Southern Africa 2004 - The safari
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The safari started 12th of July 2004 in Johannesburg, South Africa, and ended at the same place 14 days later, the 26th of July. It was called "Brush in the wild. Botswana, Namibia & Zimbabwe" by the safari company African Getaway Tours & Safaris, which arranged the tour:"

This photographic camping safari introduces you to an astonishing diversity of wildlife. An action packed adventure with several activities exploring these comparatively unknown wilderness area"

And an adventure it surely was, with both positive and negative aspects, luckily most of the first. After about 5000 km on mainly good roads, we experienced spectacular areas like the Kalahari bushweld and Makgadikgadi Pans, the Okavango Delta, Namibia's Caprivi Strip, Chobe National Park and Victoria Falls between Zimbabwe and Zambia. But we also had some less good experiences, like getting stuck in the sand time and again and loosing out on several planned game drives. This page shows some photos from the trip and impressions of selected destinations.

 

 

Toward Botswana (north of Pretoria)!

 
   
 

Limpopo River on the border between South Africa and Botswana (near Groblersbrug)

First campsite in Botswana, at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary (Campsite 9)

 

Makgadikgadi salt pan, Kalahari Basin

Makgadikgadi salt pan

 

In the Makgadikgadi area in the Kalahari desert, Botswana

Mopipi village, near Makgadikgadi Pan. Imagine living here! At least sunny weather

 

Mopipi village

Our first real safari, an late evening-early night drive along Boteti River in the Makgadikgadi National Park. Boteti River was dry in 2004 when I visited, but water came back in 2009. Here with three Greater Kudu

 

Along the dry Boteti River. We were not allowed to drive ourselves, so I had to buy a game drive from the Leroo la Tau Lodge (50 Pula). Later (in 2007), they closed the Xwaraga campsite altogether, as they wanted to keep out budget travelers/campers from the wildlife-rich Boteti Riverbed

Waiting for dinner, second evening (Xwaraga Campsite 1). With the guide, the French family, me and the Dutch lady

 

 

We passed through Maun twice, both on our way to Moremi Game Reserve, and back heading to the western side of Okavango

Maun street

       
 

Maqwee Gate, Moremi Game Reserve

Khwai campsite, Moremi Game Reserve

 

Moremi Game Reserve

The Moremi Game Reserve is situated in the eastern part of the Okavango Delta

 

Impala, the animal you most often encounter on African safari

Akasia trees in Moremi Game Reserve

 

Oh no, don't say we are stuck in the Kalahari sand again !

Sand-stuck in Moremi...

 

"The bridge over river Khwai", Moremi Game Reserve 2004

The 2004 version of Khwai River Bridge in the Moremi Game Reserve. Crude work!

 

Okavango outback

Waterbuck, Moremi Game Reserve

 

The Okavango Delta, known as the Jewel of the Kalahari, how was it like?

We spent six days in the delta, or more precisely, two days in Moremi Game Reserve, two days at Guma Lagoon Camp and two days at Drotsky's Cabin. Moremi was a typical game reserve, where we saw a lot of wildlife. And where the spotted hyenas were sniffing on our tents just after we had gone to bed. And the hyena was screaming through the night. Very exciting, in other words! But it was also where we first got stuck, and had to dig the car out of the sand. Strangely, it turned out the safari company didn't bring a spade. Overall, Moremi was a great experience. The next two days we spent in a place called Guma Lagoon Camp, next to one of the permanent lagoons in the delta. We had to get towed into camp, as we got stuck in the sand on our way to the campsite some 11 km from the highway. The trailer simply was too heavy for the car, and the whole of Botswana is made up of sand, a recipe for trouble...

The next day we spent on a very nice mokoro trip in the delta. The mokoro is a shallow dugout canoe traditionally hewn from an ebony or sausage tree, that is propelled by a poler who stands at the back of the canoe with a ngashi - a pole made from the mogonono tree. Each mokoro takes two passengers, and one manages to get very close to the wildlife on this kind of trips. A nice experience indeed.

Drotsky's Cabin next to the Okavango River was a very pleasant campsite, with a fine bar, but also with excellent possibilities for boat cruises on the river. One of the days at Drotsky's we traveled to the Tsodilo Hills, some 100 km away, to see the ancient bushmen (San) paintings, dating back more than 1000 years. We hired a charming San woman as a guide, who when asked suggested that the paintings were millions of years. She obviously didn't have any conception of time.

 

 

Locals carrying firewood, next to the Guma Lagoon Camp

Sunset at Guma Lagoon

 

Mokoro boat trip in the Okavango Delta

The poler

 

Papyrus, Okavango Delta

Okavango Delta

 

Look out! Hippos seen from the mokoro canoe, Okavango Delta

Crocodile, Okavango Delta

 

Hugging a baobab tree in the Okavango Delta. They are massive!

Baobab and palm trees in Okavango

 

Okavango Delta

Catch of the day. Okavango Delta fish

 

Okavango swamp island with palms

Guma Lagoon Camp boat trip

 

Navigating the Okavango Delta papyrus canals at full speed

Guma Lagoon Camp

 

Guma Lagoon Camp, Okavango

The tourists relaxing at Guma Lagoon Camp, Okavango

 

Tsodilo Hills. Sacred for the bushmen (San) people in Botswana

View from Tsodilo Hills

 

Old San rock art, Tsodilo Hills

San rock art, Tsodilo Hills

 

Giant bug, Tsodilo Hills

Old bushman paintings, Tsodilo Hills

 

Local San guide

History of the Tsodilo Hills area in Botswana. The oldest San paintings stem from 3000 years before present

 

A coffee on the go

Campsite at Drotsky's Cabin

 

Okavango River

Okavango River landscape

 

Okavango water lily

Okavango water lily

 

Drotsky's Cabin along the Okavango River

A drink in the bar at Drotsky's Cabin, Okavango Delta

 

 

Sunset at Drotsky's Cabin

 

 

Shopping in Namibia's Caprivi Strip (Ndhovu values stores), just north of the Botswana border

 

 

Poached crocodile in Mudumu National Park, Namibia. It was about 4.5 meters long - a nice beast

Close-up of poached crocodile in Mudumu National Park, Namibia

 

Yay! Say no more

Tsetse fly trap

 

The sunsets in southern Africa are spectacular! Here at the Nambwa campsite in Mudumu National Park

 

Vervet Monkey, Nambwa campsite, Namibia

 

 

Mudumu National Park, view from the Nambwa campsite

Rescued! We got stuck in the sand 4 times on our way to the Nambwa campsite. We needed help towing the trailer in both directions

 

 

 

 

Namibia's Caprivi Strip

During the trip we spent two days in Namibia north of Botswana, in an area called the Caprivi Strip. This is a narrow finger of Namibian territory that juts deeply eastward into central Africa. The corridor divides Angola and Zambia from Botswana and runs all the way to the Zambezi River just upstream of Victoria Falls.

One night was spent at Nambwa campsite next to the the Kwando River in Mudumu National Park and the other night at Kalizo Lodge situated next to the one of the largest rivers in Africa, the Zambezi River. The first place we got stuck in the sand, and lost the game drive to my growing irritation. At Kalizo Lodge we spent an afternoon on a sundowner cruise on the Zambezi River, observing annoyed hippos and birds like African skimmers, cormorants and egrets. We also managed to get ashore in Zambia on the opposite riverside, without any visa, to be able to brag about having been also to that country.

 

 

Gas station near Katima Mulilo (I think), Caprivi Strip, Namibia

Caprivi strip gas station

 

Kalizo Lodge next to Zambezi River, Namibia

Zambezi riverbank camping, Kalizo Lodge

 

Sundowner cruise on the Zambezi River

On shore in Zambia, illegal...

 

Egrets at sunset, Zambezi River sundowner cruise

Sunset, Zambezi River

 

Baobab trees, On the border between Namibia and Botswana

Chobe riverfront with large herds of elephants

 

View from a boat trip on Chobe River

Nile Monitor in the Chobe River

 

Road in Chobe National Park. Chobe River in the background, with the far side situated in Namibia

Chobe National Park

     
 

Elephants in the Chobe River. Botswana is home to some 150,000 elephants, more than in any other country in Africa

Hippos in Chobe National Park

 

Kasane

Toro Lodge Campsite, Kasane

 

Chobe National Park

Crossing the border from Namibia to Botswana, we immediately arrived in the Chobe National Park. This 11,700 square kilometers park in the northeastern corner of Botswana is famous for its rich wildlife. With tens of thousands of elephants, this is the best place in Africa to view huge herds of the largest land-living creature on earth. We were driving the 15 km stretch of Chobe River from Kasane town to the Serondela campsite several times. The Chobe River area contains an interesting variety of habitats and is rich in plant life, with mopane woodland, mixed combretum, sandveld, floodplain, grasslands and riverine woodland. Many trees have suffered considerable damage from the high numbers of elephants, who push them over and rip off the bark - and some woods have been totally denuded.

We also made a sundowner trip on the river and saw lots of hippos, crocodiles and buffalo's. Both hippos and elephants epitomize this park more than any other animals and are often featured on the cover of brochures to the area. The only subject more photographed in Chobe is the exquisite sanguine sunsets sinking slowly over the water. All in all, Chobe was a great experience.

 

 

Victoria Falls seen from the Zimbabwean side. Zambia on the far side

Dr. Livingstone and Dr. Olsvik...

 

Victoria Falls and Zimbabwe

The border crossing on our way to Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls from Kasane in Botswana went surprisingly smooth, and it took less than one hour for all six of us to fill in all the forms and to pay for visas. A one-day visa (valid for 90 days) to Zimbabwe cost $30. From the border it was about one hour drive to the falls. There we had to pay an additional $20 to get into the Victoria Falls National Park surrounding the famous waterfall. Vic Falls is today considered one of the seven natural wonders of the world. A network of tracks in the park leads through lush vegetation. We went to the Danger Point, and saw straight into the gorge. And got wet, of course, as cascades of spray is thrown into the air where the water hits the bottom of the gorge.

Victoria Falls, or Vic falls as it is called, is 1.7 km wide and 108 meters high. And having seen both falls, I must say that Vic Falls beats Niagara Falls on the USA - Canada border by a good margin. Both places are dazzling, but it is more the huge amounts of water than the height in itself that is impressive. The famous Dr. Livingstone was very impressed by the falls, and he has now got his own statue there.

Zimbabwe is becoming more and more dangerous the more missteps president Mugabe does. Expelling white farmers is one thing, but tearing up and destroying farms that is responsible for most of the country's income creates more poor people and increases crime. The planned stop at Motobo National Park in Zimbabwe therefore had to be canceled. We had to drive through Botswana to get back to South Africa instead.

 

 

Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls

 

Zambezi River upstream of the falls seen from the helicopter

Victoria Falls seen from the helicopter

 

Dinner at The Boma Restaurant (main course: buffalo and warthog meat!) in Zimbabwe with some drumming

Vic Falls

 

Zambezi National Park chalet, accommodation in Zimbabwe

Limpopo River near Kokomori Birder's Lodge, South Africa

 

Limpopo River, the border between South Africa and Botswana

Kokomori Birder's Lodge, the last night we finally stayed in a proper lodge

 

 

Route 66 Southern Africa

Starting the safari we drove north from Johannesburg through Pretoria up highway N1 before heading toward the Botswana border along N11, and crossed into Botswana over the Limpopo River. And then continuing along A14 into Botswana before arriving at Khama Rhino Sanctuary at the first camp site. It was freezing cold the first night, with subzero temperatures. We saw the white rhino there, but not close-up. The second day we drove A14 across the Kalahari Salt Pans and to the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, where we stayed overnight at the Xwaraga Campsite. Here I paid extra for a nice night safari game drive at Boteti River. The third day we continued along A14 and A3 to Maun, before heading north to Moremi Game Reserve and the Khwai campsite, where we spent 2 nights. After Moremi, we returned south to Maun, and headed north toward the western part of the Okavango Delta.

We spent 2 days in campsites at Guma Lagoon Camp and 2 days at Drotsky's Cabin. We then crossed into Namibia and the Caprivi Strip, where we first visited Mudumu National Park. Due to poor road conditions and flooding, we had to cancel the visit to Mamili National Park. At Kalizo Lodge the next day we had a nice sundowner cruise on the Zambezi River. We actually went ashore on the Zambian side for a brief stopover and Kodak moment in another country. Thereafter we crossed back from Namibia into Botswana and Kasane, and the impressive Chobe National Park. Chobe National Park was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. In Kasane we stayed two nights at the Toro Lodge campsite some 7 km outside town.

The next day we crossed into Zimbabwe, and went to Victoria Falls. Here I went for an expensive extravagance helicopter flight above the falls, well worth the money. Sadly, our last scheduled stop in the Motobo National Park in Zimbabwe had to be canceled. The maniac and truly crazy dictator Mugabe managed to mess up a country blessed from nature with rich natural resources. The last night we spent at a nice lodge, the Kokomori Birder's Lodge, next to the Limpopo River on the Botswana-South Africa border, The last day we drove back to Johannesburg. Below is an overview of the itinerary. Unfortunately, many of the planned wildlife viewing activities (marked in red) were canceled due to delays (yeah, that would be "stuck in the sand" issues!).

 

 

 

Destination 

Accommodation 

Activities (included) 

Activities (own cost) 

  1. Kalahari  Khama Rhino Sanctuary campsite  Game drive (short) 
  2. Makgadikgadi Plains  Xwaraga campsite  Game walk  Night drive 
  3. Moremi  Khwai campsite  Game drive 
  4. Moremi  Khwai campsite Game drive 
  5. Etsha-6  Guma Lagoon campsite Boat Trip 
  6. Etsha-6  Guma Lagoon campsite Game walk + Mokoro trip 
  7. Shakawe  Drotsky's Cabin campsite  Boat Trip 
  8. Shakawe  Drotsky's Cabin  campsite Tsodilo Hills Sundowner cruise 
  9. Mudumu  Nambwa campsite Game Drive 
  Nkasa Rupara (formerly Mamili) National Park  Canceled due to poor roads Game Drive canceled
  10. Katima Mulilo Kalizo Lodge campsite Sundowner cruise
  11. Kasane Toro Lodge campsite Game drive Sundowner cruise
  12. Kasane Toro Lodge campsite Game drive (delayed)  
  13. Vic Falls Zambezi National Park Chalet Sundowner cruise Heli trip
  14. Limpopo River Kokomori Birder's Lodge Birding walks along river