Many years ago when I still lived in Pretoria during the late 70’s I went on a short trip exploring Botswana’s game parks. Ever since then I have gazed at maps and tried to imagine what names like Kalahari, Maun, Okavango Delta, Moremi, Savuti Channel and Chobe were like. Now it becomes a bucket list item and I know I need to find an organized safari to take me there. I reach out to friends who ask their friends and get a personal reference on a group called Bushways. I corral Rose into the idea and after delaying through the Covid pandemic pull the trigger for an October 2022 mobile (nice word for camping) safari from Maun up through all those names and ending at the Victoria Falls.
The first night is spent in a nice lodge in Maun and little did we know how we would long for those creature comforts while enduring sweltering temperatures in the desolation of the Central Kalahari.
Sunday morning reality kicks in and we meet our leader, DT, his assistant & cook, KK and our vehicle, a modified Toyota Landcruiser, the workhorse of Africa’s unpaved roads. There’re twelve clients, DT, KK and an interpreter for the 6 Belgium’s and one Frenchie. 3 Brits and Alvaro & Inger who we have invited along as a thank you for having cared for my father during his sunset days in Denmark.
Our first night is in a serviced campground which means it has toilets and running water, this is compared to other bush campsites that are merely designated areas in the bush with plenty of sand and scattered trees for transient shade.
The daily routine will be up at 5:30am for tea/instant coffee (we got used to drinking rooibos tea and lemon), toast/cereal for a quick breakfast and then in the truck for a morning game drive till about 11am. Lunch then a nap in the sweaty heat and then afternoon game drive around 4pm.
We are not in the Kalahari yet but Makgadikgadi Pans SE of Maun. October is the end of the dry season and the terrain shows that. There is no green foliage and you wonder how any animals can exist out here. The Boteti River will be the last natural water we will see for a while and DT takes us along the banks to see who is coming down to the river for water.
That was a short stop and the next day we left the paved road and headed off into the sand. The “road” is thick 6” sand and would leave any normal driver petrified, with the only support being fellow 4×4’s along the way.
This first day into the Kalahari was a long one as we first drove to the park gate then on into an area called Deception Valley and then further on to Passarge Valley where we spent two nights.
I found it amazing, that in this area of “nothingness” DT was able to find gems. Over the course of our safari we saw upwards of 50 plus different lions – amazing. This morning we found a pride randomly scattered around some low trees absolutely oblivious to us in our truck. As you can see below we are able to drive up pretty close and they barely twitch. It’s as if we weren’t there.
Later in the day, and from a distance, a trained eye will spot the outline of a cat in the shade of a tree. Like before, they don’t up & run but ignore you.
The story on the tortoise I that we were driving along with most of us half asleep from the bouncing of the truck when DT stops and announces the tortoise at the base of a tree next to the road. Even when told some of us struggled to see him in his camouflage shell. An example of how DT was able to pick out animals that most of us had to gaze at before they came into view.
Today was moving day so we had to pack up our tents before breakfast and be ready to move out soon thereafter. I loved the sunrise colors as we jostled to make our tea and butter our toast which was often home baked by KK the day before.
Today we found cheetah, and what was even more special was a mother and 3 cubs, pretty rare.
Another long day of driving back to Maun and we’re all looking forward to hot showers and a comfy bed after days in the sweaty bush.
Next up, back to Maun for a night and then the Okavango Delta.