Self Drive Africa

Botswana 2014

8th August 2014 JHB – Ellisras

We left JHB for Ellisras at around 14:30 as it was only a short drive.  Our original intention was to stay at D’Nyala Game reserve, however when we got there the gates were locked and we had not pre booked so we proceeded through Ellisras to a little guest house on the Mokolo River, we arrived late and as we arrived Ronnie Wiehahn got out of bed to welcome us.  We will stay here again and the contact details are Kolobe River Lodge (Martin Wiehahn +27 83 6077780)

9th August 2014 Ellisras to African Ranches via Stockpoort

Crossing the Border at Stockpoort

Crossing the Border at Stockpoort

After a fantastic nights sleep we left early en route to Stockpoort Border post.  This is a quiet border post and very friendly.  It took 10 minutes to cross both sides (RSA – Botswana) and we were soon on our way.  The Gravel road was good to Makwate and then the right turn towards Seleka and Sherwood.  Again the road was very good and surprisingly changes from Gravel to Tarmac about halfway through.  We arrived at African Ranches mid morning and had the pleasure of choosing the best site (the middle one) with easy access to the Ablutions.  African Ranches is a very pleasant little campsite and although there is no Game around it gives you a great feeling of being in the wilderness.  One thing we noted though is that their factory was operational until late in the night and this detracted slightly from the aura

10th August 2014 African Ranches via Francistown to Elephant Sands

The Landcruiser ready to Rock n Roll at Elephant Sands

The Landcruiser ready to Rock n Roll at Elephant Sands

We left African Ranches at around 09:00 as today was going to be a long day with the children in the car.  The route was back to Sherwood and then on to the A1 through Francistown to Nata and then up to Elephant Sands.  We arrived at Elephant Sands and had a quick painless check in.  The campsites were very busy and we chose the site right at the end.  This was in part due to limited availability and also we did not want to be disturbed by all the vehicles returning from their game drives.  This was also the night of the bright moon so we wanted a clear vantage point to watch it.  We had a very nice buffet in the Elephant Sands restaurant and then retired to the waterhole to watch the elephants wander in.

11th August 2014 Elephant Sands via Nata to Maun (Discovery B&B)

The Baobabs are truly amazing trees

The Baobabs are truly amazing trees

Again we left Elephant Sands at 09:00 to make sure we arrived in Maun in good time.  This is a long road and really gives you a great feeling of the expanse of the desert and pans around you.  We stopped for a breakfast/lunch at Planet Baobab and were rewarded with a good meal.  The campsite was empty though and we made a note that we would return here again and camp as it was so peaceful.  After the meal we set off again to Maun and Discovery B&B.  Discovery was fantastic as usual and the hosts Rene and Marije were very accommodating.  Rene even lent me his drill as the skid plate had popped its rivets on our brand new Jurgens Explorer.  Whilst I was under the caravan replacing the popped rivets, Laura went into Maun to do some last minute shopping and pop into the SKL offices to make sure all our bookings were still valid.

12th August 2014 Discovery B&B to South Gate Campsite (3 Nights at Southgate)

This Lazy Lioness was near the Picnic spot in Blackpools/SouthGate

This Lazy Lioness was near the Picnic spot in Blackpools/SouthGate

After a nice breakfast we said our goodbyes to Rene and Marije and headed into our first stop in Moremi, South Gate Campsite.  The journey took just over 2 hours and the road was good all the way.  We saw a variety of game en route and these included elephants, giraffes, impalas and Warthog.  Checking into Southgate was painless and we were allocated Campsite number 3.  This is a nice campsite, however I would have preferred campsites 7,8,9 or 10 as they are much more remote.  The problem with campsite 3 is that you are very close to the staff compound and they can be a little bit noisy.

The Generator was also on until late which detracted a little bit on the first night.  As soon as the Genset was switched off though we were rewarded with the resident Hyena paying us a visit.  We are well versed with the children in the bush and we have a rule that the children must be safely ensconced in the

This cute fella was intent on seeing whether we had any bugs or beetles

This cute fella was intent on seeing whether we had any bugs or beetles

Caravan at Sundown and we have a portable DVD player and IPad’s that make this a little easier.  We stayed at Southgate for 3 nights and had some magnificent sightings whilst here.  We found a pride of Lions near the Black Pools picnic area and also saw a leopard at the junction of the Black Pools/3rd Bridge Turnoff water hole.  The leopard was comfortable with our presence and gave us a good stretch before wandering off into the bush.  Southgate is recommended but one thing that concerned us is the amount of double bookings that appear to have been made.  Every day we had people trying to set up next to us who also had bookings for the same campsite.  At one stage a party of 12 tried to set up camp but I had to draw the line here as we did not want our bush experience ruined by having so many people within 5 meters of our setup.  As there is only 1 fireplace in each site, I do not understand why they allow so many people on each site?

We had dwarf Mongoose scuttling around our camp daily and this proved to be great entertainment as well as a couple of Honey Badgers in the evening who were determined that the Hyenas would not get too close to the caravan in the evening.

15th August 2014 South Gate Campsite to 3rd Bridge Campsite (4 Nights at 3rd Bridge)

Every good day starts with a stretch

Every good day starts with a stretch

We chose to do the main road through the park which on our previous trips has proved a little difficult due to the caravan.  There is some very thick sand near 1st bridge and although we did have to use Low Range we managed to get through without a problem.  We saw some wonderful sightings en route and had a great view of a Marshal Eagle swooping down to a kill.  Unfortunately it landed behind a bush and we could not see what the kill was but after waiting for 10 minutes to see if it would take off again we decided to move on.  We also saw lots of Jackals and Giraffes.  On arrival at 3rd bridge there was apparently a Cheetah on the main pan, we did not see it but were assured by the chaps at the check in that it had been there a couple of days.  The wild dogs had moved on due to the presence of Lions in the area but there was still plenty of game around.  We saw the remains of a Kill near campsite 7 where a Lechwe had

Time to go and look for breakfast

Time to go and look for breakfast

unfortunately met its demise a few days previously.  We were allocated campsite 1 which is close to the 3rd Bridge and has a great view of the lagoon.  This was a great campsite and we had many sightings of Civet in the evening as well as Giraffe and Elephant coming to visit daily.  Unfortunately we did not see any predators at all during this transit from camp to camp which was a little sad as 3rd bridge is usually renowned for its predators.  We hunted high and low and did the loop around Mboma Boat station many times in the hope of seeing a Leopard.  We did however have Hyena in camp every night and even had a very close sighting of a Bush Buck around our caravan in the early evening.  We even had a wonderful old elephant eating from the tree next to our awning that was not fussed that we were in the shade sipping our G&T’s.  3rd bridge is a great campsite and we have been there many times and although we were not lucky

You looking at me! or am I looking at you?

You looking at me! or am I looking at you?

with predators on this trip it will be on our list for 2016.  The bridge was overflowing with water and this made for an interesting crossing with the caravan.  We had a nightly visit from a civet which was wonderful and unusual as he was quite brave and lingered around the caravan with us watching from our chairs.

19th August 2014 3rd bridge to Northgate

Mum can we stop now, I am tired

Mum can we stop now, I am tired

After navigating the bridge we set off en route to Northgate via 4th Bridge.  This was a slow journey due to the high water levels and many closed routes, as well as the very thick sand just out side of 3rd bridge.  Unfortunately we lost the whole skid plate from our caravan somewhere along this route and this would prove to be problematic later in our Journey.  We did not see much game on the whole journey but that was probably a blessing as it took us so long to get to Northgate, had we stopped we would be setting up in the dark.  On arrival we were allocated campsite 6 which was a poor campsite with no shade and right next to the ablutions.  The tap did not work and our hose pipe was not long enough to reach to the ablutions.  We requested to move to Campsite 5 and this one has lots of shade and a working tap.  It also had a large tree that had fallen over and this provided hours of entertainment for the children whilst Laura was

Our Home for the 28 days and the trusty Cruiser

Our Home for the 28 days and the trusty Cruiser

setting up camp.  Due to a failed satellite link, I decided to go back to Maun to answer emails and try and get our satellite link working.  Upon recommendation from the Camp Staff I used the back round and arrived in Maun in 2 hours and 15 minutes, answered emails, got the satellite link working again, refueled and was back in Northgate in another 2 hours.  Overall the trip took less than 6 hours and due to the thirst of the V8 was a good move to refill again as this gave us a full tank of 155 litres as well as the back up Jerry Cans we took.  I have to commend the staff at Northgate as they were very helpful and every morning came past our site to check that everything was ok.  That night we had visitors on the form of Baboons, Monkeys and some very brave hyenas who decided that they would scavenge the bones from the fire.  The Hyena burnt itself on the nose but did not seem bothered about the heat.  This taught us a lesson in that we no longer put bones in the fire but rather hang them high with the rest of our

We all love getting Dirty

We all love getting Dirty

rubbish so that we don’t encourage the scavengers.

The next day we did a couple of the loops around Northgate and found some female lions with very young cubs.  They were on the other side of the river under a tree but we managed to have 30 minutes of undisturbed viewing of the cubs playing.  This was our first time staying at Northgate and it is definitely on our list for 2016.  The game was plentiful and the campsite is stunning.  I would recommend campsite 4, 7,8,9 & 10 as they have a view of the river and are also under shade.

These cuties were resting under a tree less than 3km from Northgate Campsite

These cuties were resting under a tree less than 3km from Northgate Campsite

22nd August 2014 NorthGate to Savuti (3 Nights at Savute)

Did you bring the Soap?

Did you bring the Soap?

We left northgate feeling very relaxed but with a little trepidation of the route ahead.  We had one deep crossing to make which I had tested the day before without the caravan and decided it was doable.  When we went through with the caravan though it did let in quite a lot of water but in general everything was OK and the water dried up by the time we reached Savute.  Unfortunately enroute to Savute on the transit road our water tank on the caravan dislodged itself and was dragging along the ground for a couple of hundred meters causing a nasty hole in the tank.  It was only now that we realized how important the skid plate was as it also appears to hold the tank in position.  Luckily I had packed a number of extra ratchet straps for such a problem and after forcing the tank back into position between the C section of the Chassis we then ratchet strap the tank back into position and continued on our journey.  We reached the Mahabe South Gate shortly after and checked everything was still in position which it

Majestic Kudu Bull

Majestic Kudu Bull

was and continued on our journey to Savute.    We were very lucky to find a herd of Roan Antelope at the waterhole enroute to Savute and spent a whilt photographing them.  It was here I made a navigation error and missed the turn off to the Marsh Road and continued along the Sand Ridge Road with caravan in tow.  This proved to be a very difficult journey through thick sand and took us a while.  Although we did not get stuck we spent quite a long time in Low Range and there were a few choice words between Swambo and myself regarding the prudence of planning a route and then disobeying Esmeralda the GPS.  Nonetheless we reached Savute around 13:00 and were allocated  campsite 8.  This was not our first choice but due to a very busy campsite there was no option.  I would still recommend Paradise or the river front sites as they have reasonable shade and access to the Ablutions.  Savute was great as usual and I kicked myself for not booking an extra night here.  We had a nightly visit from a

The elusive and rare Roan Antelope

The elusive and rare Roan Antelope

Porcupine which was something different and unusual.  We did not see or hear the resident leopard, but his tracks were clearly visible every morning.  Game drives were wonderful and we saw lion daily.  Apparently there are 3 different prides of lion in the Marsh area at present although we only saw 1.  We found a herd of buffalo that must have been around 1,000 strong as well as a herd of Elephant that was around 150 strong.  What surprises me is how skittish the elephant are around Savute, they run at the first sign of a vehicle and don’t seem to have become acclimatized to the tourist vehicles.  One the drive we also ran into a Pack of 5 Wild Dog which is always a special experience and they were heading into the marsh to hunt and were very alert.  Sadly one of the dogs appeared to be very emaciated and looked in poor health.  We also found some lion cubs lounging in a tree waiting for their mothers who were following the buffalo herd a few Km’s away.

These Dogs were hunting near Savute Marsh

These Dogs were hunting near Savute Marsh

The next day we decided to explore the opposite side of the River near Harveys Pan and the Quarry Hill View point and were rewarded with another pack of 16 Dogs in pursuit of 3 warthogs.  This was amazing as it was on the open pan and luckily for the Warthogs they had a bolt hole which they disappeared into and it was quite hilarious to watch the dogs bounce around the hole trying to persuade the Warthog to leave, however they were having none of it and the dogs soon gave up and wandered back to their tree which hidden underneath were 5 pups.  We spent about an hour in silence with them until another vehicle appeared and we decided to leave.

Look there is Mum bringing Buffalo take-away

Look there is Mum bringing Buffalo take-away

Wanna play Fetch?

Wanna play Fetch?

25th August 2014 Savute to Linyanti (4 nights)

Bath Time, oops I dropped the soap

Bath Time, oops I dropped the soap

This was a very difficult journey as we had enjoyed Savute so much and did not want to leave.  We took the short route to Linyanti which was recommended by the gate, however this was a big mistake as there is a section of Sand that is approximately 4km’s long.  We made 3.7km’s of the sand before finally getting stuck.  The middle Manekjie was so high that our cruiser was beached as well as the caravan.  Never mind we had a winch and this proved invaluable as we slowly pulled ourself out, however it was slow going and took us approximately 5 hours to get out after several different attempts at un-beaching  the Caravan and Cruiser, with a combination of Airjack, Winch and some serious digging.  This caused some serious debate between Swambo and I but we managed in the end………

The winch came in very handy, as did the earplugs when we had been there for hours

The winch came in very handy, as did the earplugs when we had been there for hours

We arrived in Linyanti by Mid Afternoon and were allocated campsite 1 which has a beautiful view over the swamps.  We love Linyanti as it is very peaceful and though not blessed with large amounts of Game it occasionally has lion and we did see 1 hyena.  Watching the elephant and hippo traverse the swamps is very special and after the long trip it is great just to sit in silence and watch without having to go on long game drives.  Regular visits from the Baboons kept us entertained.

We discussed who had the biggest ears

We discussed who had the biggest ears

Our Campsite at Linyanti in the early evening

Our Campsite at Linyanti in the early evening

Here fishy, fishy

Here fishy, fishy

28th August Linyanti to Nata Lodge

Our final day in the bush was a long drive from Linyanti to Nata.  We used the parallel road which is a single track approximately 50m away from the main cutline road.  This was better as the sand was not as thick and there were more winch points if required