A quick and easy entry procedure, anti corruption posters and hotlines and a friendly “Welcome to Botswana!” concluded yet another easy border crossing in Southern Africa. We were off on the long drive to the safari capital of the country in the north – Maun. We had done most of the drive before and it is one hell of a boring road. Tarred all the way but little to distract you from the monotony of cattle fences and tree savannah. A 60kph speed sign in the middle of nowhere annoyed me but I slowed down nevertheless even telling Jasmine proudly what a good law abiding visior I was when we saw the little man signalling us to stop at the side of the road. Two police men had hidden next to a tree with a modern radar gun and the exactitude of the German police force. 6kph over the limit, 20€ fine (some months to years in jail as an alternative), official detailed receipt and even a credit card reader… which did not get reception and we were totally out of any kind of cash. So we had to head to the nearest police office in the only other settlement of note on the way named Ghanzi. Here a courier had to get the receipt book to the police station which took an hour or so as well but surprisingly noone ever tried to extract a bribe instead. Botswana is a bit different than many other African nations.
On arrival in Maun the following day we met Raphael & Celine (alloutmedia.de) on a parking lot. These two had just come down the East Coast after traveling through the Middle East and we had a ton to talk about. We settled in behind the nice yellow Sedia Hotel and met a great family (familienzeit-in-afrika.de) traveling from South Africa back to Germany in a Deutz truck even older than our Land Cruiser. Such a trip must simply be an amazing opportunity for someone growing up to learn to adapt, tolerate and live with little. Also Edy & Brigitte (waypoints.ch) were here whom we had met the previous year in Windhoek and who are traveling permanently for many years.
Botswana’s national park visits are expensive. Not so much because of the entry fees but because of the largely privatised accomodation inside the parks which charge ridicilous amounts for a night of camping. We still wanted to get a glimpse of the Okavango Delta’s fringes in the famous Moremi NP and took the corrugated track to its southern entrance. We were told about Kazikini Community Campsite close by but on arrival we found out that they prices had gone up just as much as inside the NP – the simple but nice site was absolutely deserted and we are not sure whether this pricing politic isn’t actually damaging for places like this one. We ended up spending the night at South Gate after a fantastic game drive through a newly opened area in the south of the NP called Black Pools. Impala, stenbok, lechwe, reed buck, buffalo, elephant, hippo, crocodile, blue wildebeest, tessebe and many large birds were spotted.
Elephants visited the camp quietly at night and just before sunrise we started our trip deeper into the park. The beauty of Moremi lies in our eyes much in its varied landscape with savannah, swamp, waterways and woodland as well as the fact that the roads are merely sandy tire tracks. For first part of the day we did not even meet another car. Only in the northwest part did the park become a bit more congested with safari vehicles around the two popular camps Thrid Bridge and Xakanaxa. Plenty more game showed itself but none of the big cats or wild dogs that the park is famous for gave us the honour. After a full day of slow driving we had made it to the north gate and headed on a larger piste to a fairly new camp called Dijara. We arrived in the dark and set up on a beautiful site surrounded by bush right at the Kwai River. No one else in sight but the frogs singing with a fantastic volume. The night was also filled with noises of the wild animals roaming around.
The following day we explored the game viewing trails on the north bank of the Kwai River just outside the national park. It was possible to get a lot closer to the river and the animals this way and we observed many large herds of elephants drinking and grazing peacefully. One bull came within about 4m of the car and still wasn’t bothered by our presence which says a lot about anti poaching efforts in this part of Botswana. The hippos were also exceptionally entertaining this day rolling around in the water and splashing each other. The day after was spent entirely at our campsite which consisted of small clearing at the river and a bucket shower and toilet behind some olive green canvas. Simple but perfect since it’s a wild area. Throughout the day elephants passed close by or through camp and once a family crossed the river right in front of and coming towards us. It can be quite frightening to just sit there on your camping chair when these giants come stomping towards you but it’s also a simply magnificent experience. When night fell we lit a campfire and a honey badger came by in search for food in the undergrowth. Peaking out of the roof top tent at night we also saw three hyenas sniffing and roaming around the car. All in all this was one of our favourite spots in Africa and comes very close to what you might see on TV about the continent.