My trip to Botswana
I have a great friend Thinus van Niekirk. I remember the night he asked me to join him for 10 days in Botswana. Thinus is the refined gentleman at home. Easy going, family man and part of my church community at Linc. On this trip, I got to see how adventurous he was, brave and how much he knew about the bush. I knew accepting this invite was going to be an experience of a lifetime.
We left early morning at 3AM from LIV village (Durban). We took the road that took us around JHB to miss any traffic. We turned right off the N3 highway before Harrismith and made our way through Newcastle, Ermelo, Middleburg, Potgietersrus then on to Martins Drift border crossing where we stayed the night. It was a long trip – but a part of South Africa I had never seen before. Passing the Loskop dam area was absolutely beautiful.
On crossing the border, it immediately felt like new land. One main road, few road signs with a couple wood carving popups on the side of the road.
On approaching LeKhubu Island at 2 o’clock in the afternoon we had just enough time to set up camp, enjoy a Sundowner and listen to the evening calls. The vast open expanse of the salt pans had my creative brain flying with many ideas. The simplicity of white salt plains and a Blue Horizon gives the brain a canvas to work with anything.
Being the dry season there were no animals around that we could note. The baobab trees were the most fascinating things of this destination. I have never seen such a huge cluster of baobab trees. Thinis and I pack down camp early morning and set off for a drive around the island. the Jeep Wrangler was made for this terrain.
On leaving Lekhubu Island we set off in a North North Westerly direction along the border of the pan. We were heading for the tar road that connects Nata and Gweta. this road was incredibly taxing on the car and our fuel budget. The road was very bad, sandy and hard to keep direction. We hadn’t budgeted fuel for the road we took. Once we got to the highway, we freewheeled into Gweta to find no petrol station. We had no other option than to commit towards Maun which would be our next filling station. That stretch of road took the longest I had ever ridden in a car, watching the petrol gauge bounce on empty for an extra 100 km. By the grace of God, we made it into Maun.
Maun felt like the Las Vegas of Botswana. It was full of foreign tourists, many people wearing tie-dye pants headbands and beaded bags. When the average American thinks that lions roam the streets of Africa, Maun could be that place where this was true.
This was the beginning of my experience of the delta. From here on out the rest of our trip, would be the wildest I have ever seen, most adventure and a combination of fear and excitement.
Coming from Maun, our next stop was Third Bridge in the Moremi Game Reserve for the night.
As we entered the reserve slowly we started to see more animals. It was a very dry time of year, so getting through the obstacles, and rivers were a breeze for the Wrangler. when we arrived, the campsite was riddled with hippo calls and a troop of baboons that caused more of a nuisance than danger.
The game viewing from this campsite was very limiting because of the built-up bush around and how flat the land is. At this stage of the trip, we were 4 days in and we hadn’t seen any carnivore yet. I was starting to feel disappointed that I was not going to see any lion or leopard.
The experience that night was the first I had of the lion in an unprotected environment. We heard lion calling all night with the giggling of hyena that had me developing a huge respect for the nocturnal animals
Khwai community Camp Site was my highlight of the whole trip. Driving into Khwai was like the opening scene of the Lion King movie. All kinds of antelope we’re on the riverside, crocodiles were basking, hippo with playful in the water, the trees were lined with giraffe heads, and the obstacles of elephants were around every corner. We were one of three campers to stay for two nights in this campsite. One viewing that I saw in this area was a honey badger and a long quill porcupine. I had never seen them in the wild before.
As the evening started to settle things got very quiet around the riverbank. From about 6 o’clock to 10 o’clock in the evening we hadn’t heard a sound. We heard wading in the water, so I thought I would get up to see the hippo’s shuffling position in the water, but what I saw was a chilling sight. We had a large male lion heading straight for the middle of our campsite. We had just finished braaing our meat on the braai. It felt like he was joining us for pudding.
I recommend this Campsite during the dry season. It hosted the most amount of animals, variety, and movement we had seen all trip.
Savuti was the most North we traveled on our trip. Savuti is known for its high density of elephant. it lives up to its reputation. We were really lucky we weren’t in mating season. The male elephants went musking and the herds were very docile if you respected them.
We got to see the first carcass of the trip here. There was a pride of lions with round bellies sleeping in the shade. They had just killed a buffalo the night before.
That night I can remember staring up into the stars I’m feeling the furthest from home in a long time and so remote that no one would come and save us if anything had to go wrong. That was the reality.
If you’re looking for a rough trip full of adventure and up for what’s around the corner, then I recommend a 10-day camping trip in Botswana. This has definitely been one of the highlight trips of my life. The one problem I’m facing is that every other game experience I have doesn’t meet up to the same standard as Botswana provided.
Where in Botswana will you be going next?
If you’ve traveled Botswana, please let me know in the comment section below.