So getting low on gas in the middle of Moremi is quite a worry...to be continued....


Today we are up a little earlier, and get our chores done rather fast. Which direction should we choose to game drive today? I decide to head east, or downriver and what a stroke of luck this proves to be!

Almost immediately, I spot a stopped car and say, "They are looking at a Waterbuck." But then I see four Wild Dogs close to it. 

Did they just kill a Waterbuck and its mate is staring in disbelieve? The sequence of events is unclear, but the four predators are feeding on an animal. The sun is not yet up, so the pictures turn out a little fuzzy.





When the dogs run off, other cars follow them into the forest. We abandon the chase and drive through the Mopane forest to the river, looking for the sunrise. Phil is finally finding a bird to put in his sunrise picture.




After that, we return towards camp. The Wild Dog show is not over yet! The four dogs are back in the same meadow, but now five pups have joined them and there is a feeding frenzy going on. We watch nine squirrely dogs in golden light having their morning feeding right next to us. The pups squeak and yelp around the mouth of an adult male dog for it to feed them and he obliges by regurgitating meat for the pups who pounce on the mess. Yew.






A second before he regurgitates meat for the pups. Better on video.


There is a lot of motion and commotion going on with dogs running all over, their white tails wagging. Some pups steal pieces of meat from each other, then run off with their trophy to practically inhale it. Some only find left-over fur but pull off any scraps of meat with their front teeth. Some dogs find the intestines and sit down to enjoy the slabbery stuff. Some get quite aggressive with each other. Survival of the strong is on full display.









We fully relish watching this amazing action and interactions; all of it very close up. The dogs then move away to the pan, and we head towards the first ablution block. Just as I want to exit the car, the dogs trot by and we see them stopping for water below the leaky tank before they run towards the camping area. 



This must be our best ever Wild Dog sighting, yet, and we are ecstatic and leave with big grins on our faces.

Edited by KaliCA
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We are heading back towards Dombo Hippo Pool and then further south, because our overnight spot today is Xakanaka campsite. Then, another surprise: our second big herd of Sable. They are so beautiful as they walk in a line through the golden grass. 









We head to Xakanaka via the “strictly dry road” as a sign says. It’s only about 36 km and on the way, we pass a big lake with many dead trees. We see elephants, hippos, and a single male Sable. 







At the gate to Xakanaka, I show our camping voucher to the Kwalate office and then the park entrance voucher to the DW lady. She is very nice and shares the Wi-Fi password for free! 



Notice that most Botswana NP gates look identical!



Then we drive the 10 km or so to the actual campsite. At the boat inquiry sign, we turn right to ask for boating information. I look to my right and spot…. Holy Cow! More Wild Dogs! There are six of them resting in the shade but some of them have their heads up and snap after flies. Today is Wild Dog Day for sure, and my predator heart(!) is happy.







Looks like they passed their dental checkup today!



Edited by KaliCA
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Beautiful sable sighting @KaliCAI'm really enjoying your safari adventure, thanks for sharing.

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That is one heck of a dog day! Great stuff.

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What wonderful dog sightings.  I am also really enjoying your report. I think the hippos crossing by the water is a lovely scene.

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@KaliCAWow, what a sighting of wild dogs and then a bonus sightings, it seems that you are on a streak :)

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Great Dog sightings, and love the Sable herd just as well.

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@Treepol@Pangolin@Zim Girl@JayRon@michael-ibk

thank you all very much for your kind words and comments! This gives me encouragement to continue to tell our story.


After this 'bonus" Wild Dog sighting, as Jay Ron calls it, we continue to our Xakanaka camping spot number 8. It’s different from number 4 by the bathrooms, the one we know, but I like number 8 very much for its dead logs, its openness to the swamp, and its distance from other campers. We set up table and chairs in the shade of the single tree and prepare a lunch. 





After lunch, we shower and then I do dishes. I need to pinch myself because even though I’m doing a menial job, I’m enjoying it so much to stand there and be fully present in this moment in Xakanaka washing dishes at the edge of the swamp looking at grazing Lechwes. Pure happiness. 


By 3:45 we start game driving towards Paradise Pools, a favorite spot. We find lots of birds, Ellis, and Lechwes in the wet areas and in nice light. At an open area, we have a bowl of fruit cocktail for a snack. 

















Then we drive back through the forest where we meet some Ellis with babies.





Then a third Wild Dog encounter: On the road to the campsite, the Wild Dogs come running towards us on the road. Looks like they are in hunting mode, but we decide not to follow them. Its late and almost dark already.



Back at our lovely site, we start our chores. Phil always likes to get the charcoal fire going first thing.


DSC_3193.jpg.7fccc2bcab53d19a87ef9bf64fcf10ff.jpgToday, I set the tent up all by myself; it’s that easy. 

While we eat dinner, a Hippo slips into the water and we can hear it chomping grass in the swamp. 




Phil is trying his hand at taking pictures of the Milky Way in the back of our site. Once in a while i call out to him, since he is standing back there in the black African night! All good, no visitors.



Later, up in the roof top tent, I fall asleep to the sound of the frogs in the swamp and the chomping sound of a grazing Hippo. 

Good night from MX 8


Edited by KaliCA
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@KaliCAXakanaka looks great, never camped there, but a new place to the bucket list. And yet another wild dog sighting, I don´t know if it´s a bonus bonus, but 3 sightings in such a short time span is remarkable , your streak is continuing :)  

Looking forward to the next of you trip, and I am bit curious about how Nxai Pan compare the Khumaga. We only have time to do one of them in july .

Edited by JayRon
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@JayRonXakanaka is great! especially sites 8, 9, 10 as they are far away from crowds, but... its a long walk to the ablutions.

Definitely a bonus of the bonus as they were the same six WD we saw resting earlier.

Edited by KaliCA
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September 7, 2023


It’s our first full day game driving the loops around Xakanaka. At first light, I take some pictures of the swamp and reeds at our spot. So nice!



Looks like we had some Honey Badger visitors last night. 


We leave camp at about 6:35 and head to Jesse’s Pool.  But this is only because a bull elephant is blocking the road and we get tired of waiting for him to move. 

There is some water around the pools, but only the usual suspects show themselves. 







We drive towards 4th Bridge, but again, see precious little: a few Giraffe, a few birds, a few Hippos. We have breakfast by a lake in an open area. Then we drive a few more loops.

All of a sudden, three game drive vehicles come racing towards us and we decide to follow their lead, since they seem to be racing towards something exceptional. We drive fast on a pretty bad road leaving crumbs on the GPS. We are getting excited as to what we may find at the end of the chase. The vehicles separate and circle around in an area, clearly looking for something. Finally, they stop next to…..ta ta ta ta….a big herd of Buffalo! We raced all those kilometers to see Buffalo? Unbelievable!

I overhear some talk about lions on a Buffalo kill. What if the GDs were just after buffalo for the sake of buffalo? It could be that, too, as they are part of the Big Five. We can't determine their motivation. 

But it seems to me that even game drivers will follow rumors of ghost cats! 





We are so disappointed! We are the last ones to leave and the GPS is plotting a way back to camp. But… when it rains, it pours! We get to a wide water crossing and Phil dips the front tires in and we start to sink immediately. No way are we taking the risk of getting stuck here in the middle of nowhere. 

A GD is coming along and is telling his clients to grab everything off the floor and put bags in their lap. He drives in and the water is sloshing over his hood! That definitely confirms we made the right decision. 

Now we have to follow our crumbs back to Hippo Pool. What a waste of time and gas! 

Edited by KaliCA
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Back at camp, we make lunch at our site and an Eli is browsing in the reeds close by. Just such a great experience eating lunch with an Elli for entertainment.






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For our PM drive, we head to Paradise Pools again and stumble into one of our most amazing leopard sightings. 



Two game drivers are parked under a tree and the guests are looking up. There is a female leopard up on a branch calling and barking loudly. I have never heard this sound before. 



After a time, she comes off the tree and we are first to follow her. She walks over to a pile of logs and climbs on top of them and keeps calling. Maybe her cub is stashed in there?


She hops gracefully off the wood pile and walks with purpose to a tree then leaps and climbs up the trunk and branches. She looks out between two limbs and it’s just the most beautiful sight with the evening light on her. 









More GDs appear but we stay in best position as the only self-drivers. After a few minutes, she comes off the tree and walks over to a log and starts digging under it. We notice that she has cached a Lechwe carcass under the log. She looks around then is starting to tear at it until she opens the kill. Her muzzle is covered in blood, every time she is looking around to check for thieves. 







When she is done eating, she covers up the carcass just a little with leaves and branches and then she lies on the ground licking and washing her face and paws. Such a girl!









Lastly, she climbs up another tree and poses some more. By now it’s almost 6 pm and we have spent two amazing hours with this beautiful creature. 

I make the spot on my GPS as we will check here again in the morning. 

We have big smiles planted on our faces all the way home. 

We drive back to camp and do dinner prep and celebrate this beautiful sighting. The wild fruitless chase to the Buffalo is long forgotten. 

Except, the needle on our gas gauge is now closer to half full than 3/4 full. So, we decide to better head to South Gate a day earlier than planned so as to be closer to Maun. We are seriously concerned now about running out of gas before Maun. 

I hate to give up this enchanting campsite, but in the bush one criterion has to be lived by and that is safety first. 

Good night from Xakanaka where we dream of a leopard girl in golden light...

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What a leopard sighting :) So strange with the game drive vehicles , you sometimes wander , I tried the same near the Chobe Riverfront, but there was at least a very sleepy lioness in the distance. 

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Fabulous leopard sighting!

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@KaliCA What outstanding leopard photos.  She is so beautiful!

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Gorgeous leopard, and also a lovely capture of the bee-eaters.


I always wonder about cats’ instinct to cover their food - my cat “covers” her food in our kitchen, scraping with her paws to cover it with nothing but thin air. She must know it’s having no effect but instinct tells her to do it regardless.

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Thank you all for your lovely comments!

@JimSThat's too funny! I guess it is a left-over behavior from when cats were wild. My dog circles around before lying down, and I learned in Anthropology that this is a left-over behavior back when wild dogs needed to flatten the grass before lying down!

in Yellowstone, I have seen a bear cache his elk kill by covering it up with dirt and then sit on it, only to uncover parts of it and feed from it. Animals are great!

Edited by KaliCA
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After discussing our low fuel situation, we have decided to leave Xakanaka a day early and drive to South Gate, in order to be closer to Maun. This way we can gauge how much we can still game drive. I'm disappointed that we will miss meeting two friends from a different forum. 


Morning breaks pink over the swamp at Xakanaka.






If you are wondering about the angle of this shot, no, it's not by a drone, but I climbed the tall termite mound behind site 8.


First we drive out to Paradise Pools to see if we can find the Leopard again. After circling around the area along with many other GDs, we only see the rest of the carcass, but not in the same spot. 


So we give up and visit some other spots with some beautiful lechwes reflecting in the pools. We see some Ellis and more birds, and then we return to our campsite. 






While looking for the leopard, we find an Owl!


We have a very nice breakfast in the shade of our tree and I write a letter to our forum friends explaining the gas situation.


Then we say good-bye to this lovely spot and drive south. Not 20 minutes later, we are stopped by a Savannah rental car who is warning us about elephants on the road. The car behind them is...our Forum friends!! We chat a little and explain our dilemma and they are very understanding. At least we saw each other in person! We head south and the GPS is having trouble finding the new road around the old 4th Bridge. Eventually, after some stress, we reach Third Bridge and take a short comfort break.  

Then it’s on towards South Gate over deep ruts and deep sand. At a pan, we see some Giraffe and Zebra, but the whole of Moremi is so much drier than we have ever seen it.




Later, we decide to head off into the Bodumatau Loop road and there we finally find a Lagoon with water and animals. There are Ellis, Zebra, Hippos, Lechwes, and many birds. It’s what we have been missing all along! (The Bodumatau Loop was closed as we tried accessing it from Xakanaka)




We have lunch on a peninsula and are surrounded by animals, but it’s very hot today. 

Then I decide to contribute to the team and do a little deep sand driving. I’m surprised that I manage the car quite well and it’s never even close to getting stuck. Long live the automatic car engine!

Later, we take a right turn, and circle around Xini Lagoon. We have to drive quite a while downhill until we find a little water and animals. What happened to the big lagoon below the Douma Palms? All dried up. We see Giraffe, Zebra, Kudu, Tsessebee and Impala. We learn later that Elephants have abandoned the area for more water.









It’s already 5:30 pm by the time we reach South Gate and check in. We get site 8, even though we are a day early. It helps that both Xakanaka and South Gate are administered by Kwalate, so we have no problems switching campgrounds.

Phil is now mentally and physically exhausted. The stress of the difficult roads and the dwindling fuel are really getting to him. 

We discuss the fuel situation again and make another difficult decision: We agree to drive to Maun in the morning and fill up our tanks.  Depending on the drive, we will decide whether to come back to South Gate or stay in Maun. We have after all another night booked and payed for here at South Gate. 


Will we be back for more safari or will we stay in Maun?


Edited by KaliCA
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