Stunning scenery and wildlife on Chobe waterfront

Back in Botswana and off to Chobe

14 Nov. First stop this morning is Hemingways in Livingstone to pick up Dad and Chris’ car. We have used this company before and found them to be efficient with good cars. In fact the car we collect is  one we have actually driven before. After going over everything to make sure they are happy with how everything works Dad and Chris set off with us to their first African border crossing – Kazangula again – we brace ourselves.

But, after employing a helper again, it actually isn’t too bad. However Dad is absolutely gobsmacked at how disorganised it all is. It is certainly a shock welcome to your first African holiday, but we assure him that it should be a little more relaxed from here on in. Back in Kasane we have a lovely lunch at Chobe Safari Lodge and get some shopping for the next few days as the next place we will get chance to buy food is probably going to be Maun.

Our campsite for the first night is Senyati and this is our first time here. It has a lovely bar which is up high and overlooking a waterhole. Interestingly the owners have built an underground tunnel which leads to a view point of the water hole which is at ground level. This means that you are only a few feet away from elephant feet and it is quite a disconcerting, if unique, view. This was dads first elephant sighting so it was fantastic to see one so close and it is great to experience these first sightings through someone else’s eye.

http://senyatisafaricampbotswana.com

During the night we hear hyena which keeps us awake and then the storm starts, with torrential rain hammering on the tent. It seems we are destined not to sleep at the moment. We had planned to set off at 5am but as the rain was still heavy we stay in bed to see if it will stop. It seems not. We finally have to get up, rain or not, and we all get thoroughly soaked in the process of packing up, but at least it is cooler.

Chobe

Driving through puddles in Chobe

Driving through this park is always special and we are excited to wonder what we will see here. The deep sand tracks are a little firmer due to the rain and there are plenty of deep puddles to drive through; a taste of things to come in Moremi perhaps. Driving slowly along the tracks, each of us scanning the bush to find game, we decide that no matter how many times we go on a game drive it is always a very special experience. With the windows down we can smell the air and damp ground and the sounds of the bush are all around, even with the sound of the car engine. There is a fair amount of game but it is evident that this rain is much needed as there is very little grass and leaves around for animals to eat. Hopefully this much needed water will kick start the growth and make life a little easier. A lot of animals have their young at this time of the year so we should see some cute babies. As we bounce through the deep sand we spot plenty of animals, including a small group of elephants where several of them were lying down, something we don’t recall seeing before and it is something we will have to find out about. Other sightings included a couple of lionesses, some kudu, waterbuck, lechwe and even a sable antelope which was particularly beautiful.

Bird life here is prolific too and we clocked up 58 species including the very pretty southern carmine bee-eater which is probably my favourite bird in southern Africa.

View over the river flats in Chobe

Altogether a productive day.

We have booked a campsite just outside Chobe on the western side of the park which overlooks the river flats. It is functional but a bit tired looking, but we just need somewhere to cook some supper and set up the tents for the night.

Wildlife and Adventure in the Magical Caprivi Strip

Driving into the Caprivi Strip

Divundu, in the Caprivi Strip is a welcome sight; it has a fuel station and it seems that all roads lead here. Lots of opportunity to chat and also stock up on food and fuel. We have now been on the road for a few months and are beginning to learn how to deal with different situations and how to get information. One lesson in particular we have learned the hard way. Don’t ask closed questions! The African people, for the most part, love to help but will often say “yes”, as they think it is what you want to hear. Or maybe they are just saying it to get rid of you. But either way it is much more helpful to ask open, specific questions. Here in Divundu, however, Keith forgets this simple rule and asks the lady in the garage if they have an air pump for the tyres. “Yes”, she confirms. After a short delay it becomes apparent that no further information is going to be forthcoming so Keith asks, “Where is it?” (Always a very dangerous question – it is always “over there”, which can be 10 metres or 100kms “over there” ). But we duly drive round the back of the building and find the air pump. After shunting back and forth to get close enough, Keith finally jumps out and attaches the air pipe to the first of the wheels. Nothing. After much swearing and bashing of the machine he just can’t get it to work. Back in the shop he locates the same lady and informs her that the machine doesn’t appear to be working. “Oh, no, its not working at the moment”. Great! So, lesson learned – be specific. Ask if they have an air pump and then ask if it is working.

The Caprivi is very different to the rest of Namibia, much more like Botswana and Zambia and it even has different time! The rest of Namibia changes its clocks by an hour in Spring and Autumn but Caprivi sticks to the same time as South Africa and Botswana. We only realise this after wondering for a few days why people kept giving us times with the caveat of “South Africa time”. Most bizarre.

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Deep sand and Elephants in Khaudom NP

Waterberg Plateau, a very surprising National Park.

7 July. On our way to Khaudom National Park in the north east corner of Namibia, we decide to take a short detour to a National Park that is small by southern Africa standards but which is pretty unique. Waterberg Plateau rises up ahead up us out of the bush, a huge outcrop with sheer walls and a flat top. It is certainly impressive.

Waterburg, Namibia, camping land rover
Waterberg Plateau

The park campsite is fine. Not as secluded as some we have stayed in but perfectly clean and everything you would expect. We soon set off for a hike up the plateau. In this heat it is hard work but  when we finally haul ourselves up the last few metres we decide that it is definitely worth the climb. What a view!

Namibia Waterberg, Land Rover
Stunning view from top of Waterberg Plateau

The next day we decide to do the evening game drive as you are not allowed to do self drives here and it seems a shame to come here and not go to the top and see what wildlife is up there. As the vehicle makes its way along the road to the main entrance we can see signs of wildlife already and we are not even in the park yet. The vehicle steadily climbs up to the top and we can see now how this flat area, with sheer sides for most of the way around it, is a naturally enclosed nature reserve. The animals can’t get out unless the one gate is open and this means that many of the species found here are unique and some, like the buffalo, are completely disease free.

Unbelievably the terrain is deep sand; we expected rock, but it is surprising how similar the land is up here to the land all around the plateau. And the wildlife is just the same too. We take a stroll along a little path, to a hide overlooking a waterhole, and after a short wait we see buffalo and giraffes come in for a drink.

Back in the car and bumping along the sandy tracks we also see klipspringers and sable antelope. All in all a very worthwhile and enjoyable drive.

Buffalo on the Waterberg Plateau.
Buffalo on the Waterberg Plateau.

Khaudom National Park, deep sand and elephants.

Next on our itinerary is Khaudom National Park but all the guidebooks, and the website for Namibias National Parks, all say that you can’t get in with only one vehicle. The sand is deep and it is very remote. In fact you have to be completely self sufficient and stocked up with plenty of jerry cans of fuel. Our only option is to head to a good campsite near Grootfontein, Roys Camp, where we can spend a few days and see if we can find someone else to tag along with. http://www.roysrestcamp.com

Roys Camp is a well run, quirky kind of a place and there are a few little walks around here, as well as a good bar and restaurant and a pool. Not a bad place to hang around for a while. We pass the time reading, bird watching and chilling out, and on day three we finally find two families that have been considering tackling Khaudom but are undecided.

We convince them. We set off in the morning in convoy through the area inhabited by the San tribes. We don’t have time to linger here but it is definitely an area we would like to come back to, it is a timeless landscape with ancient ways of life still in evidence.  It is a long drive on a gravel road to Khaudom but  there is a village, Tsumkwe, the main centre for the San, on the way where we hope to find fuel.  Apparently the supply is  a bit erratic but we are in luck and we top up again to hopefully see through the park, and all the way to the town of Divundu.

Khaudom, Namibia Landrover
Following our new friends into Khaudom National Park

We really enjoy the drive and it is so lovely and remote here. We deflate the tyres before going into the park and it soon becomes clear why it’s recommend to have a minimum of two vehicles. It is deep sand and if you did get stuck it could be a while before anyone else comes along. We find the campsite, but head to a nearby waterhole first to see if we can find any of the elephants for which this park is famous. There is a great lookout structure here where we sit and wait. We don’t have to wait long – dozens of elephants come charging down to the water, with plenty of rough and tumble in their eagerness to get a drink. There are clearly several groups here as as one herd uses the waterhole there are others coming in all the time and some noisy and boisterous behaviour ensues as they sort out the pecking order. As the sun sets it creates the most wonderful colours as the dust is kicked up by the elephants. We are all totally in love with this place already.

Khaudom Namibia Land Rover camping
Sunset at the waterhole Khaudum

We head back to the campsite before it gets too dark and begin our dinner preparations. We are so lucky that we have met these guys. They are on a three week trip from South Africa, taking in Namibia and Botswana but they are on a tighter schedule than us so when we leave the park they will go on ahead a bit quicker. We  have a lovely evening sharing travel stories and enjoying a glass of wine or two. It is great to have some company and I think we will be catching up with them again later on in our trip, perhaps back in South Africa.

The next day we rise really early as we want to see if we can see anything at another of the waterholes. On the way we see elephants and some roan antelopes as well as little duikers and lots of birds. As we approach the water we see a cheetah dashing off into the distance, just a bit too late to get a good look, but exciting all the same. It is our first wedding anniversary today. What a great way to celebrate it, in the middle of nowhere, watching wildlife. On our way back to camp for breakfast we see some lions looking very beautiful in the early morning misty sunshine.

Lioness in the early morning mist in Khaudom
Lioness in the early morning mist in Khaudom

Today we are driving all the way through the park. It’s a long way but there is plenty of beautiful scenery and some waterholes to check out on the way. Even so the bouncing along in deep sand is tiring and it is hot too so we are pleased to find that the campsite at the northern end of the park is lovely, if a little pricey compared with other Namibian campsites. We manage to negotiate a deal and enjoy the facilities of a lovely private pitch with its own ablutions. Another lovely dinner and fun evening tonight. We really are going to miss these guys!

The next day is a very long, tiring drive of 60kms through deep sand to the main road. This has been an amazing few days in this remote National Park. If you get the chance to go, take it. You won’t regret it and although we didn’t have any problems we can see why it would be sensible not to go it alone here.

Namibia Khaudom Land Rover Camping
The road out of Khaudom, deep, deep sand

At the main road we say goodbye to our new friends. Its been fantastic and we will definitely stay in touch. But for us it is time to head to the Caprivi Strip and another adventure.

 

 

Wildlife encounters in Etosha National Park

Welcome to Etosha

30 June. After all that adventurous driving  and rafting we feel in need of some relaxing time just watching some wildlife. And Etosha is surely the place to go. It is Namibia’s premier park and its defining feature is Etosha  Pan, a vast salt pan, 110kms from east to west, and 60kms from north to south, covering about a quarter of the park. Both of us have wanted to visit Etosha for a long time and so we are very excited. We have, unfortunately, chosen to arrive in the South African school holiday time but, confident that we will find somewhere to stay, we set off anyway. As we approach the Galton Gate in the west of the park we start to come across road signs warning of elephants, a good opportunity for a Landy photo.

On the way to Etosha
On the way to Etosha

At the park gate we are relieved to find that are some spaces in a couple of the campsites but we will have one long day of driving and the last night we will have to find somewhere outside of the park at the east end. The west side has only recently opened up to to self-drivers so there is a new campsite, Olifantsrus, which is where we head.

Wonderful plains of Etosha
Wonderful plains of Etosha

A rare sighting

Sometimes you just get lucky. As we head through the park to the camp site we both spot something not far from the side of the road, but for a few seconds neither of us fully registers what is in front of us. It’s an aardwolf. Nocturnal, shy and very rarely seen, we are staggered when it just stands there, a few metres away, looking at us. A quick scramble for the camera and we just capture a nice shot before he slinks back through the grass and out of sight again. How lucky are we? These beautiful, animals, a member of the the hyena family, are true specialist feeders as they only eat termites, and a particular species of termite at that!

An aardwolf!!!!!
An aardwolf!!!!!

The water hole at Olifantsrus also provided us with a treat. It is floodlit with special a red light so that the animals are not disturbed and as darkness falls we take a walk down to the hide and wait patiently with a few other campers to see what would come down to drink. First up is a lovely herd of zebra who very obligingly drink in a row with the setting sun behind them creating a lovely reflection. Next comes a rhino whose appearance causes a flurry of camera shutters but it is a bit too dark for those of us with limited experience and by the time I have adjusted all the settings the rhino is gone and its practically sun rise! The best visitor to the waterhole comes along just after Keith decides to head back to sort out the camp (oops). A leopard, who is so quiet and careful in his approach that no-one even sees him arrive. But as I turn from watching the retreating zebra I see a shadow at the waters edge and it takes a few seconds for my eyes to adjust and see it properly. But sure enough it is a leopard and it is so quiet here that I can hear him lapping up the water.

Lovely reflections of zebra at the waterhole
Lovely reflections of zebra at the waterhole

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