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  • Writer's pictureCraig Wood

3 Countries, A Broken Roof Rack And A Hyena Visits For Dinner ...

Updated: Oct 30, 2020

September 2019, we had been planning our trip through Botswana and Namibia (Caprivi Strip) for a few months, but the day had finally arrived for us to set off. Our first day was a deliberately long drive from Johannesburg, South Africa to Khama Rhino Sanctuary in Botswana. We traveled via Stockpoort Border post into Botswana, which has become a favourite crossing point for us in recent years.

We arrived at Khama Rhino Sanctuary in good time, the border crossing had been quick, simple and hassle free. Khama is a popular stop off point for travellers journeying to Maun from central Botswana, and also as we did, to go to Lekubu (or Kubu) Island. Covering approximately, 8585 hectares of Kalahari Sandveld, the sanctuary provides prime habitat for white and black rhino as well as over 30 other animal species and more than 230 species of birds.

The next day we head off for a relatively short drive to Kubu Island. A dry granite rock island situated in the Makgadikgadi Pan (a salt pan covering approximately 16,000 sq. km) area of Botswana. The island is a national monument, and is considered a sacred site by the indigenous people of the area.

We arrived just after mid-day to the mystical place to find a surprisingly busy campsite. We found our spot out of the way on the north side of the Island with an amazing view over the pan. Unfortunately, we were too late to secure a site with any sort of shade so spent the next few hours of the afternoon hugging close to the vehicle to find shade. Talk about getting an awning fitted to the vehicle began. We eventually surrendered and moved down closer to the pan where we found a tree for shade. The evening offered us amazing sunsets over the pan, a truly magical experience.

The next day we had a leisurely start to the day, preparing for our next leg of the trip to Maun, and then on to Moremi Game Reserve. We set off on what we knew would be a short (distance) but long (time) part of the journey across the pans and on to our destination. Always remember to measure time not distance when travelling in Africa!

An hour or so into the drive we drove over another bump in the sand track and heard a loud crack come from the car somewhere. Immediately thoughts of broken suspension came to mind. After careful inspection I found nothing to be worried about. We continued. A while later another crack, again another inspection under vehicle revealed nothing. Then I happened to look up on the roof, the roof rack was sitting strangely on the roof. Upon further investigation I realised 5 of the 6 brackets had sheared off, the rack was only currently held on only by one bracket, it was not going to last! I got as many tie-down / ratchet straps I had in the vehicle, and strapped the roof rack to the vehicle. We proceeded more cautiously, with the rack creaking and scraping with every bump in the sand track (and there was a lot). We eventually crawled our way off the pans (about 6 hours or so), and proceeded to Maun, our stop over for the night.

We stayed in a luxury tent at Mochaba Crossing Lodge, 30 km’s outside Maun towards Moremi. The original plan here, was to stay as close to Moremi as we could, and have a leisurely drive to Third Bridge the following day. What is it they say? “‘the best made plans of mice and men”? We still had a roof rack barely attached to the roof, so back to Maun in the morning to find a man with a welder ...

We eventually found a kind soul with a welder, who, after some head scratching, welded everything back together and we were on our way around midday. Only 5 hours behind schedule. We were still on track to make camp before nightfall.

Moremi Game Reserve is a protected area in Botswana. It lies on the eastern side of the Okavango Delta and was named after Chief Moremi of the BaTawana tribe. Moremi was designated as a game reserve, rather than a national park when it was created. This designation meant that the BaSarwa or Bushmen that lived there were allowed to stay in the reserve. It is just under 5,000 square kilometres (1,900 sq mi) in extent, covering much of the eastern side of the Okavango Delta and combining permanent water with drier areas, which create some startling and unexpected contrasts.

We stayed for 2 nights at third bridge camp, in another luxury tent. We had the last tent in the un-fenced camp, so felt very much ’in the bush” and up close to nature. We arrived at camp just as the sun was setting, and proceeded to light the braai for the evenings meal. After the meat was cooked we proceeded to the raised veranda to start our meal. As we sat down and looked back to the braai, where we had just been cooking, out of the dark came a pair of hyena’s! Obviously used to people leaving scraps, they must have been waiting just out of sight, watching for us to move away. What a treat to end a long day.

Our next stop was to be Thobolo Bush Lodge, in the Chobe Forrest Reserve. Located on the edge of the Barangwe Pan, the lodge is an eco-friendly facility, 108 Kim’s from Kasane. The lodge was a welcome oasis, after driving through the Chobe National Park. We weren’t able to stay in the National Park, Prince Harry had beaten us to it, and booked all the accommodation!

We spent 2 nights at Thobolo, where we had elephants coming to the waterhole constantly day and night. The only time the herd’s of elephants weren’t there was when the herd‘s of Buffalo came for a drink. This place was apparently an oasis for more than just the 2 legged animals.

Our final stop on the trip was in Namibia in the Capri Strip. Named after German Chancellor Leo von Caprivi who negotiated the acquisition of the land in an 1890 exchange with the United Kingdom. Caprivi arranged for the Caprivi strip to be annexed to German South West Africa in order to give Germany access to the Zambezi River and a route to Africa's east coast, where the colony of German East Africa (now part of Tanzania) was situated. The strip is about 32 km (20 mi) wide, and 450 km (280 mi) long.

Our rest place was Ngepi Camp situated in the unspoiled upper reaches of the Okavango delta panhandle. With a swimming pool in the river (with the Hippo's and Crocodiles!), it is a quirky eco-camp with twists around every corner. We stayed in one of the tree houses on the bank of the river, with just a thin reed curtain to protect us from the wild.

So the end of the trip arrived, we took 2 uneventful days to get back to Johannesburg. Many new memories in the bank. It was an eventful, but memorable trip. We saw lot's of new places which we will surely go back and visit again. Botswana and Namibia have so many gems that have to be seen. They should all be on everyone’s bucket list.

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