Botswana mobile camping & wildlife viewing

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Mar 9th, 2006, 10:04 AM
  #1
laurar
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Botswana mobile camping & wildlife viewing

This forum is always so full of wonderful ideas and input! My husband and I are both professional wildlife biologists and avid wildlife photographers, so you can imagine that we are pretty intense on safaris, and like to spend a great deal of time sitting and viewing wildlife, waiting for that perfect photo opportunity. We have been to the Serengeti 3 times, and just adore that park ecosystem...it is quite difficult to tear ourselves away. We've also been spoiled, as we've had fabulous lion, leopard, and cheetah viewing in the Serengeti. However, we are interested in trying a new area, and are looking into Botswana. Of course, Botswana is over our price range for the lodges/permanent camps. So, we were looking into a private mobile camping safari (a private guide is essential for us because few others would be as patient as we are, and really want to sit and watch). We have been in contact with Masson safaris, and they have recommended the following itineraries (one focusing on the Kalahari desert areas, and one focusing on Chobe Moremi:

Itinerary 1
Desert and Delta.
Day 1.
Fly into Maun and drive into the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Here we will camp in a private campsite in Deception Valley.
Day 2 and 3.
Game drives from Camp. Camp the same.
Day 4.
Drive through the Reserve to Tau Pan or Piper's Pan and camp here in a private campsite.
Day 5 and 6.
Game drives from Camp. Camp the same.
Day 7.
Drive out through the Reserve and camp near the Boteti River at Kumaga Camp.
Day 8.
Drive across the Magadigadi Game Reserve and on to Nxai Pan National Park.
Here we will camp in a private campsite.
Day 9 and 10.
Game drives from Camp, with a visit to Baines' Baobabs.
Day 11.
Drive through Maun and onto Moremi Game Reserve. Here we will camp near the Okavango Delta.
Day 12, 13,14 and 15.
Spend exploring this wonderland. We can stay in one camp and drive out from it or we can choose to camp on the West side of the Reserve and the East side.
Day 16.
Drive into Maun to fly out.

Itineraray 2
Delta to the Chobe River:

Day 1.
Fly into Maun and drive into Moremi Game Reserve. Here we will camp near the Okavango Delta.
Day 2,3 and 4.
Game drives from camp. Camp the same.
Day 5.
Drive through Moremi, across Khwai bridge and camp in a private concession area near the Khwai River.
Day 6, 7 and 8.
Game drives from camp and here we will be able to do night drives as well as we are camping outside the Reserve.
Day 9.
Drive into Chobe National Park and camp near the Savuti Channel.
Day 10 and 11.
Game drives from camp. Camp the same.
Day 12.
Drive through the National Park, some traditional villages, the forest reserve and onto the Chobe River. Camp near the River.
Day 13, 14 and 15.
Game drives from camp. Camp the same.
Day 16.
Drive into Kasane to fly out or to transfer by road to Livingstone in Zambia or Vic Falls in Zimbabwe.

These both look interesting to us. However, I have read mixed reports on the wildlife viewing in Botswana. Some reports are glowing. Others refer to more skittish animals (due to hunting in some adjacent areas), and a lack of the cats (particularly leopards and cheetahs -- of course, Mombo has cats, but we can't afford that!). It also seems that a mobile camping safari does not allow you to get to some of the more remote areas where wildlife viewing may be better. So, on a mobile camping safari, I am most interested in input on the quality of wildlife viewing (particularly cats) -- and if these itineraries put us in quality wildlife viewing areas.

Thanks for any input.

Laura.


 
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Mar 9th, 2006, 01:05 PM
  #2
johan_belgium
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Laura,

If you are interested in cats and you are not going to the private reserves, I would say try to spend as much time as possible in the Moremi national park (Khwai river section) - near North gate.

Also when in Moremi national Park try to camp near third bridge for let's say 2 days and take a boat trip to Godikwe lagoon.

I've been there several times and I've never been disappointed when it comes to cats.

Also a very nice area to visit is Savuti (renowned for big lion prides and fabulous elephant viewing).

Most of the predators I've seen were not skittish at all.

Try to go in September I would say.

I wouldn't recommend to drive around all the time unless you want to see as much of the country as you can. But for photography it's better of course to stay at some good spots.

Otherwise, Kwando safaris offer their camps (Lebala/Lagoon/Kwara) at a good rate from December to March. I was there last December and of course the game wasn't that abundant like in the dry season but I made some really great pictures and I saw all the cats and the wild dogs. And if you are interested in birds, it's a great time to go. And like you would know it's not about quantity but quality.

Greetings,

Johan
 
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Mar 9th, 2006, 01:29 PM
  #3
laurar
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Thanks, Johan...those comments give us some things to think about. Since this will be our first Botswana trip, we were thinking a dry season safari would be best -- we are interested in the huge elephant herds. I will pass along some of these thoughts to our operator. By the way, have you been to the Kalahari?
 
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Mar 9th, 2006, 02:04 PM
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Hello Laura,

I've never found that the wildlife in Botswana skittish, and have enjoyed excellent cat viewing.

One way to gain more access to the most pristine private areas is to book a mobile trip through Wildereness Safaris. They offer some good value mobile itineraries as well as their lodge-based itineraries, and you'll spend quite a bit of time on their private land. Their camps represent the largest concentration of private land in Botswana, so this is a huge advantage.

http://www.wilderness-safaris.com

I'm not sure how booking a private guide would work on one of these trips, but it's worth enquiring.

Cheers,
Julian
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Mar 9th, 2006, 02:18 PM
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I like Itinerary #2 for more wildlife and cats. I have not seen comments about wildlife being skittish in Botswana. That has not been my experience. Maybe it was in reference to a new camp opening in a former hunting area.

As to the quality of game viewing on a mobile--On the one Wilderness mobile safari I did in Botswana, the game viewing was wonderful. The advantage of the permenant camps is that they can better keep track of where the animals have been. Also there is the habituation factor of animals being exposed to vehicles frequently. But the mobile trips traverse the same areas frequently.
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Mar 9th, 2006, 02:43 PM
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Johan Gives some good suggestions. I have seen lion best at 3rd Bridge. Right from that campsite at evening many times. Then Xakanaca vicinity in Moremi. Had a kill between my vehicle and the next campsite at Xakanaca. At Savute I would be upset without a good lion sighting.Ellies you will see here for sure near the waterholes, if not in your camp. Elephant in Moremi move with the seasons. One banner trip I didn't see a one the long route thru Moremi till leaving the park on the way to Savute. Then literally 1000's along a lagoon, driving within 15-20 feet at times to manuver past the herdson the way to Savute.
Usually the operators use the Hatab campsites(hope the name is correct). These are reserved exclusive for safari operators and one group at a time. Excellent campsites. Caught up with a friend-guide- in their camp. While we talked, a pack of wild dog chased a baby antelope around the camp. Amazing as they ignored us, the antelope tried to hide among us and the dogs worked their way thru, sometimes within inches of a few people till the the antelope bolted.

Ask them to send a map of where they plan on camping at.See if their camps are near the above mentioned. Some places are not great. Near South Gate is a waste of time IMHO.

Unfortunately you cannot walk in the parks. Only like the community area-private concession just outside North Gate(Kwai River)or like Mankwe. Same goes for night drives.

Itinerary one involves alot of driving. When you get in the parks- you might be averaging at best 35km. Too fast to enjoy the wildlife.Game is much more sparse south and East of Maun. Note-away from the okavango and wide spread h2o sources. Although interesting and different ecosystems, as biologists, it may not be what you are looking for.

I'm a fan of Zambia and Zimbabwe because of the opportunity to walk in the parks. And both have opportunities to game drive and at Mana Pools/LZNP you can do canoe/walk/game drive combos. I would think a wildlife biologists dream. Many are doing lion and wild dog research in the parks that can be visited in conjunction with safaris.

Look at Natureway Safaris or African Bush Camps as a start if that interests you at all.
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Mar 9th, 2006, 04:35 PM
  #7
santharamhari
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Hi! IF you are looking for cats, definitely go during the dry season......if you are going during the rains, stick to the Moremi/delta areas.....in the Linyanti/kwando/savute areas, the game disperses deep into the mopane woodlands after the rains begin..
 
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Mar 9th, 2006, 05:26 PM
  #8
laurar
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Thanks so far for all of your responses -- they are rally helping us to plan this trip. Sounds like the second itinerary is really our better option, at least for our first trip. The comments on best campsites have been very helpful (and I am pleased that Masson safaris really seems to be putting us in most of the best locations -- I will query them some on the North Gate vs. South Gate). Any other input will of course be equally appreciated. And, I will investigate Wilderness Safaris mobile camping a little further -- though we definitely like the idea of a fully private safari with Massons.
 
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Mar 9th, 2006, 06:18 PM
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Hello laurar

We've already booked to go with Masson this August on essentially the second itinerary. I was looking for something in the moderate price range too.

Two other posts here have covered essentially the same route, one with Masson and one with Gametrails. They both have links to photos of their trips which give a sense of what you might see. These helped me make my decision.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34684546

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=34701244

Good luck,
Pete
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Mar 9th, 2006, 09:33 PM
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Laura,

As strange as it sounds I've never been to the Kalahari.

Probably I'll go next year in combination with the delta.

But I have been many times in the delta on all kind of trips (mobile camping, staying in the private concessions, hiring a private vehicle).

I'll go at least twice a year to Botswana.

Greetings,

Johan
 
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Mar 10th, 2006, 08:43 AM
  #11
laurar
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How about cheetahs and leopards -- do folks see those often in the areas where we'd be on a mobile safari? Got very spoiled with those species in the seregeti.
Laura.
 
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Mar 10th, 2006, 09:12 AM
  #12
johan_belgium
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Laura,

The Khwai section of Moremi national Park (near north gate) is very good for leopard sightings.

On mobile trips in Botswana I've only seen cheetah in Savuti (but on several occasions).

Greetings,

Johan
 
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Mar 10th, 2006, 03:42 PM
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Hi Laura,

I did a mobile camping last Sept/Oct> Moremi was just great, but Khwai was my favorite in Bots. Moremi (10 minutes off the plane) we located a leopard, spent 4 hours with him. Khwai we had numerous lion sightings, including a group of 12 lionesses with 2 sets of (4each) cubs. The lionesses stalked a group of about 400 water buffalo until it was so dark we just couldnt see anything at all- so we headed back to camp. The 2 big males in the area were frequent sightings. The best part was the walking (and night drives), getting close to eles, and tracking lions. I would chose an itinerary that allowed the walking and night drives- they were spectacular!!
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Mar 10th, 2006, 06:27 PM
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laurar
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Hi Suzic:

Who did you travel with. Also, were you in areas where you were allowed to drive off road -- if so, where. I'm a little concerned that the mobile camping might be too restrictive by not getting into the private concessions where one can get off-road.
Thanks.
Laura.
 
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Mar 10th, 2006, 06:49 PM
  #15
santharamhari
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Laura,

Yes, i think with the mobile, you may be a bit restricted in terms of off-road driving......but let it not deter you, it is meant to be spectacular.....

I did read your posts regarding the Kalahari area. That trip is best done during the rains. I know quite a few ppl who have done a mobile in Jan/Feb in the Kalahari and they did talk of spectacular cheetah sightings. Also, dogs were found also.

If you go into the savute area, in August you have a fair chance of cheetahs.
 
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Mar 11th, 2006, 07:54 AM
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laurar
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Thanks -- I'd also like to hear again from Johan since you seem to have done a lot of trips to Botswana. Did you feel at all restricted by the inability to drive off-roads in a lot of areas on mobile safaris?

Laura.
 
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Mar 11th, 2006, 08:08 AM
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Laurar,

I went with Africa Adventure Co. We did go offraod in Khwai, where the restrictions that are enforced in Moremi. I am planning on doing the same trip again in May 07- to see the variations in the seasons. The trip I went on also took us to Matusadona for tracking the black rhino, and then to Mana pools for canoeing. (We also spent 2 nights in Vic Falls. It was a well rounded, well thought out trip- in my opinion!! I am told that I could have done the trip less expensively, but the guiding was wonderful, and I knew that if there were any problems, that I wouldnot have had to worry or solve them!! (We went right after the airline strikes, and more were threatened) I will travel with AAC again! Suzi
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Mar 11th, 2006, 08:11 AM
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Suzic, what ground operator did AAC use?
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Mar 11th, 2006, 08:27 AM
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Laura,

Sometimes it was a real disadvantage not to be able to go off-road. I experienced it on several occassions especially with cats, mainly cheetahs and leopards.

Although gameviewing was still excellent, my pictures could have been much better if off-road driving was allowed.

I will do such trips again in the future because I love these areas but right now I mostly go to the private concessions and it makes a whole lot of difference especially when you have a private vehicle at your disposal.

Greetings,

Johan
 
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Mar 11th, 2006, 08:29 AM
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In Bots, they used Capture Africa, and Bushlife in Zim!
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