Jump to content

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


Recommended Posts

September 12

From the Boteti River to Nxai Pan NP


The wind is still gusty and it’s only 9 C this morning. We get up late and it’s already 7am by the time we start game driving. Impala are walking over the campsite. When we get to the riverbed, there are only a few Wildebeest around and the zebra are missing. Wow! What a dramatic change of scenery.

We decide to take a 12 km inside loop to see where all the Zebra go after they drink. We find an Ellie and then two more browsing in the low bushes.



Then we see a bunch of vultures and the reason is a dead zebra. More and more vultures are coming in and starting to open up the carcass. A young zebra is running around and I’m guessing it lost its mother. Very sad to see this.



We drive more inland and then the golden grass is getting thicker and thicker and more and more zebras are feeding here. I’m relieved to see that the animals have enough grass to eat after all. 

We also see two Steenbock and then join up with the Phuduhudu road and head back towards the river. 

Slowly, more zebra are coming down to drink and are lining up around Hippo Pool to drink and Phil is happy. 









I get all the breakfast ingredients from the back and put them in a bin. Then we have breakfast in the car while looking into the puddle that is Hippo Pool. 

There are at least 13 Crocs of different sizes covered in mud in the very shallow water and some zebra spook because of them. 



Just before 1 pm, it’s time to leave this park and head to Nxai Pan NP.  We leave via the Phuduhudu track and head north on a deep sand road. It’s very bad in places and we rock from side to side while I hang on for dear life. 

Halfway up, we make a lunch stop at the pumped waterhole and eat while two Ellie’s are coming in to drink. 



More bad road follows all the way to the Phuduhudu Gate which is not manned. So I sign us out and it’s easy enough doing this chore by now.

We follow the A3 tar road east and don’t inflate our tires, since it’s only for 10 km and then check in at Nxai Pan Gate. The park agent says to head left at the junction, but the Xomae Camping clerk lady says to go straight. We opt to go straight and it’s not too bad, even fast in places where we can go 60km/hr but in other places it’s deep sand with washboard and we drive 5km/hr. 

After almost 40 km of this torture, we enter campsite number 2. 

As you can tell, we are getting tired of those bad roads that give you an African masaaaaaage. 

We deposit our table and chairs and then head to the pumped waterhole which is the Park's main focus.  We sit there in nice position from 4:30 till 6:15. We see a Kori Bustard sitting on its knees, yellow birds, Wildebeest, and about 7 Ellis coming and going. 






Phil is getting a little bored but perks up again for sunset with Ellis pictures. They make a nice sight with the setting sun. 








Back at our site we do dinner and grill prep for chicken with salad and Red Beets. 

As we prepare and grill, a cute Jackal is coming closer and sits like a good little dog further away and waits. 




Tonight, we need to wear our jackets because it’s cool and windy. As we are eating, an Elli is hurrying by in the bushes and then another one is following. 



The Jackal is coming closer after we are done eating and checks for scraps around the fireplace. 

I wash dishes at the sinks by the ablutions while Phil dries them. We climb up into our cozy tent while downstairs the wildlife camera is set up. 

The countdown has begun: Only three more sleeps in the tent. 

Good night from a cool Nxai Pan. 




Edited by KaliCA
Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 2/15/2024 at 3:09 AM, KaliCA said:

@ElenaHYes, 5 hrs from Third Bridge to Maun sounds about right. But maybe visit Xini and Black Pools on the way and then I would leave at first light. It would take less than 2 hrs from South gate to Maun. 


@AfricaloverWhen people use the term "wild camping" they mean just pull over at a spot and camp without paying a fee. I don't think this is allowed in any TZ parks as far as I know. Maybe there is a hybrid in that you pay for a special campsite, which means just permission to camp on a piece of Africa, and the Rangers will tell you more or less where to camp but not exactly? I don't understand how you payed for a spot and then camped wild in Bolognja, in N. Serengeti?


@Kitsafari Thank you! Now that I show and tell, I realize we really did see a lot!

@KaliCATo me wild camping is as shown in the pictures. No one around, no ablutions. Just oneself surrounded by nature. Or designated wild campsites like the ones Mabuasehube, etc.

We were totally happy with the opportunity to set up our tent where we wanted in Bolongoja






Edited by Africalover
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@AfricaloverI understand that to YOU wild camping means being able to camp where no one else is, without facilities on a piece of Land in Africa. But, you still need permission and pay a fee.

However, wild camping, or freedom camping, normally refers to camping where home is where you park it (no permission) and there is no fee. The latter is NOT allowed in National Parks, or everyone would be doing it!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Peter Connan

I have wild-camped in Botswana several times.


Not in the national parks, but since most of the national parks are not fenced, there's not much real difference.

It's usually simply a matter of asking the local chief for permission, and on the occasions that I have tried this, such permission has never been denied.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Morning is breaking in pink and orange over Nxai Pan. I'm a little sad to realize that today is our last full day of Safari.



The night vision cam is showing a jackal visit.



We wake up at 5:30 and drive off to the waterhole. Sadly, very little is showing up. A Jackal, Doves, little yellow Birds, Springbock, and three Ostriches. 

In past visits, we have had excellent lion sightings in Nxai Pan, but sadly, not this time. 







We drive away to get our breakfast items out and then drive back to the waterhole to eat breakfast in the car.  By 8 am Phil has had enough waiting and he is not willing to spend the day and another night here in Nxai Pan. Hmmmm, we discuss our options. He is advocating to go back to the Boteti because that’s where the animals are.  Actually, I’m a little bored here too, and so I agree to go back to the Boteti. 

We return to our site and load up our furniture. Then we drive south and along the way we decide to go visit the other attraction in Nxai Pans which are the famous Baines Baobab Trees.  We have never seen this landmark before. 

The 14 km road in is actually 17 km but at least it’s driving on hard packed pan stuff.  Along the way we see a few Oryx with a baby in the golden grass. 



We get to the Baobab trees via a grey pan and behind the trees is the expanse of a white pan. The light is still soft and the trees photograph well with their red bark, their bare branches with the white pan behind them. 








A Baobab seed pod





This was a very nice visit, and we are happy to have seen those imposing giants once in our lives. Then it’s fast driving all the way to the gate. The park attendant confirms that the park permit is valid until 6:30 tomorrow and will be valid at the Boteti. But… where will we sleep?

There is a sign along the road for the Boteti River Camp. I know about it from a German friend who has stayed there a few days ago. I take a picture of it including the phone number.  When I want to call, it turns out that I’m out of minutes. Of course! So I ask the nice clerk at the Phuduhudu Gate to call the camp for me with his phone, which he does with a smile. I talk to a lady and she says just to come and that there are lots of spaces. 

Well, that worked out nicely! We have a place to sleep and it’s a go. We head south on the bad sandy road and stop at the waterhole to eat some cold chicken. A few Zebra are coming to drink. Then it’s back to the river. Today there are decidedly fewer animals around but we see lots of Zebra, Ellis, Giraffe, Kudu, Steenbock, Fish Eagle, Crocs, and Wildebeest. We drive back and forth in the riverbed and while Phil still has energy to photograph I’m kind of done. 

Hippo Pool has even less water now, and the whole place is depressing to me. 





















By 5 pm, we start heading towards to gate and I check us out by writing the info in their silly ledgers. We cross the river and then turn right into Boteti River Camp for $20 pppn. 

Our site is very sandy but good enough. Phil is busy re-inflating the tires for tomorrow’s drive back on tar, but the hose keeps popping off. He fixes it with some tape we brought from home for just such a problem. 

Before dinner we have a sighting of a scorpion in the sand. A house cat wants to play with it, and so we have to scoop it up with our shovel and toss it away. 



Now I’m up in the tent and the strap is being tossed around by the strong wind. Time for earplugs, which is too bad, since the Hippos are snorting below in the riverbed. 


Good night from Boteti River Camp (a Bushways Property).




Edited by KaliCA
Link to comment
Share on other sites

When we get up it’s quite chilly and windy again. We pack up and leave Boteti River Camp.  We drive through Khumaga Village and then we follow the GPS who leads us on a narrow dirt road to the A3. On our way east, we see Zebra drinking by the side of the road, as well as Giraffe and Steenbock. Elephants have ripped off the covers of the water system and it looks like the animals regularly drink from these places, judging from the poop around it. 

After Nata, there is more truck traffic, because Zimbabwe is close by, and I carefully pass a few. The landscape shows a few white pans and golden grass. Shortly after 1 pm, we reach Woodlands Stop Over for our second time. We have come full circle since August 18. I check in and we get number 2, a nice grassy and shady site. 

It’s only about 28C so it’s pleasant to sit outside and have lunch. 

After lunch we have to do some cleaning chores. I wash dishes and some clothes in the sinks in the back of the ablutions. Phil is starting to clean the car and takes everything out of the back and the drawer and washes the floor mats. I wipe down the inside of the cabin. All this cleaning takes time and it’s also making us a little sad. I make a pile of things we don’t need any more like the tablecloth and charcoal, for the attendant to take later. We relax with coffee and have a snack while checking in with our kids. 





Now we start the lists of “lasts”. 

We are getting ready for our last meal while camping and it’s grilled chicken, pasta/rice from home and cooked carrots. 

After I wash the dishes, I ask our SA neighbors about Khama Rhino Sanctuary and they advise not to go because it’s too far, too expensive, and too rundown. Ok, so we won’t go. 

They also tell us that they have not seen ANY lions in the Moremi. How sad!

We have a good and cool last night in our RTT.

Good night from Woodlands Stop Over

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When we wake up, it’s already 7am. Wow! Late for us.

We do our chores for the last time and take sheets and pillows down from the tent. We leave Woodlands at 8am and head south without making any wrong turns at all! In Mpalapye we head east and find the Botswana border post called Parr’s Halt without any trouble. Checking out of Botswana is taking three minutes and checking into South Africa is 5 minutes. That’s probably the fastest  African border crossing we have ever done. 


We are back! This is the limpopo River that marks the boundary between Botswana and South Africa.


Then we follow the pot-holed road to Lephalale and then it’s another 45 km to Berchtesgaden Game Lodge, north of Vaalwater. 

A BIG lowlight:

A young man is greeting us and it turns out that this place is a HUNTING game lodge. I’m instantly sick to my stomach about it and I’m 90% sure that I had asked them on booking.com about it and the answer was “we don’t hunt here.”

We decide to stay anyway, as it’s late and we are far away from any town. I’m so distraught that I have to spend a night in a hunting lodge; it just goes against my core. 

Our chalet is nice enough, though. 





Load shedding is starting at 5 pm and will last for 2 hours. So we walk over to the tame Blessbock and pet it and then climb the dangerous stairs to the hide to watch other animals come to eat pellets. We see 9 Nyala, an Impala, and six Wildebeest. 





I’m asking the owner about the way his lodge is advertised on booking.com. He denies that he wrote the answer “We don’t hunt here,” and, he adds, why would he since he is advertising in other places as a hunting lodge. 

Well, the whole thing is rather unpleasant and I’m extremly sorry we are staying here. He has a right to make a living, but I wanted to have a choice and was denied that opportunity. 

Somehow, we pass the time in our chalet with reading and then call it a night. Not a good finish to our trip. 

The next day we wake up to loud voices outside. It’s hunters in camouflage carrying guns and loading into a pick-up truck. Oh, I surely don’t need to see this. They are going to hunt animals that are fenced in and came to eat pellets last night. How unfair!

The rest of the day is spent driving back to the Bushlore depot in Midrand and packing all our stuff back into the suitcases. 





We were extremely happy with this car rental and Bushlore’s service and did not have a single issue with it. The only thing to improve on is the side panel kitchen storage which gets too dusty. 

We spend a nice evening and the next day with our friends who live in Olifantsfontein. 

And our friend is able to solve the gas guzzling Hilux mystery. On previous trips through the Moremi GR, filling up an additional 20 Liters was always enough, but not this time. Why was that? The reason is: this Toyota Hilux had a 2.8-liter engine and was therefore stronger than our previous rental cars, ergo it needed more gas.  But of course! This little detail went clear over my head since I don’t have any idea how a motor actually works. Main thing it does!

The next day, we have an uneventful flight back to Florida. 


Another wonderful camping safari has come to an end. The many highlights certainly outweighed the few lowlights. Many memorable moments will stay in our memories forever and thus enrich our lives immensely. 


Thank you all for riding along, for your comments, and for your “likes”. 


And we are off to India for temples, forts, palaces, and 20 safaris in 4 different national parks. 

My dream moment is to find a tiger taking a bath…

I will report back!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thanks for a great report, thoroughly enjoyed following along!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@KaliCAThank you for the trip report, I enjoyed it a lot :) I can recognize that you always feel a bit sad when the trip is over. On the other hand I also always feel like I achieved something.... 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@JayRonEvery trip is in someway enriching. When the trip is over I’m always glad that none of us got hurt, or sick, or robbed, or stuck….just that -  almost - everything went according to plan. 
thanks for reading along! And happy trails to you!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have really enjoyed following your 50 da safari adventure @KaliCA Thanks for sharing the many highlights and just a few lowlights, what a wonderful experience and precious memories you have taken home.


Really looking forward to the India TR - when do you go?


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Create New...

Important Information

Safaritalk uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By using Safaritalk you agree to our use of cookies. If you wish to refuse the setting of cookies you can change settings on your browser to clear and block cookies. However, by doing so, Safaritalk may not work properly and you may not be able to access all areas. If you are happy to accept cookies and haven't adjusted browser settings to refuse cookies, Safaritalk will issue cookies when you log on to our site. Please also take a moment to read the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy: Terms of Use l Privacy Policy