Make time, take it, take 4×4, your best friend, go and camp under the big Botswana sky.
Words and photos – Jolanta KSIEZNIEK – 5511
He confessed to having stories and told us some of them, but even so I always had a feeling that there was deep in his heart a story of stories which needed far more time and sharing of experience to communicate.
The Heart of the Hunter, Laurens van der Post (1961)
Make time, take it, take 4×4, your best friend, go and camp under the big Botswana sky. You will be rewarded with blue skies stretching above vast horizons, overwhelming number and variety of wild life at your camp’s ‘doorstep’, emptiness of the Kalahari desert, shadow of giant baobab trees at lunch time, colorful bird choruses at sunrise, rhythm of nature getting into your veins dipper and dipper every day, inner silence and unique performance of the sun setting down every evening.
A sensitive policy of the Botswana government of ‘high cost-low volume tourism’ means, largest tracks of wilderness in Africa were preserved there. And that wilderness is worth exploring; by camping, you can make it affordable as well.
CKGR (Central Kalahari Game Reserve) is as wild as it gets. The park covers 52,800 sq km, of country’s 582 000 sq km and is situated right in the center of Botswana.
It is the largest National Park in Africa, bigger then Denmark or Switzerland to give you some perspective. In “African Denmark’s “ northern section there is in total 25 basic campsites. Can you imagine only 25 houses in all of Denmark? By now, you must get a point of what I mean when I am writing ‘wild’.
Internet and phone coverage is non-existent in CKGR, it is advised to have a satellite phone with you, or travel in convoy. No shops, fuel or electricity and most importantly, no water. Come well prepared with above in mind.
As large predators may walk through unfenced campsites, we have chosen to stay most of the nights in our roof top tent. One night when we didn’t, we have noticed strange noise coming from behind the ground tent, and a shadow of animal with bushy head passed by 2 m from the fire. It all lasted few seconds, maybe 10, but the next morning the lion was chilling on the road very near by.
CKGR is characterized by vast open plains, saltpans and ancient riverbeds. Rainfall is sporadic and sparse, and can vary from 170 to 700 millimeters per year but during our trip in April getting almost stuck in the mud close to waterholes was rather easy to do. 4×4 driving brings lots of excitement in such conditions. Did I say already, be up for an adventure and expect the unexpected when crossing the gates of CKGR.
After 3-5 days of being ‘unplugged’ waking up for the sunrise and morning safari, living in synch with nature, you will be ready to restock in Maun, tourism capital of the country, before heading to your next destination.
There is abundance of lodges you can stay in and around Maun, we went air b’n’b route and booked ourselves into magical oasis of Otto villa, situated on the Thamalakane River, 15 minutes from the center of town. The property offers outstanding views and is pure heaven on earth. Designed by an architect and fully ecological it was immediately home and exactly what we needed, and more, after CKGR.
From Maun, the choice for the next leg of the trip is abundant; from Okavango Delta the world’s largest intact inland delta in the north and Chobe National Park, that we hope to cover for you’re on the pages of Hamaji one day, through Moremi, Makgadikgadi and Nxai Pan National Park, where you get a taste of what the great prehistoric lake that once covered Kalahari Basin must have looked like, in the rainy season that is, when we have visited.
Moremi is where the wildlife congregates in the dry season and it is a great 4×4 territory. Again, in the rainy season it can be challenging but oh so more exciting at the same time, crossing those deep water rivers, holding your breath, getting onto tiny wooden bridges.
As we have learned in the next few days spent in Moremi at a magical spot of community run Khwai River camp; elephants, hippos, monkey, lions, impalas, bushbucks are permanent occupants of the area, sharing it generously with few humans camping around. The place is heaven for bird spotting too.
On every trip, there is this one sunrise, that one sunset to remember, one when not your camera, but your heart takes a photo.
Elephants that we named in the past 3 days, shaking the trees 15 m away from us, hearing the sensation of them rubbing their trunks, fruits falling down, elephants coming closer and closer, looking at you from 5- 7 meters, acknowledging your presence, doing their own thing, elephant highway in front of your eyes at sunset… pure happiness.
From Moremi we have planned 2 more camping stops, on the way back to South Africa; a drive through Nxai Pan National Park to see Baines Baobabs and camping on the prehistoric Khubu Island.
Most of the year you would be driving through dry, cracked and peeling surface of white salty pan stretched to the horizon and connecting with the sky before reaching Baine’s Baobabs, also known as the Seven Sisters, and named after explorer Thomas Baines, who painted them in 1862. If you choose April, there is a high chance your experience will be different, your ability to drive 4×4 needed…
As bizarrely beautiful as they are, if you venture past Baine’s Baobabs you will discover many more of this magical upside down trees; booking months in advance will give you a chance to camp in one of 4 designated spots.
Kubu Island, a historic rock outcrop in the Makgadikgadi Pan is yet another bizarre place, occupied in the past by hunters gatherers and exploited for salt and game by Iron Age groups. The extensive stone wall suggest extension of Zimbabwe culture during XIII century. There are 14 campsites around the Island and baobabs in abundance.
TIPS and DIRECTORY :
CKGR Entry: via 3 points: Matswere NE, Khutse S and Xade in the West.
Moremi Game Reserve www.moremi-game-reserve.com
Dumela meaning Good day/Morning/Afternoon/Evening
Dumela really means accept my warmest compliments