Botswana: Day 3 – Okavango Delta

On the morning of Saturday 9 June we went to the Maun Airport to take a trip over the delta in a light aircraft.

Les sat up front with our pilot, James, who came from the UK.

We flew over a small portion of the Okavango.

It is an amazing mixture of land and water.

We were lucky enough to see four of the twelve rhinos that have been released into this area.  All the original rhinos were killed by poachers.

We flew over the Okavango for an hour and in that time saw only a small percentage of this huge inland swamp.

We left Maun and travelled along the western side of the Delta towards Sepupa.  We stopped alongside the road and Vermaak rustled up lunch.

We stopped at one of the many veterinary check points.  While waiting to disinfect our shoes and tyres we photographed these people in their donkey cart.

We stopped near Sepupa and left our cars at Swamp Stop with an armed guard.  Interestingly, our Garmin said ‘not recommended’ which usually means it is not very safe to stop.  We then boarded small aluminium boats and began the ride to our houseboat inside the Okavango Delta.  This photo taken by Marion shows the speed at which we travelled.

During the ride of nearly one and a half hours, we stopped a few times to photograph some of the many fish eagles.  The ride took so long as we were travelling in a northerly direction, against the flow of the water.

We were very grateful to see our houseboat, Madikubu, which means the ‘biggest hippo’ and even more grateful to see that Douwe, Vermaak and Bjorn were there with our luggage.  This was to be our home for the next two days.

This lovely photo taken by Marion, shows the calm and quiet evening while we were moored in the panhandle of the delta.  A cold front had moved over Botswana and the temperature dropped very quickly after sunset. We then enjoyed drinks with the rest of our group and had a lovely meal produced by Vermaak.  We were looking forward to the next day when we were going to explore the Okavango in mokoros.

Botswana: Day 2 – Nata to Maun

We left Nata Lodge after a hearty breakfast on Friday 8 June and travelled 10 kms to the small town of Nata.  We filled up with diesel and headed west towards Maun which is situated on the edge of the Okavango Delta.

File:Okavango Delta map.png

We travelled through very dry and flat countryside towards Gweta.  The veld on either side of the road was over-grazed.  We passed through a small village called Seroga.  Although Botswana has a population of only two million people, it does seem fairly populated when you drive through.  This is because most of the villages and settlements of the Batswana people are on the sides of the roads.  The land away from the roads has very few human settlements.  Botswana has a very small population when compared to other African countries.

We passed a lot of vultures feeding on a donkey carcass.  The vehicle that had killed the donkey was standing on the side of the road.  it was a stark reminder of what can happen to an unwary driver on the roads in Botswana.  Animals roam freely over the roads and are often the cause of accidents.

About 30 km from Gweta we noticed that the countryside had changed.   The grass was more lush and we saw some palm trees.  We passed Planet Baobab which is another of the many lodges and camps all over Botswana.  Although when contacted, many of them say they are fully booked, they are often empty on arrival during the off peak season.  Many of them take temporary bookings from tour agents, only to find that the agents cancel at the last minute and they are left without guests.

At 1 pm we arrived at Drifters Camp on the banks of the Boteti River, which forms part of the Okavango Delta.  Here we had a lovely lunch prepared by the staff at Drifters Camp.

This is the Boteti River, which flows from the Okavango Delta.  In the rainy season it flows into the Makgadikgadi Pan.

Maun, Botswana

We arrived in Maun in the late afternoon.  It is a bustling town with an eclectic mix of modern and mud buildings.  We filled up with fuel in Maun.  During our fuel stop one of our party had their camera equipment, laptop and money stolen while refueling.  There are hawkers who distract the driver and passengers while their friends quietly help themselves to your luggage.  There is a lot of theft in Botswana and it is advisable to always watch your vehicle and make sure you lock it while filling the tank.

We drove across the Okavango River to the Island Safari Lodge on the edge of Maun.

This peaceful lodge, on the banks of the Okavango, was an oasis of quiet after the busy town of Maun.

We watched someone get a lift across the river.

Small craft were going up and down the river with tourists or carrying out business.

Botswana: Day 1 – Johannesburg to Nata

Botswana

We had been wanting to visit Botswana for a number of years, but were not keen to camp and finding accomodation on the internet was extremely difficult.  Having never been there before, we decided to book a guided trip with Mpafa Travel for June 2012.  This seemed a good option as we would travel in our own vehicle and stay at lodges throughout the trip.  All catering would be done by Mpafa Travel.

We left Johannesburg for Nata on Wednesday 6 June to meet up with our guide and the rest of the group at Nata Lodge.  Part of the trip on the South African side was through the province of Limpopo.  The trip from Johannesburg to Nata is 913 kms and takes about 10 hours.  We decided to stay over somewhere along the route.  We had lunch at Mokopane (formerly Potgietersrus) and then drove to the Botswana border at Grobler’s Bridge.  The border post on the Botswana side is known as Martin’s Drift.

At the border we had to pay 180 Pula to the Botswana authorities for our vehicle.  Here we experienced our first ‘rip-off’ with currency exchange.  Because we did not have pula we were charged R250 when we should have paid about R198.  After that we drew pula from an ATM.  This is the best way to avoid extra commission costs.

We decided to stop over at Palapye.  We arrived in the late afternoon on 6 June.

Desert Sands Motel

There we stayed at the Desert Sands Motel.  It was reasonably priced,  clean and tidy and recommended by Mpafa Travel.  Having driven around on our arrival, we decided that there was not much choice.  Believe me, Palapye is not a honeymoon destination.  It is mainly a stopover for truckers and people who, like us, are travelling to the tourist areas in the north.

Travelling in Botswana can be frustrating as the speed limit constantly changes.  There are lots of small villages on the side of the road and then the limit drops from 120 km to 80 km or 60 km.  We were warned that the traffic police hide behind trees and will issue spot fines which must be paid in Pula.  Needless to say, we carefully stuck to the speed limits.

Although narrow at times, the roads in Botswana are fairly good.  Some roads have collapsing shoulders which are very hazardous.  Never be tempted to travel after sunset as there are many donkeys, cattle and other animals straying on the roads.

We stopped at Francistwon to have lunch and buy bottled water and snacks for the trip.  Francistown is a delightful and busy town with tree lined streets and plenty modern shops.

The next day we continued on our trip to Nata.  On arrival at Nata Lodge things began to look up.  The accomodation was stunning.  Later that afternoon we met our guide Douwe, chef Vermaak and his assistant Bjorn.

We then set off for Makagadikgadi Pan to have sundowners and socialise with our new friends.

We watched the sunset on the Makgadikgadi Pan.  It was dry and deserted.  As the sun set we began to feel the cold that is experienced in Botswana at night.  Becasue Botswana is a vast, very flat country, it cools down quickly and often reaches temperatures below freezing.