Botswana blog: days 7-9

Chobe riverfront and a day in Namibia.

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Elephant and Savuti sunset

Savuti is known as one of Chobe’s most iconic and superb wildlife viewing areas. So it was with some reluctance that we got back on the ‘road’ with Buh-lah-key, our trusty 4×4, to head north.

I forgot to mention something in the previous post, which I will briefly explain here. Buh-lah-key, aka Blake, our wonderful Avis 4×4 rental, took a lot of abuse from us. We found ourselves driving through a lot of water and potholes, and occasionally some really sketchy 4×4 tracks. As a result, despite the amazing quality of the vehicle, we managed to crack the plastic holding on the number plate (the bottom of the front bumper). Ricky noticed it when we were camped in Southgate in Moremi, and it was a grey cloud following us through Chobe. We were lucky to deal with Avis Southern Africa, who were extremely helpful and informative in this regard. They were also accessible throughout the country and were even willing to come to us, if necessary. It never was – but our number plate didn’t last the entire trip…

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Waterbuck

Back to the story!

Day 8: Muchenje and Chobe riverfront

After an early morning game drive – looking for but failing to find wild dog – we packed up camp and left Savuti. I would happily have stayed an extra day, but we had a busy itinerary and were eager to see more of Botswana. The drive from Savuti to Muchenje camp was very sandy – some deep bumpy tread – and we were forced to drive extremely slowly. Unfortunately there wasn’t much to see on the road either, so we entertained ourselves with car games and podcasts.

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Mother kudu with two calves

Muchenje camp is located just south of the Ngoma border crossing (into Namibia). It is a very well maintained campground, with ten campsites and chalets, a baobab tree and a lovely communal pool. We were lucky to get a site on the water and saw a huge monitor lizard exploring the reeds. Muchenje is owned and operated by a South African couple who are clearly passionate about conservation and supporting the local economy. The camp is also just 7k from Chobe, which makes it a nice alternative to camping within the park. One of the owners told us about a lovely area for a sundowner game drive – and we saw more animals in two hours than we had all day!

Day 9: Ihaha, Chobe NP

Our original plan was to stay at Muchenje for two nights, however, Blake was having a bit of trouble. A lot of the electronics were flashing warning lights on the dashboard so we decided to drive through Chobe to Kasane, a populated and busy town, where Avis has a representative. The through-drive was beautiful; we were alongside the water almost the whole 30km drive. We saw tons of impala, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck, kudu, elephant, baboon, lechwe and others. We even saw a lone buffalo bathing in a pond near the park entrance.

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Impala herd

We drove into Kasane around 11am and walked through the modest shopping centres. One of the curio stands was run by a woman who totally charmed me, convincing me to buy wooden sculptures: elephant, wild dog and giraffe. I hoped that, by purchasing the wild dog figure, we would eventually see them!

The Avis representative met us and evaluated our vehicle’s ailments. After we reenforced the front bumper with zip ties, hit a couple things under the hood and restarted the electronics, he gave us the thumbs up and sent us on our way. Buh-lah-key would live to see another day.

As we left Kasane we made a call to Ihaha campground, located within Chobe NP, in hopes of securing a campsite last-minute on Easter weekend. The manager told us people often make bookings and don’t show up – he assured us we would have a spot, but that we should only arrive after 6pm. When we pulled into camp at 6:15pm, the manager saw us, gave us a thumbs up and pointed the way. Our campsite was stunning – right on the Chobe riverfront with nothing separating us from crocs and hippos!

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In case my mom reads this – don’t worry – we didn’t have any late night animal visitors. We did have a front-row seat to some fantastic birdlife, however.

Day 9: Namibia

Ricky and I had a few serious chats about our itinerary, which had already slowly begun evolving. Our experiences in Chobe were so amazing that we didn’t want to make the journey all the way across the top of Botswana through Namibia and back the western side, as our original plan would have us go. Instead we opted to do an out-and-back trip, to see more of Chobe and hopefully add on Central Kalahari.

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An impressive kudu bull

We still decided to spend a day in Namibia, because when you’re that close, why not? We left Chobe NP in the mid-morning to fill up on petrol and head to the border crossing. As I was driving down the highway, a jeep came up swiftly behind me, flashing its brights and getting quite close. I wasn’t sure what was happening but didn’t want to pull over in the middle of no where, so we decided to drive a few kilometres further to the petrol station. Then, the driver pulled around and got beside us and waved at us to pull over. It was the Chobe park gate attendant. Apparently we hadn’t signed out correctly, so he was chasing us down to have us drive back and sign the book. Would perhaps have made more sense for him to bring the book with him, but you have to give it to the guy – he was determined to do his job!

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A baby baboon hugs onto its mother

Crossing the border took less than 30 minutes and we were on our way. Back on tar road, 200km went by extremely quickly – considering we had been averaging 30k/h for the past few days! We arrived at Livingstone’s Camp, near Nkasa Rupara NP. The hosts were very kind and showed us around the campsite, which had its own bathroom and kitchen facility. This was certainly the classiest campsite we had visited on the trip! We did some laundry (successfully – with real detergent) and then drove off for Nkasa Rupara.

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A juvenile male kudu

Nkasa Rupara NP, which is predicted to become one of Southern Africa’s greatest wildlife attractions, was recently upgraded with German funding. The entrance is spotless and shiny, a bit surprising after the older, more rugged entrances to Botswana’s parks. Both the manager at Livingstone’s and the woman behind the park desk told us what we were likely to see: buck, hippo, warthog and elephant, if we were lucky. We drove through the park for about two hours before stopping at Jackalberry lodge – an all-inclusive safari camp – to check out the view of Botswana across the river. The manager told us that, during the dry season, the view would fill with hundreds of elephants. At that moment, we could see a few hippo, including a baby, but no eles.

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A juvenile male elephant

As we exited the park, we nearly drove upon a herd of elephant who were silently grazing. The grass had grown to such heights that I didn’t see them until we were just metres away. Luckily they weren’t bothered by us; we watched them for a few moments before heading back to camp to catch the sunset.

PS. You might remember my search for a baby giraffe. Well, we finally found one – not in the same spot as expected but just as cute!

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