BOTSWANA - DESERT AND DELTA

Johannesburg to Maun

It's been a great first week.  We have spent the week making our way from Johannesburg, South Africa to Maun, Botswana.

The trip has been rewarding in parts and challenging in others.everything that an overland adventure should be. 

We crossed the border into Botswana without major incident although there were some challenges with the third-party insurance.  Seems the folks at the border post ran out of the window decals you need for proof of insurance so instead we were given a receipt and a phone number to call if we have any trouble with the local constabulatory.  We're sceptical it will work but what can you do.it's Africa.

Our first stop was St. Clair Lion Park, where the guide books say we will enjoy a lively campground with a bar and restaurant and where we would be lulled to sleep with the sounds of lions roaring in the distance.  We arrive to find no lively campground, no bar, no restaurant and definitely no lions.all we find is Charless.  Charless is the gate operator for the (all but) abandoned Lion Park. Turns out that last year one of the lions ate one of the guests and that hurt business significantly.  Charless tells us that they tried to keep it going but the lions kept jumping the fence.  In the end, it was best to shut her down.  Despite the lack of lions, the darkness made our decision to stay the night was easy.

Next we were off to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary where we scored a great campsite in the sanctuary under a huge mokongwa tree.  A morning game drive had us face-to-face with a couple of the stars of the sanctuary.the white rhino.  Very good sighting within 50 feet or so.  Also saw a number of giraffe, kudu and zebra.  No carnivores in this park so we saw what we came to see.  We stayed 2 nights in the sanctuary to take advantage of the great camping facilities before heading to the desolation of the Makgadikgadi Pans.

At this time of the year the Makgadikgadi Pans are as dry as a bone and resemble giant salt flats.  It's very hot in the pans over 50 degrees in the sun!  Not much to see in the way of wildlife but the pans are cool in themselves.  They are incredibly vast and barren.  In the rainy season the pans flood and become a huge shallow lake, home for migrating birds and wildlife.  This time of year it's great fun for 4x4ing and Matt & Mike took turns tearing it up.

Here we hit our biggest challenge of the trip.  Turns out our water tank had a leak in it and we woke up on the second day to find we were out of water.  Not a nice scenario in the middle of a desert.  So we collected the remaining supplies and put the necessary waypoints into the GPS and headed Norhtwest through the pans to Gweta and on to Maun.

The trip to Gweta is a treacherous one in the rainy season where it is easy to get bogged down in deep mud, not to see another vehicle for several days.  It is not as treacherous during the dry season however it is still very sandy with numerous false tracks.  As such, it is not navigable without GPS and 4x4.luckily we have both.

Arrived in Maun and after a few difficult days in the pans rewarded ourselves with a couple of nights at the Audi Camp.not quite a luxury stop but with beds, showers, restaurant and pool it is close enough.  It also provided Mike and Matt time to attend to some repairs including removing the water tank for pressure testing and welding and fixing the diesel pump which was suffering from dust intake. Then some time in town for email, money exchange and a cold beer. 

Maun is different than the other towns we have come across so far.  It is a hub for the adventurous.  We have come across quite a few fellow overlanders as Maun serves as the starting point for trips into the delta, and some of Africa's best game parks. Luckily with the tourists come amenities and services that we haven't seen since we left Joburg.

One more night at the Audi camp to make some plans for the next long stretch through Moremi and Chobe game parks where we hope to come face-to-face with some lions.

Maun to Livingstone

We have definitely entered the "wilds of Africa" and week two has been everything we could hope for from the Okavango Delta to Chobe National Park.  Having made the decision early in our planning that we could not book any campsite prior to needing them, we left the Audi Camp in Maun to visit the Parks Board to see what was available the next four nights through Moremi National Park up to the north end of Chobe.  It was good we stopped by before starting our drive as we were told that most campsites were fully booked.  When we went to book a campsite the response was "Which month?".   But after a long discussion with the Parks lady, we secured 4 campsites and were also told that if we ask at the South gate to Moremi if other sites were available, we may secure a different, more preferable site.  So we were off.  

We arrived at the South Gate to Moremi and actually due to a severe water shortage we were sent on to Third Bridge.  The Third Bridge campsite is in the heart of the Moremi park and where we were originally hoping to camp for a couple of nights.  The drive to Third Bridge was very sandy and we had to switch the truck into 4x4 (and we wouldn't take it out of 4x4 for another 5 days).  Arriving at the site we were welcomed (or perhaps scouted out) by a troop of baboons who boldy ventured into our truck and stole our recently purchased bag of oranges.  We were mad and went on the offence when one came back and tried to steal our toilet paper.  We fared far better than our neighbours whose campsite was completely trashed by baboons as they left everything out while they went on a game drive.  So our campsite was incredible and over the next couple of days we experienced closed encounters with wild life.  We had a herd of elephants eat lunch with us (them trees, us grilled cheese), Matt and Shannon almost shared their toilet time with an angry roaming hippo and of course there was the loud morning monkey play-time.  Our game drives brought us close to elephants (again and again), giraffe, zebra, kudu, water buck, impala and hippos.

On the third day we headed north to the Moremi North Gate campsite with the hopes that we could camp on the Kwai river that night.  There was room and we began to realize that perhaps the parks board and the campsites are not great with their communication.  The North Gate campsite provided us with our first hyena spotting.  That night after we had gone up to the tents to bed, a hyena sauntered right past our site and joined about 7 others just meandering around the campground. 

The next day we had the longest driving to date.  Our campsite in Chobe was at the north end: Ihaha.  Today was also our first experience driving in convoy.  Shortly after leaving North Gate we were approached by Klaus (a German living in Cape Town) who informed us that the driving between Moremi and Chobe was "dangerously sandy" and best if driven together.  Turns out the convoy was not necessary at all...the sandy ridge was actually significantly less sandy than most of the driving we had done to date

Driving along the Chobe river to our campsite was the best game drive and most scenic to date.  All along the river were herds of zebra and impala, many hippos, buffalos and elephants.  Our campsite at Ihaha was truly awe-inspiring.  The sunset was incredible and to top it off, the moon was full.  Again baboons lived in the tree next door, but since the orange incident we have been on the offensive and we were prepared: pepper spray, air horn, beat stick and taser.  The two oranges we had left were definitely safe.  

Our sleep that night was far from peaceful as the scenery lead us to believe it would be.  It seems our campsite was in the middle of a baboon turf war and throughout the night two alpha male baboons from two different troops engaged in a heated screaming match.  Now a baboon scream is quite loud, gutteral and angry so pretty much impossible to sleep through.  The screaming war went on for a little while, followed by the sounds of a fight, followed by more screaming.  Definitely wild Africa.  The next morning, tired and groggy thanks to the baboon opera, we set off for the ferry from Kasane, Botswana to Kazungula, Zambia.  We were up at the crack of dawn for our last day in Botswana hoping to catch some lion action before moving on.  Alas, we left Botswana without a big predator sighting.  But all were in good spirits as the first stop in Zambia was also our first luxury stop.  Clean clothes and clean bodies were only a ferry ride away.