15 April – Jo’burg – Khama Rhino Sanctuary
Opted for Stockport border post on this trip due to Easter weekend madness, great idea as there were 2 cars there going into Bots, one of them was ours. Mandatory rude SA official was present leaving SA, mandatory friendly, chilled Bots staff greeted us on the other side of the Limpopo.
Easy drive through to Khama Rhino Sanctuary where we checked in and then found our allocated campsite. Number 1. With this being our 3rd stop at KRS, this was the most disappointing. Ablutions were miles away, and not very well sign posted, so me being rather geographically challenged, I got a tad lost initially….
Lots of rhino seen on the game drive and good birding. Best part, watching a storm far on the horizon, with amazing cloud formations that cast beautiful rays of sun in a wide arc. Nicely caught with the wide angle lens.
Back at camp, fire lit, burgers made while the lightning flashed in the distance thru the trees.
By 9pm I was exhausted, so we headed into the roof top tent to read before lights out.
I woke up at some point in the night to the sound of a rhino crashing noisily through the bushes and wandering past our tent.
16 April – KRS – Khumaga
Waking up at 8, we rearranged the car in a chilly, damp 16 degrees and were on the road by 9.30. Next stop Khumaga…..
Gradually the drizzle and cloud parted ways and by the time we stopped at the Spar in Lethlakane, the sun was shining.
Pulling up to the river at Khumaga, it was clear the river was not drivable so we drove the car on to the ferry, paid our P150 and chugged across to the other side. Driving up the river, the damage from the recent heavy rains was apparent, with a new track taking us up to the main entrance gate. Deep gully’s where the road had collapsed and washed away, sure signs they’d had extreme rainfall.
As we climbed out the car at reception, an anti-poaching unit rolled up in an army type vehicle with one of the men brandishing a fresh looking elephant tusk.
We checked in, signed the relevant paperwork and drove into a completely empty campsite to find our allocated spot, KK5.
Out of all the campsites, this was probably the worst, one small upright tree offering very little shade and completely blocked off on all sides by overgrown bushes.
We decided to go back to the main office to see if we could swap campsites seeing as the place was empty. The lady who had checked us in was sitting on the curb, cleaning the remains of the flesh still attached to the tusk, a small pile of red meat next to her.
She told me the elephant had died of natural causes and the tusk would be taken to their stock pile. As I knelt next to her to discuss the swapping of campsites, the smell of the meat wafted past, not pleasant!
She advised us that all campsites were actually booked for that night, bar two, so back at the camp we opted for KK9. Situated right at the back of the campsite, this offered two big trees with widespread branches, a view through the bush, and a close walk to the loo’s….. Much better.
After rigging up the gazebo, unloading chairs, gas and the table we made a quick lunch and then headed out for a drive to the river. The change in the landscape, a year since we were last here, was huge.
Dry, drought-stricken landscapes had been replaced by lush, green vegetation. Down by the river, we saw zebra, vultures and impala and off in the distance, two ellie’s were slowly making their way towards us. We followed the road until we caught up with them, and then trundled along slowly with them until they disappeared into the bush.
Back at camp, I hit the shower, which after KRS’s dreadful ablutions, was heaven. Hot water and a decent water pressure makes all the difference.
Dinner was savoury mince & rice whipped up on the gas, under the stars while lightning flashed in the distance.
17 April – Khumaga
Waking up relatively early, we packed up the tent, put any removables into the car so hopefully the invading monkey’s would move on to the next campsite while we were out and headed off for a drive. We opted to follow the river along the floodplain, watching rutting impala, a herd of zebra and plenty of bird life. At one point we crossed the river where the track disappeared underwater for a while. Eventually we ran out of track and found our way back up to the sand road, meandering along the river. Rounding a corner we found about 25 vultures scattered on the ground and a fallen tree.
With the sun behind us, we turned off the engine and sat and observed them for about 30 mins. Eventually they all shook themselves and took to the sky. The sound of the wind over their huge wingspan was amazing to hear and gradually they climbed the thermals and we carried on back to camp.
Rest of the arvy was spent snoozing and chilling under the gazebo.
The afternoon game drive produced a few ellie’s drinking in the river and a small herd of zebra.
18 April – Khumaga – South Gate
Exciting start to the day. AJ was up before the sunrise and saw a honey badger on his way to the loo. Checking the camera trap, we found the honey badger there too. After packing up, we took a slow drive along the river on our way out to Phuduhudu Gate, passing a small herd of ellie’s and a huge group of giraffe in the distance, 33 in total. The biggest we’ve ever seen!
Driving along the deep sandy section I suddenly spotted a snake on the middel mannetjie which slithered into our track at the last minute. Fortunately AJ saw it slide into the shrubbery after he’d driven over it, so hopefully it survived!
Turning left out the gate we headed on to Maun. 120 kms later we hit the town, which had grown considerably since I was last there. AJ popped in to see a client while I caught up with a few phone calls.
Once done, we then found the local Spar to top up provisions and then pulled into the infamous Riley’s garage to fill up. Here the petrol attendant gave every window and mirror on the car a good spit & polish.
Onward we traveled, eventually hanging a left at the traffic circle toward Moremi & Kwai. Passing Thamalakane River Lodge where we stayed on our very first Bots trip, the tar eventually petered out into dreadful correlations…. A good 70kms of it!
Gradually the road narrowed and became more sandy, thankfully. Small herds of ellie appeared as well as giraffe and zebra. Dense mopani forest made visibility any more than 5 meters into bush impossible. At one point we rounded a corner to find a small traffic jam of about 8 cars. Finding a gap thru the trees lining the road, we saw 2 ellie’s playing together in the middle of a big waterhole. Unfortunately we caught the tail end of the action as they moved off about 2 mins later, departing with a loud trumpet.
Checking in at the main gate, which is the reception for South Gate, Xaxanaka and other camps, the staff informed us there had been a double booking on our allocated campsite so we were moved to site number 6.
The campsite was similar to Nxai Pan’s South camp. Open and spacious with lots of tall trees offering good shade cover. Our spot was average, no privacy and right in the path to the ablutions for other campers. Note for future travel, if we come back again, get sites, 7,8,9 or 10. Hidden away in the bush, they were extremely private.
The bog standard DWNP ablutions were clean with decent showers.
After rigging the gazebo, table and chairs, we then headed out for a short drive, given it was already late in the afternoon.
With a choice of only 3 routes, we headed off towards Black Pools, but took a fork to the right instead, which took us past a rather green pool in which 2 hippo wallowed in the centre. A few Egyptian geese hung around the edge.
Carrying on, we passed a large herd of buffalo, just visible in the extremely high grass.
A few ellie’s dotted the landscape and tiny tree squirrels darted across the road. Eventually we made a U-turn and headed back to camp, finding a small family of dwarf mongoose playing in the road. Further on, a herd of ellie’s blocked our way for a while so we sat watching 2 very young babies. One was particularly amusing, charging around like a hyperactive toddler, waggling its little trunk uncontrollably and then throwing himself onto the ground to roll in the sand…… Too cute. Once they moved off from the edge of the road, we carried on.
Quick braai for dinner and a chill round the fire, listening to someone’s generator until they eventually switched it off around 8pm. A lone hyena could be heard whooping in the distance while the resident scops owl called from the nearby trees.
19 April – South Gate
Last night I woke up at some point to hear a hyena calling right next to the car. So close I could hear the sound echoing off into the distance, it gave me chills…… Images of gang leaders in Nigeria with huge hyena’s muzzled and on chains standing next to them came to mind.
With a final whoop, he went silent. Up at about 7, the camp site could well of been a crèche at the start of the day, noisy kids running around screaming their heads off. Just what you want to hear in the middle of a game reserve over your morning tea & rusks!
We opted for a day out, so left camp around 8am and headed off to Black Pools.
The dense forest soon gave way to open savannah which in turn slowly became waterlogged with vast stretches of waterways and pools. The birdlife was prolific and so varied, an ornithologists heaven……
Most of the tracks that were submerged had alternative tracks, so the going was fairly easy. After a good 2 hour drive, we reached Black Pools, found a spot of shade next to a tall clump of bush and chilled in front of the large pool for about an hour and a half. A large pod of hippo checked us out, water birds went about their daily life and across the water a herd of lechwe grazed. Only a single game viewing vehicle came by the entire time we were there. So peaceful & relaxing.
Deciding to drive onward once the sun moved over, we followed the track round the pool but once the road opened up, the waterlogged track disappeared into the distance and as we were unsure how long it went on for, or how deep, we decided on the safer option, turned around and back tracked to camp. The sun was baking, to the point that I opted to sit backwards on my seat to try even out the arm tan.
Passing a few ellie’s on route, we eventually came out at the fork in the road where the green pool was that we’d visited yesterday. Spying two ellie’s walking along, we turned back, parked the back of the car into the sun, turned off the engine and waited to see what they would do…..disappear into the bush or go for a swim.
And swim it was….the first ellie walked hastily into the water and launched itself underwater, like a toddler in a heatwave, followed by the second ellie. We sat and watched them playing together until a third joined in. Their antics continued for about 10 mins, whereafter they left the water and disappeared into the bush, tossing sand from their trunks. A real special sighting and a classic right time, right place scenario.
Back at camp around 3.30 we decided to stay put so out came the gas and poitjie and I threw lamb knuckles in to cook for a few hours. Realising I’d left all the stock cubes at home, I improvised with some herbs and spices.
A troop of baboons suddenly made an appearance through the tree tops, barking loudly. As the afternoon turned into evening, it was apparent they were planning on staying the night, right above our tent!
Eating around 7pm, the lamb poitjie was delicious to say the least…..who needs stock cubes!!
Retiring to bed, we read for a while, while the baboons grunted and babbled amongst themselves in the trees above..
During the night they woke us up several times barking and as the sky began to lighten, toilet hour began. Lying in the tent listening to them crapping everywhere was just lovely. Fortunately they missed the car and the tent every time.
20 April – South Camp – Magotho (Kwai Development Trust)
Emerging from the tent the next morning we found an ellie in the grass next to our campsite. He hung around while we packed up and eventually it and all the baboons disappeared.
Quick shower before we left as our next stop at Magotho had no ablutions. We then hit the road at 8.30. Due to us traveling solo, the guy at the gate advised us not to try going through Kwai as the water levels were very high, so back to the tar road it was, along that hideous corrugated road….
At the fork, we then turned left and again traversed more corregations, and then we hit the water. The first two crossings were fine. The third however was extremely hairy with the water coming over the bonnet, and for a heart stopping moment, i thought we were going to grind to a halt. But the Pajero plowed on and we reached the other side. At the fourth crossing however, we were defeated…. Water stretched endlessly ahead, no chance we were going to attempt that without a back up vehicle.
(Pics & video shot on cellphone during the hairy crossings should be inserted here, but due to phone upgrade, I’ve lost the whole lot!!! Devastated!!)
So we had no option but to turn back and go through all 3 water crossings again. The hairy one was even worse this time, with AJ taking what he thought would be a better line and us ending up churning away in sand and grass. Once again the Pajero proved itself and we eventually came on to higher ground and cleared the water. My nerves were shot!!
A game vehicle suddenly came out of a side road followed by a Defender. Stopping the vehicles we questioned the route to Mogotho and they advised us to use the track that they had just come from which would take us around the massive expanse of water. The twisty road took us past a dilapidated,, abandoned tented camp, which was sad to see as it was a beautiful location next to the river. Pulling over to let eight 4×4’s past us, we eventually got back on track. While chatting to the people in the Defender, they told us they’d just come from Mogotho, but Dizhana, our next stop was apparently deserted. They had camped wild for 2 nights at a place called Tshaa campsite.
Leaving Moremi behind, we continued on to Mogotho. A bit of a tricky find this place, but after coming across a family who had stopped at the side of the track, they pointed us in the right direction….. sloshing through yet more water, we eventually pulled into the campsite. Stopping to chat to a large group camped right on the river, they told us to find any empty campsite. Armed with paperwork, and a confirmed booking we found our campsite occupied by another tour operator. Not remotely interested in moving their setup, we moved off and found a potential spot, but with 2 ellie’s snoozing in the shade.
So while we sat in the car waiting for them to move off, we pondered our predicament. Nowhere to go from here if Dizhana really was deserted and the recommended Tshaa campsite wasn’t coming up on T4A and proving impossible to locate. (If any readers know of this place and can share GPS co-ords for future reference, I’d be extremely grateful)
Eventually the ellie’s decided to vacate, so as a courtesy, I asked the neighbours if they minded us setting up camp next to them. They advised us that the staff are very strict with sticking to camp numbers so back to number 2 we went to have it out with the occupiers. The tour guide was out with his guests on a game drive while their staff were setting up camp and despite me showing our confirmed booking in writing, this chap was not remotely interested in moving and tried his luck in telling me that the camp numbers had been swapped. Yeah right!!! So off we trundled to find another empty spot in the meantime. Opting for an open campsite quite far away from the busyness near the river, and set under 2 big trees, we unloaded and set up camp to await the arrival of the staff at 7pm to hand over our voucher and do battle regarding the campsite numbers.
21 April – Mogotho (Kwai Development Trust)
So no staff showed up last night and we ended having a lovely relaxed evening with a beautiful sunset and a roaring fire with just enough lights on at the back of our campsite to keep the shadows at bay.
A spring hare showed face, catching his eyes in the torchlight, a first for me. Small, almost kangaroo like, it hopped along on back legs with a very long tail and extremely short front legs. Scops owls called to each other from the surrounding trees and the impala could be heard snorting and growling as they cavorted around.
Waking up this morning and checking the camera trap, we picked up a hyena.
After 2 cups of tea, and being driven mad by the flies, we opted for a drive down to the river to escape their insistent buzzing. With the vegetation extremely dense and most of the roads blocked by water and not much game around we headed back to camp.
Fuel needed to be conserved as well at this point as what was in the tank, plus the 3 jerry cans had to get us to Kasane. The route involved backtracking 30kms to our next stop, and then the long, sandy slog through Savuti to Muchenji before we hit Kasane.
Returning to camp proved to be a good decision as we had a steady flow of ellie’s passing camp all day, as well as zebra and impala and the usual bird life.
A storm brewed in the distance and we listened to the rumbles of thunder as we watched it move slowly around us, with just a gentle smattering of rain and a few strong gusts of wind.
After a few games of Rummikub, we retired to the tent to read for a while and double check our route for tomorrow. Hearing a thud from the gazebo, we looked out the tent windows to see a vervet monkey opening the tupperware games box and discarding it once he realised there was no food inside. Then they were on the bonnet of the car so we decided time to emerge and chase them off. Picking up all the cigarettes they’d trailed around and the lighter, we got the braai going and settled down to watch the nearby impala pronking away and ellie’s ambling past.
No sunset this evening due to heavy cloud cover and as we finished braaing the wind got up and a gentle rain began to fall. A few flashes of lightning could be seen in the distance, followed by distant thunder and eventually we retired to the RTT.
In hindsight, having another group hogging our campsite worked out for the better as we may not have had a river view, but we were away from the masses and the steady stream of wildlife through our campsite certainly won this as campsite of the trip so far!
22nd April – Dizhana (or wherever we can find a spot….)
Up just after the sun this morning we packed up to head off to our next stop, the apparently closed Dizhana campsite. With a change in weather, the sky was overcast and it was marginally cooler.
Deciding to stop past Djara, our original choice of campsite before it was also closed, we turned right at the signpost and about 100m in, I suddenly screeched at AJ to stop the car and reverse. There crossing the road was the biggest bright green chameleon I’ve ever seen. This to me was the equivalent of seeing a leopard! I love these little creatures!!
After taking a few shots once he was safely across the road, we continued until we came across a beautiful setting on the Kwai river. Such a waste to see such a potential tourist destination lying empty and overgrown. Small enclosed ablutions contained a toilet and a sink and right on the river was a wooden deck with a built in bar. On the way out we saw a large raptor fly out of the long grass with a snake in his beak. Leaving there feeling quite sad, we turned right towards Mababe village and stopped to ask for water at one of the houses. The friendly locals were very accommodating and we passed them a 6 pack of juices as a thank you.
Back tracking along the loop to avoid those dreadful water crossing, we rejoined the sand road and eventually came to the signpost for Dizhana.. Following the track, we past a vehicle heading out. Stopping to chat they told us they were also camping there, but the locals apparently were not too happy about all the people rolling in. Further along another group walking on foot also told us the locals had asked them to leave and go to Mankwe but the visitors had argued their point and the locals decided to let everyone stay put. Feeling a bit more optimistic, we drove in to the “reception area” where an old, sullen looking guy emerged and after greeting him and him just standing there staring at us, we told him we were here to camp for 3 nights. Grumpily he told us he would have to tell his boss, but then pointed us to the track that would take us to the campsites. With a total of 6 campsite quite spread apart, we were pleasantly surprised at how established the place was. Each campsite had 2 thatched huts, one containing a shower and sink, the other a toilet. Sadly with no-one operating the place yet, there was no water but we’d enough water for showering tonight and with a running tap down at reception, we could fill the water can for the next 2 days for a shower each day. So we were sorted.
Opting for campsite 4, right at the end and next to the river, we unloaded and set up camp. Fish eagles called from the trees nearby. It was a beautiful setting. A small herd of lechwe could be seen through the bushes and a lone ellie passed our campsite, sloshed through the river and disappeared into the bushes beyond.
A rather strong wind was blowing at this point so AJ pulled a McGyver move and rigged up a windbreak and we settled down to lunch and an uninterrupted view of the river while a soft rain fell.
As the afternoon wore on the cloud cover got heavier and the wind got stronger and with no sunlight to warm up the solar showers, a shower was clearly out of the question.
By dark, it was raining well which also ruled out braaing, so we heated up a tin of mushroom soup on the gas. During the gaps in the rain, we found spiders, mice and tiny little frogs all moving in under the gazebo, clearly to get out the rain.
By now it was pouring with a good ol’ African thunderstorm thrown into the mix, it was rather wild. Realising this seemed pretty much set in for the night we decided to gap it to bed with a few strategic moves such as swapping tackies for flip flops, getting them off before putting feet into tent and trying to keep feet relatively sand free and dry. Thank god for my designer toe socks, created especially for flip flops.
The rain poured all night and with the strong gusts of wind sending extra showers from the tree above, it was hardly peaceful bush sounds that we fell asleep to, although in the odd lull in the wind and rain we could still hear the chorus of frogs from the river and the hippo’s grunting nearby.
23 April – Dizhana
Don’t know what time I woke up but it was still pouring and pitch dark. Dozing on an off I heard the nearby campers packing up as the sky gradually lightened. Eventually I crawled out of bed around 8 to an extremely overcast sky, cool temps but no rain.
The entire day was spent relaxing under the gazebo dressed in tracksuit, tackies and hoodie, it was cold!! The cloud hung around all day, parting only twice to let some weak sunshine through. Certainly not enough to warm up the solar showers, so once again the shower was forgone. Out came the macro lens and we hunted around for the small things… Amazing what you notice when you actually open your eyes to look beyond the obvious…. A great way to fill a somewhat dreary, cold day….
Tiny flowers, no bigger than my thumbnail, catapillars and butterflies filled my lens. My macro lens is one of my favourite toys….. The owls could be heard replying to each other, hippo’s grunted throughout the day while fish eagles called relentlessly, a sound I can never get tired of.
A herd of waterbuck appeared from the thick bush and suddenly all ran through the river and disappeared beyond. Two ellie’s also made an appearance and crossed to the other side. Clearly there was a major game trail running through the bush on the empty side of our campsite as all the game we had seen had crossed the river at the same point.
Deciding on an early braai in case the rain decided to return, we were finished eating before dark and sat hugging the remaining fire in the chilly wind.
Once darkness fell, our resident mouse appeared, running around under the table and at one point we heard the pitter patter of his tiny feet on the roof of the gazebo. A hyena called in the distance, a firefly flashed his way along the waters edge and further down towards the next campsite a hippo wallowed through the water, munching noisily as he went. At one point we had hippo grunting from four different directions.
23 April – Dizhana
A rather restless night as every time I woke up I seemed to be listening to the mouse running around the top of the tent. Several times we bashed the sides of the tent to chase him off, aware of how much they love to chew.
Dawn broke, bringing with it yet more leaden skies and chilly temps. Deciding today was shower day, come rain or shine we headed off to the “reception” area to get water from the locals, the one and only running tap in the whole place.
Rigging up the solar showers in the bathroom after topping them up with boiling water from the kettle, I had my first shower in three days. And after AJ had his, it was like a switch had been flicked. The clouds parted and out came the sun, glorious hot ray’s that made my skin tingle and burn. What a pleasure after 2 days of cold, miserable grey stuff!!
Even the bush came to life, lilies opened on the water, petals pointing upward lapping up the warmth, lizards appeared for the first time since we’d arrived and a hippo wallowed through the tall grass in the river, disappearing sporadically when deep enough. Sitting on my chair with my eyes closed, I suddenly heard an alarmed snort. Looking to my left, not 15m away, a small herd of waterbuck stood staring at us, frozen to the spot. A beautiful male with long curved horns, two females and tiny little one. Unsure what to do, one of the females took charge and leapt into the water, bounding over the high grass and with a final snort, they disappeared into the bush beyond.
AJ spied an eagle of sorts in a tall tree at the back of the camp. Looking through the bino’s, I made it out to be a martial eagle. Later we saw it fly into a closer tree carrying twigs and sticks and shortly after that another one joined. A mating pair building a nest, sadly just too far away to get any decent shots.
That evening, after an early braai, we got lucky with a totally clear sky so got the camera and tripod out for some sunset & star photography. While we were busy, a hippo came out the water to graze, walking close by us.
Packing up for bed, AJ spotted a baby mouse emerge from the tree, and while unhooking the solar panel from the car battery, discovered the mother scratching around in the engine!! Closing the bonnet we hoped for the best as we couldn’t chase her out.
Retiring to bed we were lulled to sleep to the sound of hippo’s in the water and hyena’s calling in the distance.
25th April – Muchenji
Up very early this morning as we had a long trek through Savuti to Muchenji, we crawled out the tent to a very misty morning.
By 8am we were on the road, back tracking almost to Mogotho, and then following the sign to Savuti. Along the way we saw zebra, giraffe, warthog, ellie’s and a few raptors. The road became sandier and wet, with big muddy puddles. As we passed the entrance to Savuti, we suddenly disturbed a pack of wild dog sleeping in the extremely long grass next to the road.
Near Kachikau, I picked up signal for the first time in days and gave Maxine, my daughter, a call, having a good catch up in the shade of a tree.
After a long chat, we carried onward, opting for an alternate route that T4A was offering. This proved to be a beautiful drive, up hills, through dense bush and relatively thick sand. It was extremely picturesque. We drove past this lodge that exhibited this sign on the verge outside, next to a baobab tree…. kudo’s to the owners!!
Eventually we hooked up with the main sandy track and suddenly, we were back on tar, a shock to the system. To our left, the floodplain overlooking Namibia stretched for miles, full of water, a pretty impressive sight.
50kms down the road we turned into Muchenji campsite which turned out to be nothing like what I was expecting! Extremely close to the road, I felt I’d been picked up and flung into a different dimension. So much civilisation to contend with after roughing it in the bush for a week. But to be fair the campsites were lovely and shady, the ablutions were fabulous and the deck overlooking the floodplain was just perfect for sundowners.
After a quick unpack, we hit the showers. So I’ll give them full marks in this department. The water was piping hot, the shower head was decent and so was the water pressure. Absolute heaven!!
After a good scrub, we went down to the deck to catch the sunset, which was incredible. The best yet on this trip. Eventually we headed back to camp after a good chat with other campers for some ribs on the braai.
During the night we could hear hyena whooping, over and above the village residents shouting to each other down the road. Take me back to my remote campsite, now!!
26th April – Senyati campsite
A leisurely start to the day, we packed up and headed off to Kasane, a short 30kms away with the route taking us down the transit road that runs through Chobe National Park.
Exiting the other side we drove on to Kasane and decided to stop off at Chobe Safari Lodge to book a river cruise for tomorrow morning. Kasane had changed somewhat since my last visit, but was still not in the league of Maun. Several new hotels had popped up as well as additional shops and fuel stations. CSL however was as I remembered it, set on the banks of the Chobe river in all its thatched glory.
Checking on options at the activities office, we opted for a river cruise at 9.30 (earliest slot available), followed by a self drive into the park afterwards. This involved us driving back to the park entrance gate to buy our permit for tomorrow, then going back to the lodge to pay for everything. Thankfully it was a short drive.
Stopping off at Spar for a few items and a KFC meal at the local takeaway, we then headed further down the road, dodging warthog ambling along the road and verges. Stopping at a little coffee shop that promised free wifi with a meal, we scoffed down chocolate brownies and cream with a latte. Just what one needs straight after a KFC!!
Onward to Senyati, our stop for the next 2 nights.
Pleasantly surprised upon our arrival, the campsite had improved hugely in the 5 years since we were last here. The trees were taller and shadier. The reception area now had a pretty garden in front of it and a little shop inside. And the bar had been completely transformed with an upper and lower deck and an underground hide in front of the waterhole.
Finding a wrought iron day bed on the lower deck, we whiled the afternoon away reading and gaming until 5pm when the wifi became available. Quick catch up with the kids and some social media, we then headed back to our campsite for dinner and a shower.
The hyenas started early and continued through the night, along with the jackals and scops owls.
27th April – Senyati campsite
Up with the birds this morning, and slight overcast skies, we sank 2 cups of tea before heading off to Kasane for our boat cruise. Driving past the long line of trucks waiting to cross the border, which clearly hadn’t moved at all overnight, we came across four southern ground hornbills at the side of the road.
Arriving slightly early at the lodge we sat on the terrace drinking lattes to pass the time. The boat cruise was good, but didn’t deliver as much as the previous time. With the river extremely full, there were no ellie’s, lechwe or hippo’s to be seen on the grassy islands. But we cruised past plenty pods of hippo in the water which we managed to get real close to.
Several fish eagle were perched high in the trees dotted along the river bank, and BK, our friendly guide told us how to differentiate between the male and female….. More high pitched call from the male, females were bigger and they also bore a larger apron (as she should be in the kitchen as BK put it, lol).
Herds of impala and small groups of waterbuck & kudu could also be seen along the bank, as well as a glimpse of the back of a buffalo. Pied kingfishers and a couple of water monitors were also seen. Carmine bee-eaters darted among the lilies and a heron wallowed nearby.
Swallows ducked and dived around the oil drums under the boat as we motored along or flew alongside us, darting here and there, so quick it was impossible to catch them on camera.
At one point, as I sat on the floor of the boat, a swallow flew down and perched in front of me, riding the pontoon as the water splashed around him while he chirped his head off. Very sweet.
Two hours later, we pulled into the lodge and found our table while AJ popped to the loo. Checking my phone I saw several missed calls from family. Phoning Andrew back, he dropped the bombshell that our dear sweet persian kitten, Rosie, had been killed by our neighbours dogs. Totally numb with shock, I broke the news to AJ. Devastation reigned for the rest of the day, not helped by my heartbroken 13 yr old son sobbing down the phone.
Eventually we headed back to the car, heavy hearted and so, so sad.
Thankfully we still had the rest of the day in the park as a much needed distraction, and we entered Sedudu Gate and headed down to the river bank. During the course of the afternoon, we surprisingly had some amazing sightings.
Ellie’s swimming across the river and back, small and large ellie herds both inland and at the waters edge with loads of little ones at foot. Millions of impala, a few zebra, plenty crocs and more water monitors. The drive was pretty as well as the bush was extremely lush and green. Finding our old spot where we had parked and taken a photo 5 years ago, we did the same but not before AJ spotted a barn owl way up in the tree, nestled amongst the leaves and so well hidden. Very well spotted!! But impossible to photograph.
By 4pm we decided to head back to the gate, stopping to watch more herds of ellie grazing close to the road with their little one’s. Turning off away from the river we rounded a corner and on the right, out in the open was a magnificent sable. Pitch black with beautiful sweeping horns, he was stunning!
Filling up en-route to camp, we then passed the now familiar long queue of trucks waiting for the border, which again looked like it hadn’t moved at all the entire day. What a crap job those guys have……
Back at camp, we headed to the bar for some wifi and a catch up with the kids, somber and sad as it was. Across the waterhole, a line of about 7 giraffe ambled across the plain in the low evening light.
Bedtime brought the chorusing hyenas again and sad thoughts for me of our sweet little Rosie and the fact that my daughter was leaving for England tomorrow for a year!!
28th – Nata Lodge
Quick pack up this morning and on the road to Nata Lodge. Uneventful drive and we arrived at the lodge around 12ish……
Too early to check in, we sat on the terrace drinking coffee and catching up on social media. It transpired we had 2 tents booked for some reason, so at least we a credit of about P800 to cover dinner, drinks and the few items we bought from the curio shop.
We decided to take a drive to the Bird Sanctuary as we’d never been there. 10kms down the main road on the right, we turned in, paid P145 entrance fee and set off. The track was very wet and muddy in places and some careful navigation was required around some of the bigger pools of water. Stopping to take a few photographs, we saw a few wildebeest lying out in the open and 3 storks, still to be ID’d.
The grass eventually thinned out, replaced by water filled pans. Spotting the viewing pan in the distance and three vehicles parked next to it, we trudged onward, by now wallowing through some seriously thick mud. Rounding the last bend in the track, full of water and thick black mud AJ decided driving up the grassy verge was the better line to take, and without the car in low range, we hit a big mound of grass and ground to a halt. I sat in the car wondering how long someone from the viewing deck would be along to see if we needed help while AJ attempted to dig the thick soil and mud away from the back wheels. Soon enough, a Landcruiser appeared and with a quick tug with the snatch strap we were out. Joining their group at the viewing deck, which was a rickety wooden platform built on stilts, the view was incredible.
The Sua Pan stretched away to infinity, full of water. Even the camera battled to find a focus point at the furtherest distance. After sinking a Savannah and a bit of a chat, we all climbed back in our cars and headed back to the gate, with no further mishaps. With the sun dropping, I took a few more shots, deciding I would come back here again one day to do a proper sunset drive.
Back at the lodge, we picked up our key and headed off to our tented chalet in time for a quick shower before phoning Max for final goodbyes before she boarded her plane.
Heading down for dinner, we ordered wine and sat under the trees while I chatted to Max. Wishing her well and surprisingly not crying, we then ordered dinner, cream of onion soup which was delicious and AJ had a cheesy garlic roll for starters, main was bream but both feeling rather full from starters, we couldn’t finish. A final WhatsApp from Max had me in tears, so much for my bravery!
Retiring to our room for a cup of tea., we took our mugs out on to the deck, and as I opened the door and stepped outside I caught a bushbaby jumping off the railing, onto the roof of the car and into the trees. Rigging up the cameratrap we went to bed in the hope we’d catch him during the night.
29 April – Limpopo River Lodge
Checking the camera trap this morning, we got 1 pic of the bushbaby, albeit not a very good one. Breakfast on the terrace was omelette for me and fried eggs for AJ. After settling the bill and dumping the last jerry can in the tank, we hit the road with clear blue skies to Limpopo River Lodge before home.
By the time we reached Francistown, through all the donga’s in the road, it had completely clouded over, with a cool 20 deg showing on the car thermometer.
Stopping to refuel in Selebi Pikwe, we travelled onward, eventually reaching LRL at around 3ish.
Booked at our favourite, site number 6, we rolled in and were dismayed to see campers on the other side of the bank in SA. This has always been rough bush opposite so to see it cleared and housing campers was a bit of a shock and a total bummer as this campsite 6 was always our favourite due to it’s total privacy. Even the makeshift ablution shower set up had been redone to hide anyone showering while admiring the view of the river. Such a massive shame…..
Setting up camp, we chilled for the afternoon, until the sun dropped and then the bush came alive. A lone hippo popped his head up from the surface not far from our campsite and a croc floated nearby. Suddenly I saw a large bird fly into the tree next to us, coming to rest on a low branch. Checking through the bino’s in the fading light, it looked to be a Verreaux’s eagle owl. It sat for a while, calling repeatedly with its rusty squawk. Eventually it flew away, silently, down river. A great sighting. Nearby we could hear pearl spotted owlets and scops owls calling. The Ellie’s could also be heard, screaming angrily at something not too far away.
And that was another epic bush trip put to bed. Next up, Limpopo River Lodge and Mapungubwe in December… a short trip, but I know it will be necessary by then to clear the cobwebs and rejuvinate the soul…. as only the African bush can do for me….
Khama – the rhino sightings and the beautiful storm cloud formation over the waterhole
Khumaga – the vulture sighting and the herd of 33 giraffe
South Gate – the 2 hours we chilled at Black Pools and the hyena that called right next our car on our first night
Mogotho – the total wilderness and the ellie’s that ambled past our campsite all day
Dizhana – the thunderstorm and rain on the 1st night, the hippo’s grunting from all directions, fish eagles and the hippo that walked past us as we were busy photographing the stars
Muchenji – the fabulous showers and the sunset from the deck
Senyati – the endless calling of hyena’s on our first night, the day bed under the bar and our afternoon in the park
Nata – the bushbaby on our deck and the view of the salt pan
LRL – the owl that sat in the tree next to us on the 1st night
Overall – the different terrains we’ve traversed on this trip was quite amazing & the amount of different species of owls we’ve seen…. overlanding never disappoints! 🙂