During July and August 2008 a friend (DF) and I visited Botswana and Namibia. The itinerary was:
Botswana (booked with Massons)
7th July – depart JNB for Gabarone, overnight Cresta Lodge (day in Gabarone)
8th–9th July – fly Maun, fly San Camp
10th-14th July – Mobile Camping Safari with Ewan Masson. 2 nights Nxai Pan; 3 nights CKGR
15th July – return to Maun, overnight Maun Lodge. DF departs for Mapula Lodge
16th July depart MUB for JNB (overnight Metcourt Laurel)
17-20 July – Mashatu Tented Camp
21st July - depart Mashatu for JNB, transfer to De Wildt Sanctuary, overnight Cheetah Lodge
22nd July – Morning Cheetah run and tour, Hartebeesport Elephant Reserve, depart for JNB (overnight Metcourt Laurel)
23rd - 25th July – Windhoek, overnight Safari Court
26th–29th July – Swakopmund, overnight Brigadoon B&B
28th July – day trip to Sandwich Harbour with Turnstone Tours
30th July – Walvis Bay, overnight Villa Weiss
31st July – Desert Camping
1st–2nd August – Hobatere Lodge
3-4th August – Okaukeujo, overnight Waterhole Chalet
5th August – Halali
6th August – Namutoni, overnight Bush chalet
7th August – Return to Windhoek, Overnight Safari Court
8th August - depart for JNB (overnight Metcourt Laurel)
9th August – start of home journey (boo-hoo)
This was the second sector of an 8 week safari that started with 3 weeks in Tanzania, the trip report for this safari with links to photos is available at http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessages.jsp?fid=4&tid=35153489&numresponses=8&start=0&searchText=treepol . The photos were taken with a Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ18 and edited using Picasa software.
Photos from Botswana are available at http://picasaweb.google.com/Treepol/Botswana2008
7th July, Gabarone
DF and I left the Metcourt Laurel for an early flight to Gabarone. Air Bots had chartered an aircraft for this flight and we had a false start when we were returned to the lounge while a ‘small technical detail’ was fixed before take-off. The flight lasted for about 45 minutes and we quickly completed immigration formalities and located the Cresta shuttle to take us to the Lodge. The Cresta Lodge is a pleasant place to stay and only a short taxi ride from downtown Gabarone. DF and I had lunch at the Cresta Presidential Lodge at a balcony table overlooking the lunchtime crowds in the Mall. We noticed a number of fast food outlets that competed with the ladies selling more nutritious meals from temporary food stalls as well as many sweet vendors. After lunch we walked down to the government buildings where the House of Parliament was in session. We were amazed that we could walk right up to the door without being approached by security personnel.
8th – 9th July, Makgadikgadi NP
Next morning we caught the early flight to Maun where we were met by Sallie Masson in addition to a Delta representative. Sallie advised us of 2 changes to our itinerary – firstly that Makgadikgadi Camp was closed and that we had been upgraded to San Camp and secondly that we would be camping at Nxai Pan NP rather than the Boteti River due to poor game viewing at the Boteti. We were soon away on the 45 minute charter flight to San Camp. The weather was hazy which made sightseeing difficult, however the miles and miles of golden grass interspersed with palm trees promised a radically different environment to Southern Tanzania. Konosi collected us from the airstrip and drove us to San Camp for a delicious lunch of fried chicken with corn and blackbean salad. There was time for an afternoon nap and hot water for the shower was delivered at 3 pm. Afternoon tea is served at 4 pm before the afternoon activity which was quad biking on the pans.
This was great fun and very dusty, so we used our kikois to cover our faces! Abby was our guide and DF and I had a quad bike each. The pan was completely flat and we took some photos of DF appearing to stand on my hand. Later, we used our kikois as blindfolds and walked towards a bag that Abby had placed out on the pan. I thought I was walking in a straight line, however I had wandered over to the right of the bag. DF walked in a semi-circle and ended up almost back on the road, so maybe its true that people who are lost do walk in circles. Unfortunately, it was too hazy to see Chapman’s baobab from the pans. It was a unique experience being out on the pan after dark, the world was very quiet (except for the quads) and empty as we made our way back to the vehicle. Returned to camp for a dinner of delicious pea and mint soup, lamb shanks and mash and gooey chocolate pudding.
Meerkats! We found the meerkats about 8.30 in the morning when it was still cool. The colony is habituated but not tame and we weren’t allowed to touch them, but it was OK if they wanted to climb on us . The meerkats are accompanied by Matusi who stays with them all day to until they settle for the night, and then he knows where to find them the next day. I was surprised at how hard the meerkats have to work for their food, foraging and digging for sometimes very small morsels. We saw one with a lizard – what a prize! The meerkats like to use any high place as a sentry post, including their visitors and climbed onto our heads for a good vantage point. The sentries make ‘chirpy’ noises to let the others know that all is well. We had breakfast with the meerkats – homemade muesli, muffins, fruit and yoghurt.
Skipped lunch due to the late breakfast and had a relaxing afternoon before tea at 4 pm and then a trip to the brown hyena den. Sometimes 3 hyena cubs aged about 7 months are visible at their den around dusk and we were lucky We waited for about 25 minutes before the cubs emerged and joined in a game with a piece of wood. An adult brown hyena was seen approaching in the distance and Abby said that if the mother is going to bring them food it is well after dusk, however, she didn’t think it was the mother because the cubs didn’t react, one even went into the den, nor did the adult seem to be bringing food. Abby was worried that our presence had prevented the adult from coming closer and was going to ask a Maun-based researcher who is studying the brown hyenas if regular visitors were stressing the animals.
Next morning Abby took us for a drive and explained about the ecology of the pans as well as spotting the resident game. Lion tracks had been seen around Lion Island but we had neither sight nor sound of the big cats. Other game included a Tawny Eagle that had stashed the remains of a Cape Hare in a hollow tree, zebra, a family of 5 bat-eared foxes that we saw 3 times, kori bustards, ostrich, black-backed jackal, a sand snake and ground squirrels. We searched in vain for a purple roller.
San Camp was an interesting experience, and totally unexpected as it was an upgrade. It was very formal and lacked a central space for guests to relax, with the dining room mostly used at meal times only. The décor seemed to me to be at odds with the environment – 1930s-1940s British colonial style with a dash of the Arabian nights didn’t gel for me with the golden grass and meerkats. I guess the Persian carpets, copper hand-basins and pitchers and the EPNS on the morning tea tray are distinctive features of San Camp and what they do well – it just seemed out of place to me. Otherwise, San Camp is well appointed with bucket showers and flush toilets in each tent and a front verandah with chairs. The game-viewing experiences were unique with the meerkat interaction and seeing the brown hyenas and the private vehicle was a bonus. Abby was knowledgeable about the environment and the wildlife.
10th – 11th July, Nxai Pan NP, Masson Safaris
San Camp had agreed to transfer us to the Scout Hut on the cut road where we were to be met by Massons. This caused considerable confusion as there are 2 huts, however Abby kept driving until we met Nick Langton coming to collect us. Nick is Sallie’s father and some Fodorites have good memories of his safaris. We enjoyed our afternoon with Nick in spite of the pot-holed and dusty roads we traveled to Nxai Pan campsite via Baines baobabs. After a quick stop, we left for Nxai Pan waterhole where Nick broke out the gin – hooray! The waterhole was quiet with a couple of elephants, some impala, many doves and a juvenile Tawny eagle.
Sallie and Nick stayed in camp that night and we all sat around the fire chatting about home, family, books and wildlife. The game drives in Nxai Pan were uneventful with the highlight being a sighting of 2 honey badgers (my first, so this was a red letter day!). The waterhole remained quiet with regular sightings of elephant, giraffe, impala, zebra, doves, sandgrouse, shaft-tailed whydahs, red-headed finches and an African Hawk Eagle. Sadly no cats though. This was disappointing as I remembered Nxai Pan from my first safari in 2004 as being quite rich in game, although maybe that’s because I was a newbie.
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Trip report: Botswana (Makgadikgadi and Mashatu) and Namibia July-August 2008
During July and August 2008 a friend (DF) and I visited Botswana and Namibia. The itinerary was: