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Moremi, Chobe and Hwange - Self drive


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Part 1.

We had the same equipment that we had for the trip last year to Namibia, but we added a long range tank to the Jeep and moved the 90l fridge from the trailer to the Jeep and fitted an extra battery and intelligent charging goodie to the fridge.

 

Although we had planned the route, we had done little booking in advance as there were still issues over whether the road between North gate and Savuti and then Kasane were passable due to the heavy rains.

 

In a last minute decision to take advantage of election day to leave it would put us three days ahead of schedule. By 11pm we had escaped from Cape Town and were looking for suitable place to sleep in Kimberly. The campsite looked pretty dodgy, and no-one was there to attend to us so we set up camp and slept.

 

We were up early the next morning, and there was still no-one in site to pay for the camping so we left. We routed ourselves through Maseru and used the Lobatse border post, then Gaborone and arrived in Francistown about 7pm. We stayed with friends in Shashe.

 

Next day we stocked up with goodies and left for Maun, via Nata and the bird sanctuary. We first asked the lady at the gate if the flamingos were there, and after the affirmative we paid and entered. But the lady at the gate was wrong, the flamingos had left. We did see a springbok prancing around about 200 meters off. :rolleyes:

 

The road to Maun involved dodging cows, goats, donkeys and skinny dogs. I was convinced Botswana has more cattle than people. At Maun we camped at Crocodile camp. It was a decent camping site, but not quiet what we had imagined. The noise from the nearby village was unreal. Loud music, shouting, dogs barking and yelping with the occasional mooo from a cow and then the donkeys. I must have finally fallen asleep as I remember waking up suddenly to silence. I sat bolt upright and listened – the silence lasted less than a minute, then “Cock-a-dooo-dle dooo” “Heeeee-haaaaaw” “cling cling clang” there wasn’t a break between one sound and the other. I checked my watch …. It was 3am.

 

In the morning we did our final shopping for the next few days and went to the parks departments office to pay for our park fees and plan our trip.The lady was very helpful, but I know she was grinding her teeth at us, and muttering under her breath “ Oh dear another bunch of idiots who didn’t make their bookings in advance”. We had booked to stay in Kaziikini, but we were three days early, however we banked on making them moving the days forward for us. After much hackling we managed to get the trip sorted. Kaziikini for three nights, then through to Kwai community camp for two nights, two nights in Savuti and then booked at Ihaha camp on the Chobe river. We had to pay for our park permits here, so we just bought permits for the next few days.

 

Kaziikini is a community owned camp about 30kms from the south gate of Moremi. The plan here was to use this camp as a base and drive into Moremi everyday on for game drives. Finally our first night in the bush. We cleared the elephant poo and set up camp. But the sounds of the wild kept us awake this time. Sure the odd sound of elephant and hyena and a distant roar of a lion, but the Franklins don’t seem to sleep. They screech and sqwaak all night.

We were up early the next morning to do our first drive into Moremi reserve, and we wanted to be there at 6am when the gates opened. On the way (still dark) we stumbled on a pack of wild dogs trotting fast in the other direction. We turned round and followed for a while, but they ran off into the bush and were gone. We arrived at the gate nice and early, but had to wait for the guy to get up and open it at half past 6.

 

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Comfort at Kaziikini

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I kept expecting the vegetation to open up a bit, but it was thick bush and trees all the way. Although the road was littered with spoor, we saw very few animals, and photo opportunities were few.

By the time we got to Xakanaxa campsite we had seen few animals. We stopped to watch a large elephant bull eating Marulas at one of the campsites. One strange thing was that the kettle was on the boil and the cars were parked there, but appeared to be empty. The baboons were ransacking the campsite, as it appeared that no-one was at home. The elephant was very close to the cars, and then finally he rubbed up against the one car and leant on the bonnet. Immediately the car started and the engine revved. What had happened is the elephant had frightened the people at the campsite and they sought refuge in their car while the baboons seized the moment and cashed in. We drove forward to take a better look and the car door exploded open and a woman ran out the car towards us begging us to open our car door. As the back seat was full of cameras, she jumped in front onto Jenny’s lap and introduced herself. So this is how you meet people in Moremi. Once the Elly had moved off a little we made use of the water in the boiling kettle and joined this chaps for a cup of coffee.

 

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The thing in the mans hand is called a Kattie. (catapult)

 

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Just checking if the gas is full

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We then drove to third Bridge as a game drive, but got a little lost and found ourselves in pretty deep water. Well we could see that someone had driven through this water quite recently, and thought nothing of it, simply drove through, to my surprise water washed over the bonnet and onto the windscreen. Heart skipped a few beats, and in future we walked the water crossings first before blundering through. I should elaborate here – Jenny would get out and walk the water first. If it was over her hips we would not enter. Of course I gave her lots of moral support.

 

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Just showing Jenny how it is done

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Taking the plunge.

 

When we got to third bridge, we took an alternative route back to South Gate. Although the distance is not to great, you can’t do much more than 20 – 30kms per hour there. But it was no problem as it was a game drive anyway. We did stop to take some photos of two collared cheetahs next to a pond.

 

It may have been a long day, but we now had a better idea what to expect of Moremi and we knew that we were there at the wrong time for good game viewing.

 

The next day we did a game drive in the Santawana conservancy, which includes Kaziinkini. Here we needed to pick up a guide. This day involved a lot of driving with pretty poor game viewing and very few photo opportunities. When we returned I drove quickly back to Maun to fill the fuel tank, as we had used quite a bit of fuel on the game drives, and we didn’t want to fall short on the way to Savuti. Next fuel was in Kasane.

 

The last night in Kaziikini was quiet. I couldn’t understand why the Franklins were so quiet, but I did hear a leopard in the night, and our camp was visited by hyena and elephant.

 

We had heard much about the roads and how we would battle, however we glided all the way to North gate without a problem. At North Gate we started hearing stories about the road ahead. At this stage we were not booked anywhere, and decided against heading on to the Kwai community camp as there were no facilities there. We were also warned about the road and traveling alone. Although we were not booked in at North gate we decided to leave the trailer at the campsite and take a game drive in the north side of the park. The game viewing here was much better, and the roads were pretty testy with some deep river crossings for jenny to test for me. At one water crossing, about 300meters of water, we saw a couple half way in and stuck solid. We wont mention the make of the vehicle. As we couldn’t leave these people here we attempted to rescue them. Eventually we managed to get them out once some more help arrived. I didn’t like the local beer that much, but it sure did taste good then. These guys fortunately had space in their campsite for us, and so we stayed with them.

 

Eventually two vehicles with snatch straps pulled the last vehicle out.

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Next morning we left for the Kwai community camp. Their office was in the village just outside North Gate. Here we booked and paid and tried to ask about road conditions ahead. They did say that we couldn’t miss the campsite as it is on the main “highway” to Savuti. As it turned out it was more of a try-way. “Try this way first and if you get stuck try that way”. We latched on to a group of people heading in that direction, who seemed to know where they were going, and they said it would not be wise to go alone. After a few wrong turns, we made it through some water crossings until we found one crossing about 200 meters long. More for a boat and not a car. Jenny waded in and walked it through and carried on walking until she was out of sight. “have you found the end of the water I called”, “NO” she answered, “but there is a hyena looking at me”. “ Don’t worry” I said “they don’t like water” and the reply. “Yes, but this one is already in the water”. She shouted and waved and the Hyena gave way. The problem with this crossing was that we couldn’t see the end, and there was a section where someone had been stuck, as jenny said the ground under foot had deep furrows, which we could fall into and get stuck. We put our faith in Nelly and decided to go round this obstacle.

 

The photo below shows the road on the right of the tree. Jenny is lost behind the other trees.

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We found this road that seemed to be going in the right direction, but it was quite a wide deviation. Eventually all the other vehicles were following us now, and we really didn’t know where we were going. We knew we were close though, and we came across this camp with tents etc. and stopped to ask directions and advice. As it turns out the very helpful guy was Mad Mike himself. And yes, we can confirm that he is mad – nothing has changed. The GPS co-ords given to us were a little out, and Mike suggested that we just set up camp anywhere. The other vehicles chose to drive through to Savuti. We drove around a bit and found a spot that looked good and set up camp.

 

Getting directions from Mad Mike.

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An Obstacle in the road.

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We really liked this place. We could game drive at night, and felt totally at lose in the wild. The Game viewing was also excellent. We cant wait to return. Absolutely no facilities though. The visitors that night were hippos and elephant.

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The next morning armed only with Nelly the trusty GPS we blundered on towards Savuti. We found the going quite easy and Jeep performed beautifully. Savuti was better suited to game viewing and game drives became more productive. Finally after dark we saw our first lion. She had just killed a zebra and was fat as a tick.

 

That night our visitors were elephant and honey badger.

 

We set out early the next morning to try and get something to take a photo of before the sun was too high. Here we got lucky and found our fat lioness. We followed her for a while as she walked. And had a few pictures of her in the golden light. By now we had figured out it would be best to return for lunch and wait the heat out before venturing out for an afternoon evening drive.

 

Our last night in Savuti, I set up the cameras traps to catch our evening visitors and got photos of porcupine, hyena, and honey badger.

 

A few big visitors came into the camp.

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Camping at Savuti

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Because we had not booked for Savuti and they could not give us a campsite, we set up right next to the ablutions. There was a French guy walking out the ablutions to his tent, but there was an elephant shaking the tree and eating the pods by his tent. He joined us for coffee until he felt brave enough to return to his tent.

 

This is the reason why the man couldn't return to his tent.

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Our kitchen

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The road to Ihaha

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In the morning we left for Ihaha and chobe river. Once again the Jeep danced along the roads with trailer in tow out a problem. Sorry, but I have to mention the Jeep, it was just superb. Already it was apparent that this was not so much a photo safari, as an adventure. Once in the Chobe river part of Chobe reserve we could see that the game viewing was going to be good. At Ihaha we camped right on the edge of the water, as the water was unusually high.

 

Our Campsite in Chobe

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The next day we decided to do a sunset cruise, and restock our supplies. This is the first chance to get fuel and also was going to be for all the fuel and supplies we needed in Zimbabwe.

 

The sunset cruise was a great idea, and we saw sable come to the water to drink, and even saw a lion on the shores of the Chobe river.

 

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That night we stayed at Chobe river campsite, and believe it or not the heavens opened and rain came down in buckets the whole night. The next morning we packed the tent up while it was wet and headed for Vic falls.

 

The border crossing that we had been dreading went pretty smoothly, even though we were asked about the extra fuel we had and there was a chance that we would have to go back and pay more carbon tax for it. Fuel in Botswana is much cheaper than in SA.

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twaffle

How exciting and such an adventure, I am enjoying your trip very much, thanks Dikdik.

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twaffle

yes, the sable are sensational!

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madaboutcheetah

Nice report Dik Dik - thanks for sharing!!! From High Flood levels, to bumping into Mad Mike to lovely Sable on the river front, not to forget cheetahs ........... You certainly had a great time!!!

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Great trip and photos, dikdik. Mad Mike looks somewhat greyer than when I last met him in the 90's. But then

 

so am I! I love the sable photos.

 

 

Jan

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Notice the "D" on the Gerry can. When we were stopped at the border in Zimbabwe they asked us what was in there. There is a fuel levy that you have to pay if you take extra fuel into Zimbabwe. I said it was water.

 

So the guy asked why the "D"... Drinking water!!!

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Seems mad Mike spilled some peroxide on his hair. Accidents do happen!!!

 

For you Nyama

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A few Photos I left out.

 

Chobe River Campsite

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Nata Lodge under construction

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Ummm very big tadpole.

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The fat lioness

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kulkulbelle

What a wonderful trip report.

 

Your amazing photos bring back some wonderful memories of Botswana. I am blown away by the amount of water you encountered. Great to see our old friend Mike still hitting the bottle (peroxide that is).. :)

 

The sable!! You tinny beggar is all I can say. :D

 

Thanks for this.

:D

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What a wonderful trip report.

 

Great to see our old friend Mike still hitting the bottle

:D

 

Thanks.

 

So you know Mad Mike ;)

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I better start Part II

 

Vic falls campsite. Misty from the spray from the falls.

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We stayed at Vic falls campsite. It was very well kept and as neat as a pin. Naturally we went to see the falls, which I had never seen before from close up. It was the most incredible thing to see. It is quite a thing getting your head around the sheer volume and size of water shooting over the falls. Remember that the river was 4 meters higher than usual. In many places you couldn’t see the water over the falls through the mist. It’s the kind of thing you will only appreciate if you are there.

 

A photo of the falls. If you been there you aill be correct in saying that photos don't do this place justice.

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I must say that Vic falls town was an eye opener for me WRT Zimbabwe. The town was hardly what it should be bustling with tourists, yet the Zimbabweans had survived the last years, and were quite positive about the future. There is absolutely no crime. They were selling the old money as curios. I bought a 100 Trillion dollar note. It’s quite a big number for something that is worthless. To think that ten years ago you could buy a beer for around 2 dollars. You would probably have been able to buy the entire country for 100 Trillion dollars.

 

We were warned about the begging, and it is true. The people who try and sell curios were a little too pushy and if you were not interested they resorted to begging. We went to see the “big tree” inside the Vic falls park; amazing how elephants and stuff roam the streets in Vic falls. We had no sooner stopped to photograph this stopped to see this 1500 year old tree when suddenly people emerged from the bush to force more curios down our face. Crazy 100m away there was a huge herd of buffalo. We later found out that this was illegal and the police tried to stop them once, but they ran into the bush and one guy was killed by a buffalo.

 

Just managed one click of the camera before people poured out of the bushes to sell us curios.

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The afternoon we took a booze cruise above the falls which was quite fun as all drinks were included and we took advantage.

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Finally next morning we left for Hwange. Remember we had booked nothing. When we got to main gate we managed to secure two nights at one of the picnic sites.. R40 pppn. Obviously at that price, we didn’t expect much. Were we in for a surprise? There are a few picnic sites are set up around Hwange, for use of day visitors, yet they do allow people to camp there overnight. It was fantastic. Our first site was Ngweshla picnic site. There is a camp attendant who sees to your every need, and literally rakes your footprints away behind you. We shared our diner with our camp attendant. His name was Binga. His duties include filling the water pump with diesel and keeping the camp clean. He was very proud of his campsite and it was immaculately kept. We had the entire site to ourselves. The picnic sites are exclusive and you will never share with other people.

 

Meyers Parrot

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We set up camp and watched the Meyers parrots come in to drink from Bingas bird bath, which he diligently fills twice a day. Quite humorously the picnic site is fenced, but it was rather a ridiculous fence. We were trying to figure what animal would not be able to get in.

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If you ever camp at Hwange, ask for a picnic site. It has to be camping at its best and the cost is the same as the main campsites.

 

Picnic site

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We had some limited photo opportunities of elephant and lion.

 

Scaredy cat

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The next morning the lions were gone.

 

We had to move out of Ngweshla picnic site early as they had double booked. We decided to try and make it to Shumba campsite, but we would take the round-about route. This picnic site was looked after by Mixture. That was his name. Honestly you have to see these picnic sites to appreciate them. They are spotless and in such beautiful settings. The drive to shumba was quite a long one as we chose to take the unused route, and the tar road between main camp and shumba was in pretty poor nic. We bumped into sable and roan that day.

 

Some roads in Hwange were a little poor. The tar road from Main camp to Shumba was in a pretty bad way. But it is good as it prepared us for the Nata road later.

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Next day we decided to stay closer to the Robins exit and went to Sinamatella to book in at the Mandavu dam picnic site. There was considerably less game in this area. The rains had filled many puddles and there was no need for them to make their way to the water points. Mandavu did not have a camp attendant, but it didn’t bother us. It was quite nice to camp knowing that there was no-one within miles of us. And that night the lions gave us a revving. We learned later that there was a huge pride of lions in that area.

 

The Nata road. A little shocking. The worst part is that in sections is is quite good and you can get to top speed, but when you see the black tyre marks of the previous vehicles.. BRAKE HARD.

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Next morning we had to start our 3 day trip back home. Through Robins gate and out at Pandamatenga border. We had met some German tourists at Kasane who told us that the Pandametenga Nata road was the worst road in the world, yet they said that road from Robins entrance to Pandametenga was smooth. Well the road to Pandemetenga was hardly smooth, and as for the TAR road between Nata and Pandametenga they may well be right there. The worst roads are tar roads which are falling apart. This road has a way of letting you get some speed up and then suddenly throwing a pothole in front of you. If it were just one pothole, then you could negotiate it, but best slam on brakes and idle through the bad spots, which are easy to see if as there are tyre marks leading you into them. Funny thing is while you are slamming on your brakes and bopping and weaving the potholes the Botswana government vehicle come flying past you and break neck speed.

 

Last night in Francistown, and we left through Martins Drift this time, and then a long haul to Cape Town on good tar.

The trip was almost exactly 7000km. Makes one appreciate that South Africa has one of the best road networks in the world.

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Guest nyama
We had met some German tourists at Kasane who told us that the Pandametenga Nata road was the worst road in the world, yet they said that road from Robins entrance to Pandametenga was smooth. Well the road to Pandemetenga was hardly smooth, and as for the TAR road between Nata and Pandametenga they may well be right there.
Apparently they've never been to Kenya... ;)
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We had met some German tourists at Kasane who told us that the Pandametenga Nata road was the worst road in the world, yet they said that road from Robins entrance to Pandametenga was smooth. Well the road to Pandemetenga was hardly smooth, and as for the TAR road between Nata and Pandametenga they may well be right there.
Apparently they've never been to Kenya... ;)

 

But they had driven through from Mozambique!! So I was expecting the road to be pretty shocking.

 

Thanks for the comments.

 

Below a few photos just for fun.

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dikdik, I loved your report. Your Meyers parrot photo is fantastic. I think I need a man like you to drive me all

 

over Africa. Okay, okay ! I know you're spoken for! I wish I was forty years younger and starting out in Africa

 

all over again. Don't get me wrong, I don't regret one day that I've spent in Africa.

 

 

Jan

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I don't know how I missed this till now but what an absolute PLEASURE to read and follow along with you!

THANK YOU!

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Dik Dik,

 

Thanks for stirring the memories; even if the water level causes confusion in the shots of places I know.

 

The idea of going to the Kwai Community Camp to do night drives had never crossed my head, simple but brilliant.

 

It's good to see that the work on Nata Lodge is doing well I stayed their for the first time the week it burned down and the "new" owners seemed to be making a good go of it with the staff getting very involved. The contrast with the road outside Nata is huge. The Ngami Times states that the contractors who were supposed to start in Aprikl may well be replaced because they don't have the correct machinery.

 

Thanks again for the eport.

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