Gannaga Adventures

Tanqua Karoo National Park Panorama

Trips to the lesser known parts of Southern Africa

Kgalagadi - Kaa - Maun - Savuti - Chobe - Hwange - Kariba - Victoria Falls - April - May 2013

General Comments:

For planning the Botswana part of our holiday I used Veronica Roodt's Botswana book and maps. The last edition is the 2008 one. It needs to be updated. There are many changes: road conditions, state of camps / lodges.
I suggest that you use the Internet to get the latest info.
Even some of the Tracks4Africa data is outdated - always get the latest version.

We paid for fuel with credit cards, not garage cards, at the larger towns, if the connection to the bank worked (all connections were down on one day in Kazungula and we had to pay cash).

Garages accepted Pula and Rands in Botswana (not Dollars) and US Dollars in Zim.

Day 1
Ceres to Spitskop - 674km

Stayed in lovely chalets at Spitskop - Monate. The group was not yet ready to pitch camp.
We have camped here before and I can really recommend this place as a stop over.

Spitskop Chalets

Day 2
Spitskop to Rooiputs in the Kgalagadi TFP - 353km

We were greeted by this yellow cobra - coming from the roof of the shelter.
Yellow Cobra

And here we are discussing ways of avoiding being eaten by lions during the night

Rooiputs fire

Letty & my setup for the trip.

Our rig

During the night Neil and Erika heard a psssssssst noise, which turned out to be a tyre losing its air. We could not figure out what happened until some days later when it was explained to us the hyenas do bite tyre valves. Our hyena managed to tear a hole into the valve.
We now had a problem - we could fix punctures, but not valves. Two 4x4's with one spare wheel.
Nossob could not help us and after some discussion we decided to not go to the Masetleng Pan in the Kaa concession area, but to head straight for Hukuntsi to get the tyre fixed. This meant that our time together was cut short by one day.

Day 3
Rooiputs to Polentswa - 211km

The raptor sightings on the way were excellent, although the road, as usual, was in a terrible condition. The corrugations drive one mad. My low tyre pressure helped somewhat.

Cape Vulture

Tawny Eagle

Polentswa Camp Site

Because of the good rains, we saw very little game on the way and this was the first of our 7 trips to the KTFP that we did not see any lions, although Freda said she heard them roar 11 times, which kept her awake most of the night.

We tried to fix the flat tyre with silicone sealant, but the tyre was flat again the next morning. I'll take valves along on my next trip.

Neil was missing his golf.

Golf swing

Day 4
 Polentswa - Zutshwa Pan - 202km

A little break. Had there been lions here, we would have been the meal.

On the way to Kaa Gate

At Kaa Gate we met some Gautengers who gave us some co-ordinates for a camp they stayed at, but it turned out to be the wrong co-ordinates.

One of the pans we crossed - do not try that after rain.

Pan

We stopped at Neme Pan, but the others decided we should move to Zutshwa Pan. The shelter shown in Veronica Roodt's book looked very inviting. (Neme Pan would have been the better stop)
When we got to Zutshwa village it took a while to find the right person to pay the camping fees to (we found out later that there is a honesty permit system with a box for the money at the eastern entrance of the village).

The shelter is a mess and we decided to camp away from it - here are no facilities or water.

Our Worcester friends decided to sleep in the open and had the best night's sleep for a while, knowing that there were no wild animals close by.

Zutschwa camp

 

Day 5
Zutshwa Pan to Thakadu Lodge - 441km

On the way we stopped at Hukuntsi to get Neil's tyre fixed.

We learned never to judge a book by its cover again. The bush mechanic's dilapidated sign advertising tyre repairs was not confidence-inspiring, but the guy was efficient and had the required valve. We left impressed.

Here we also found out that hyenas were the reason for our flat tyre. A Nama from Namibia, helping hand to the tyre man, told me that that happens quite a lot.

The tar road from Hukuntsi to Kang is excellent. 

This was Letty's and my second time at Thakadu Lodge and their game menu is impressive.

Day 6
Thakadu Lodge - Maun (Island Safari Lodge) - 362km

We left our friends from Worcester - they were going to Namibia and Letty and I went on to Maun.

We had time to look at most of the available Maun camping options (Sitatunga, Sedia Hotel, Maun Rest Camp, Audi Camp, Discovery B&B, Thamalekane Safari Camp), but opted for the Island Safari Lodge as being most suitable and probably the most quiet.

We did have some noisy neighbours the first night - arseholes the lot of them. One was from a touring company - I have his vehicle's picture but won't post it here, until I have found out more about them. 


Day 7 - Rest day at Island Safari Lodge

The wife relaxing.

Letty in swim suit

Temperature during the day - bloody hot.

We had to pay for our stay at Savuti, now run by SKL Camps, at their offices. What a pleasant experience. I had arranged via e-mail on short notice (a week before) to pay when we pass through Maun. Professional service indeed.
We also found out that it was safe for Letty and I to go through Chobe on our own. The dry road was passable.

 

Day 8
Maun to Mankwe Bush Lodge Camp - 109km

I had booked this camp site before deciding to go to Savuti as well. My information was that Mankwe to Kasane is 9 hours and I did not want to do that in a day.

We only took a leisurely 2 hours from Maun and were the only people at the camp, a km or so from the lodge.

Mankwe Camp Site

We were now really on our own. Just after midnight, Letty and myself were both awake and marvelled at the quietness around us. No jackals or hyenas.

5 minutes later we heard the cracking of branches and knew that elephants were in our camp (I measured 15m from the bakkie for the closest elephant). This was our first experience with ellies so close by and I had a fairly restless night. Letty's snoring probably kept the ellies from coming any closer.

This guy is more our size

Stick insect

Day 9
Mankwe to Savuti Camp - 140km

In the reserve we first stopped to look at some bushman paintings and wild life, before settling at the camp site.

Bushman paintings

Elephant and giraffe

Savuti Camp CV6

Letty will not forget this site in a hurry. I had run out of beer and walked to the nearby tuck shop to get some. When I returned I first saw the elephant a few metres from the bakkie and then the white of Letty's eyeballs from inside the bakkie.
Like a proper elephant whisperer I said "shoo" to the elephant and it left - me the hero.

Later in the early evening, whilst braaing, a herd of elephant arrived with some little ones. The matriarch gave me the beady eye, but after a while decided to move on - another adrenalin rush.

 

Day 10
Savuti to Kasane - 234km

You know you are far from home when you see this:

Road Sign

We had booked at Toro Lodge
This is a reasonably priced place to stay.
Ask for the river cottages.
The camp site looks good, too, but it is some distance from the river.

Kasane has a well stocked Choppies and Spar.
There is a wholesale bottle store on the road from Kazungula to the Zim border.

Day 11
Rest Day

Did the Chobe River Cruise thing. A must if you are here.

Lots of elephants.

Elephants

Weird tree

The kids enjoyed it too.

The kids

African Fish Eagles are everywhere

Fish Eagle

Sunset

Day 12
Chobe River Front - 174km

All day drive - not many animals, but very relaxing. Roads not too bad.

More elphants

Day 13
Kazungula to Kapula Lodge in Hwange - 223km

We decided to travel along the Hunters Road which runs along the Botswana / Zimbabwe border up to the Pandamatenga border post.
There are no fences here and how they keep people from crossing to and fro remains a mystery.

On the Hunters Road

This road cannot be done after rains - we saw evidence of vehicles really getting stuck in long stretches of mud.

Crossing into Zim was a breeze. Both sides very friendly.

My daughter decided on Kapula Lodge after hearing that the Zim government lodges are run down.
One has to rent the whole camp.
South African Ian Fraser, the owner, paid us a visit and told us about this fellow not far from our camp
. He, the lion that is, was happy to pose for us.

Lion

This tented camp was one of our highlights.
The best time to visit is at the end of the dry season (we were there at the start), but if you want to chill in style, this is it.

Crested Barbet

Day 14
Explored Hwange - 51km

Wild Dog

Hwange is supposed to be the game reserve with the largest elephant population in the world (±65000). We saw only very few. Maybe it's the time of the year.

From Savuti to Hwange we saw many elephant skeletons - apparently because of recent droughts.

Day 15
Kapula Lodge to Binga - 296km

On the way out of Hwange we passed Shumba camp. Thulani, the camp manager, really does a good job keeping the place spotless and I'd like to stay there one day. There is a waterhole nearby that looks promising.

Clean camp

We travelled back roads to avoid road blocks (see Garmin file).

Ian Fraser told us how to prepare for road blocks.
Make sure you have all your papers (road permit, vehicle papers, passport...) at hand.
We passed through only two road blocks, but without hassles.

Binga is a run-down town. Taylor's Spar was a laugh. They did not even have Coke and looking for Sprite in the other shops was a real African experience.
As always, the local bottle store was well stocked - the guys in the party were worried about running out of beer on the upcoming 4 day cruise.

Pumula Lodge was recommended to my daughter by a Zim booking agent, who has obviously never been to it.
This establishment would not be allowed to run in South Africa.
Although its setting is beautiful, the rooms themselves are barely habitable - in my opinion.
Letty's opinion differs from mine. She reckons the place was ok - the beds were clean, although the curtains were full of cobwebs and goggas.
The ladies in our group closed their eyes in the kitchen because of the uncleanliness.
We even had a little frog highway from one side of the house, through our bathroom and bedroom and back into the garden.

Maurice, lovely and friendly man, is the gardener and also looks after the house. His garden is beautiful, but the upkeep of the house is out of his league.
The owner has not been to the house for 12 months.

Pumula Lodge

Rather camp at the harbour where the houseboats are moored.

 

Days 16 - 19
On house boat on Kariba Dam

The Catalina house boat was another highlight. Their web site explains it best.

This is an expensive outing, but I can really recommend the boat and its very efficient crew.

Catalina

Tiger fishing was on the guys' mind and after 4 days my daughter Melanie caught the one and only tiger fish and a 3kg barbel, much to the chagrin of some of the guys.

Melanie's tiger fish

My daughter and granddaughter bonding

Melanie & Mariska catching fish

Some of us went fishing and others took a little boat for a game "drive". The bird life was good.

Hooded Vulture

Wire-tailed swallow

Giving me a stern look

Hooded Vulture - Evil Eye

Day 20
Binga to Victoria Falls - 265km

We were told about multiple illegal road blocks between Bulawayo and Plumtree and therefore decided to head home via Vic Falls and Kazungula, a 400km detour.

Again we drove back roads to avoid road blocks. I was amazed at the good quality of the roads. We came to the conclusion that the lack of traffic was the reason.

I paid 18 US Dollars (±R180) for a plate of fish and chips. Zim is expensive, or at least Vic Falls is.

The falls were fairly full and very wet. The kids enjoyed getting soaked to the skin. Some of us used rain coats, which one can rent.

Santa & Letty at Vic Falls

Day 21
Victoria Falls to Woodlands Stop Over near Francistown - 563km

Melanie had stayed there before.

Good clean ablutions. Interesting layout - you can chat to your neighbours over the low walls whether going to the shower or toilets. The design would suit pygmies. 

Day 22
Woodlands to Boereplaas Resort near Vryburg - 741km

We left my daughter and her group in Francistown to proceed on our own.

We were lucky to get a room at Boereplaas Resort, since the place was fully booked for an upcoming wedding.

Highly recommended. Multiple choice of accommodation.

Lovely restaurant.

 

Day 23
Boereplaas - Three Sisters ( Travalia )  - 650km

Always a good choice, although food portions on the small side.

Day 24
Three Sisters - Ceres - 435km

Total distance travelled = 6184km.

You can download the Garmin trip file here