Gannaga Adventures

Tanqua Karoo National Park Panorama

Trips to the lesser known parts of Southern Africa

Liuwa Plains in Western Zambia - October 2013

Most of this trip was very ably organized by Explore Africa

Day 1
Ceres to Colesberg

Stayed at the Sunset Chalets for the second time this year - highly recommended.

Day 2
Colesberg to Johannesburg

I had made arrangements to add a cover to my GRTraveltop rooftop tent with the original manufacturer and spent a day at his premises. Alas, it was not to be and the impractical contraption had to be removed again.

Day 3
Johannesburg to Sebe Sebe Lodge - 410km

On the way to Sebe Sebe

This is where we met up with our tour leader, André van Vuuren, his daughter, Corné, and the rest of the participants.
André had a blow-out on the way to the lodge and decided to replace all his tyres.

We all had dinner at the lodge and each of us had to get up and introduce ourselves to the rest of the group (18 at this stage). 

Dinner at Sebe Sebe

Sebe Sebe Dinner

Theraluxury rodge is situated next to the Limpopo river and we could relax and sleep for the last time in air-conditioned comfort - little did we know of the heat awaiting us from the next day onwards.

We had fun watching some game come close to us.

Bush Buck

Bush Buck at Sebe Sebe

Mariska even had an encounter with a hyena (the stuffed kind).

Mariska with stuffed hyena 

By the way, my granddaughter has always been scared of hyenas and we could not even talk about them in her presence.
After this trip and some very close encounters with hyenas, she is not scared anymore - just careful.

Day 4
Sebe Sebe Lodge to Nata Lodge in Botswana - 488km

Uneventful border crossing  at Stokpoort - it was a pleasure to be in Botswana again.

There are major road works around Francistown and it took an hour to get through.

At Nata Lodge we all had a chance to get an idea of how long we all took to pitch and pack up camp.

Nata Camp

My rain cover took a while on the first try, but by the end of the trip we had it down pat.

Day 5
Nata Lodge to Chobe River Safari Lodge - 321km

We stopped, for what our leader called a comfort stop, to the uninitiated, a pee break, at Touch of Africa Safari Lodge

Mariska helps me set up camp at Chobe River Safari Lodge.

Mariska helping

Chobe Camp

Sunset at Chobe

Day 6
Rest day and drive around Chobe National Park

The Chobe River and the adjoining Chobe National Park really are one of Africa's prime tourist destinations.
When we were here in April the Chobe was in full flood, and now it was the end of the dry season.
We drove on islands where we had previously seen elephants swimming.

We also experienced our first tropical thunder storm. I had decided not to bother putting on the rain cover and spent an hour inside the tent pushing water away from the roof.

The series of photos below shows why we come here (2500km from Ceres).

Doing a Zambezi sundowner cruise is a must.


Elephant and water buck

Family Photo




Melanie and Mariska watch a family of warthogs right in the camp.

Mariska and Melan ie with warthogs

Day 7
Chobe River Safari Lodge to Kabula Lodge in Zambia

We all filled up our petrol / diesel tanks since fuel in cheapest in Botswana (R10,82/l for diesel).

There were two border crossings Botswana / Namibia and
Namibia / Zambia.

Although we drove only 80km in Namibia we had to pay road tax (R220).
Some of us topped up again with fuel, knowing that we needed 200 - 250l before we came to Katima Mulilo again and that diesel was very expensive in Zambia.

Eben & Mariette Delport of Uri Adventures joined us here for the Zambian part of our trip.

The Zambian border post has been upgraded recently, but it still took us 2½ hours to get through the 5 "stations" all within 20m of each other.
One has to pay with Zambian Kwacha (R1 = 0.55Kw) at four windows, but in US $ at one.
There are money changers that descend on you as soon as you stop at the border post. We had ascertained the exchange rate beforehand and no-one was cheated.
The money changing is apparently illegal, but there is no other way. No South African bank will supply you with Kwacha and the Zambian authorities turn a blind eye.
The ATM at the border posts only works for those who are customers of a certain Zambian bank (I forgot its name).

Entry fees...........................................US$20,00
Sesheke District Council fees........Kw30,00
Zambia Revenue Authority fees..Kw200,00
Third Party fees................................Kw304,50

Zambia at last - the first time for Letty and me.

All our vehicles neatly lined up with the Zambezi in the background.

All vehicles with Zambezi

Temperature during the day and for the rest of the trip - bloody hot.

Kabula Lodge was a treat, with most camp sites having grass.

Kabula Camp Site 

The heat got to Letty and me and we spent most of the day either keeping our feet in a basin of cold water or going for cold showers.

Letty's feet

The more energetic members of the group went tiger fishing, and as was the case with our April Kariba trip, Melanie managed to catch the one and only tiger, much to the chagrin of the men in the party.

Melanie with tiger fish

I preferred to move here (see below) and drink cold beer.

Stoep at Kabula

Day 8Day 8
At Kabula Lodge - relaxing and sweating

Letty relaxing at Kabula

Day 9
Kabula Lodge to bush camp - 208km

We were following a brand new tar road and it just stopped here.

End of road

Apparently there is going to be a bridge built here over the Zambezi, but we don't know when. So the Chinese decided to build the road in the meantime. 

This was a 10 hour trip with a spectacular stop at the Sioma / Ngonye waterfall.

To get to the falls we had to walk 15 minutes and then were paddled across the Zambezi in a very rickety boat.
The 2 paddlers worked at it for about 2 hours non-stop to get everybody across and back.

Mariska withh paddlers

Livingstone saw this waterfall before Victoria waterfall.
We were lucky to see it when the Zambezi was low, because in full flow, the falls are merely a rapid.

Ngonye Falls 

Chris at Ngonye Falls 

Mariska overheated on the walk back, but her mood improved once Chris had poured water over her.

Mariska cooled down

The rest of the day we travelled on very thick sand through countless villages with literally hundreds of kids running towards the vehicles with outstretched hands - many of them begging, but most just giving us a friendly wave.

These villages can only be accessed by 4x4. The roads are not made for the Sandton brigade, since all vehicles were scratched on the sides and roofs. My son-in-law Chris even collected ±10 mangoes on his roof rack whilst pushing his Land Rover underneath and through countless mango trees.

The kids were peeling green mangoes with homemade knives.

Some fields were being ploughed with oxen and homemade ploughs, like it was probably done for hundreds of years.

My daughter Melanie found the whole situation hopeless.

There was an interesting river crossing. I would not have gone across that bridge if our tour leader had not gone first.

Bridge 1

Bridge 2

Bridge 3

Then one of the main villages - Kalongola / Sitoti.
Note that the shop in the middle is called the "JUST IMAGINE SHOPPING CENTRE"

We bought some delicious vetkoek from one of the vendors.

Sitoti Village

We bush-camped alongside the road.

Bush Camp Letty

Mariska and Melanie

Day 10
Bush Camp to Liuwa Plains National Park Katoyana Camp - 169km in 11 hours

At Kalabo we crossed the Zambezi by pontoon (Kw40,00). It took 2 hours to get our 10 vehicles across.

Pontoon 1

Pontoon 2

When arriving at a camp site, the Germans in our group followed the same routine - pitch camp - have a beer. We followed suit.

The Germans 

The main reason for coming to Liuwa Plains National Park at this time of the year is to experience the second largest blue wildebeest migration in the world and to find the legendary lioness, nicknamed Lady Liuwa - have a look at this 45 minute video if you have the time - it convinced me to go in the first place.

Day 11
We now had time to drive around the park 69km.

Note that we were told that we could drive off-road as long as we did not follow in each other's tracks. We  later discovered that that rule has been changed and that one must keep to the existing, well-used tracks.

Wildebeest 1



Wildebeest 2

And there she was - it was a good moment:

Lady Liuwa 1

Lady 2 

Lady Liuwa taken by Melanie 

The bird life is prolific. Wes, one of our companions and a keen twitcher, was told that there are over 40 birds in Liuwa Plains that do not appear in Roberts.

Birds 1

Birds 2 

Birds 3 

There are apparently many hyenas in the park. What is unusual about them here is that 90% of their diet is freshly killed by them. The five lions in the park do not provide enough cadavers for them to scavenge on. 

Hyenas 1

Dinner - bush style. Chris and Melanie had the only trailer in the group - hence all the mod-cons available.

Bush style dinner 

Day 12
Moved to Kwale Camp and drove around the park - 66km

Mariska on Land Rover

Crowned Cranes 



Nerina 1



Both camp sites are well looked after. They are run by the local communities who live in the park and benefit from the income generated by tourists.

Camp shot

The heat got to the hyenas, too.

Hyena in water

Hyenas suffering

Hyena getting hot

The build-up to a thunderstorm was a daily occurrence, but, fortunately, we only had three.

Thunderstorm build up

Day 13
Kwale Camp to Senanga - 201km - 8 hours

Time came to turn around and head for home (3300km from Ceres - quite daunting).

Back over the pontoon at Kalabo, with locals trying to sell reeds.

Reeds for sale

I even had to give a hand.

Give a hand on pontoon

Jumping on pontoon to release it 

The road from Kalabo to Mongu  is partially tarred, but long sections are under construction. This road has apparently been washed away three times already and the Chinese are rebuilding it once more. It's an environmental disaster. They obviously do not have Environmental Impact Assessments in Zambia.

There even was an illegal boom, right under the eyes of the Chinese, trying to extract bribes - we all went through without a hitch, though, since they were busy arguing with some lorry drivers.

We bought fuel at Mongu (at R17,82/l = Kw9.8/l).

 Senanga Safari Lodge was a disappointment (Bradt's Guide on Zambia had warned us). Give it a miss if you can - although there are no other choices nearby.
The ablutions were very neat, but there was no water.
The local Lions Club had a noisy party that lasted up to midnight - I felt I could sing along in the local partois at some stage.

The grassed camp sites were not level.

Skew camp spot

But the view over the Zambezi was wonderful.

View over Zambezi

Day 14
Senanga to Kabula Lodge - 153km - 4 hours

At Kalongola we had a very interesting ferry crossing. It was amazing too see how they loaded five vehicles for the one crossing (Kw150,00 per vehicle).

Ferry crossing 1

Ferry Crossing 2

Ferry 3

The local children were fascinated with Mariska. One laaitie told her he loved her.


Day 15
Kabula Lodge to Nata Lodge - 517km (8 hours)

The border crossings into Zambia and Namibia were a breeze.

We had a final farewell dinner at the lodge.

Day 16
Nata Lodge to Johannesburg - 902km (11 hours)

Day 17
Johannesburg - Three Sisters - 876km (11¾ hours)

Day 18
Three Sisters to Ceres - 435km (6 hours)

There were at least 14 Stop 'n Go's between Laingsburg and Colesberg and added 2 - 3 hours to my total travelling time each way.

Total distance travelled = 6355km.

You can download the Garmin trip file here.

I have created a 1 : 500 000 map, based on Russian downloadable maps, showing more topography than the Tracks4Africa map.
Click here to download the 4Mb map. 

On a more serious note:
We see poverty everywhere, but the causes seem to be the same. The people need to stop breeding and lose some of their traditions.

The potential is there, but, I feel, the will to change is not.