Self-drive: Nxai Pan, Moremi, Chobe - August 2008

Old Oct 31st, 2008, 07:30 AM
  #41  
sniktawk
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Can you tell us where the caged animals were?
Yes Maun is a madhouse.
Did you ever find out why your ATM card did not work?
 
Old Oct 31st, 2008, 07:52 AM
  #42  
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The caged cheetahs and wild dogs were right along the gravel road to Tautona Lodge, just before the lodge, as you are approaching from Ghanzi.

Our bank has suggested that our cards weren't working because they have 4 digit pin numbers, which are fine for the ATMs in SA and Namibia but not Botswana, where the ATMs like 3 digit pins. Can anyone verify this? There was nothing wrong with the cards, because if we went into a Botswana bank, the tellers could use them with no diffculty - and they have worked fine since we returned home. Robin
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Old Oct 31st, 2008, 08:15 AM
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Great report so far--as I've said before, I'm really enjoying these self-drive reports and am determined to do one in the near future. I was actually thinking of self-driving South Luangwa, but now I'm leaning toward Botswana after seeing these reports.

robin, I'm curious to hear about your interactions with the private guides.

Thank you as well to those of you who provided links for finding out more about self-driving.
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Old Oct 31st, 2008, 08:37 AM
  #44  
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Canadian Robin,

We used cards from UK and French Bank accounts each of which have 4 number chips these worked Ok, as did our SA cards which have 5 digit pins. Strange things banks!

 
Old Oct 31st, 2008, 09:51 AM
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Our US, 4-digit pin cards worked in both SA and Botswana, including that same Barclay's you tried. It's from the Plus network.

There are many farmers around Ghanzi that have captive cheetahs, as I found out while volunteering with Cheetah Conservation Botswana. Unfortunately many are used in/sold to canned hunt operations. However wild dogs are much rarer, perhaps this was a legitimate rehab/release center.

Nancy
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Old Oct 31st, 2008, 09:59 AM
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Sniktawk
Hmm - guess that throws that idea (the 4 digit pins being the problem) out the window - I'll have to talk to the bank again - we need to resolve the problem before we head into East Africa, in case we have problems there. Thanks for the info!

Gritty
Problems with the guides will come up as soon as we head into Moremi (in the report, I mean), but in a nutshell - we found them extremely unfriendly - they would stop and talk amongst themselves but drive right past us (self-drivers) - even if we stopped and opened our window they would wave but carry on. They seemed completely unwilling to share sightings with us - perhaps understandably, because I guess we could be viewed as competition. This attitiude was never more apparent than when we found a camera (lying on the road in Moremi) belonging to an Australian, who was in a Karibou Safaris verhicle. Once we located the vehicle and returned the camera, we suddenly became the guides' (there were 3 Karibou vehicles in the area) best friends - they even led us to a pride of lions. These were the same guides that had been snubbing us for the last two days. It was disappointing that it took our finding the camera for them to be even a tad friendly. I have read that many ill-prepared self-drivers get into trouble in the parks, and look to the safari companies and private lodges to rescue/aid them - perhaps this is the reason for their attitude. Robin
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Old Oct 31st, 2008, 10:10 AM
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Unfortunatley, we didn't see the cheetah and wild dogs until we left the lodge, otherwise we would have inquired about them. I hope it is a legitimate rehab/release centre.

Thanks for the bank card info - clearly, we are going to have to look into this problem further. Robin
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Old Oct 31st, 2008, 08:38 PM
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I opened a Capital One money market account specifically for that trip. Their ATM card is the one that worked, and they charge no international ATM fees OR currency conversion fees. Don't know if Canadians are eligible, check their web site.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 08:05 AM
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Will do! Thanks! Robin
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 08:07 AM
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We were no sooner out of the car when we were greeted by Albert Michau, the Safari Drive representative in Botswana. If Albert was surprised that we had managed to arrive so close to the appointed hour, he didn’t say so. I was impressed with his punctuality, as we have experienced “Africa time” on many occasions. Albert suggested that we relocate both vehicles behind the Avis building to an area that was fenced and secure, where we could have the vehicle briefing and transfer our belongings from the Yaris to the Land Rover. That done, Albert began by reviewing a notebook that he had handed to us. It contained our day-to-day itinerary, driving guidelines with detailed route information, the vehicle registration, a letter of permission from Safari Drive for us to drive the vehicle, emergency contact numbers for Safari Drive in Botswana and our permit to enter the national parks and reserves, which included our campsite reservations. Albert also reviewed with us the “Southern Africa Trip Book” that Safari Drive had sent to us several months earlier. It contained all of the general information that we needed to self-drive through Botswana and covered topics such as clearing customs and crossing borders, safety and security, the vehicle and all of its equipment from the tire inflator to the Engel fridge, off-road driving tips, what to do with rubbish when in the parks, tips for cooking over an open fire, shopping, fuel, money, national park fees and rules, and how to use the satellite phone should we get into trouble. Robert and I had reviewed this book thoroughly before leaving Calgary and had a list of questions for Albert, which he answered patiently.

Paperwork reviewed and questions answered, we next moved on to the vehicle. It was a 2003 four-door, forest green Land Rover Defender, which looked enormous and reassuringly sturdy to me. While Robert and I had been deep in conversation with Albert, his colleague, Letsapo or “Lets” had set up the roof top tent and neatly spread out on a tarpaulin most of the vehicle’s contents. So intent were Robert and I on reviewing the written material with Albert and ensuring that we were well prepared for our adventure, that we hadn’t even noticed this flurry of activity behind us. My eyes were immediately drawn to the roof top tent, and Robert and I took turns climbing up the ladder and peering inside. It looked very cozy and surprisingly roomy, and I couldn’t wait to spend a night in it. The next forty-five minutes was spent reviewing all of the vehicle equipment with Albert and Lets, from the gears, fuel tanks, high lift jack and sand ladders to the satellite phone, lanterns, dishes, braai equipment and chargers for the lights and phone. Everything had its place in the vehicle and Lets neatly reloaded the vehicle as he and Albert reviewed each item. Were it not for Albert’s thoroughness, I might have started to feel a bit panicky at this point, wondering if we would remember all of the information and details. I couldn’t imagine that we lacked a single item. Our “fully-equipped” Land Rover certainly had everything. When the time came for Lets to close up the tent, I was surprised at how quickly and easily it was accomplished. After answering a few more questions, Albert handed us the keys to the Land Rover and he and Lets wished us a safe and pleasant trip. We were on our own!

After Albert and Lets departed, it took a few moments for it to sink in that the moment that Robert and I had been waiting for since we had begun planning the trip more than year earlier had finally arrived. It was an exciting moment. Hungry, hot, and anxious to get our shopping for perishables over with before it was too late, we quickly transferred our belongings from the Yaris to the Land Rover. We would organize and find a place for everything later that evening. After completing the paper work with Avis and returning the Yaris, we climbed into the Land Rover and set off for Hilary’s Coffee Shop, an excellent place to eat lunch in Maun. Robert took the wheel and we drove literally around the corner to our lunch spot. Struggling in the heat, we were delighted to find fresh lemonade on the menu. We quickly downed a tumbler full each and ordered two more. We sat on Hilary’s lovely shady patio and reviewed our shopping list and maps. Robert enjoyed a roast beef sandwich and salad, while I savoured a salad medley. In addition to lunch, we purchased a loaf of Hilary’s whole-wheat bread and some bran muffins to take with us. From Hilary’s, we headed back into town and south on Tsheko Tsheko Road to the Shoprite grocery store. I was impressed with how quickly Robert had mastered the Land Rover. He had no trouble maneuvering the large vehicle into the small and very crowded grocery store parking lot. Although the supply of fruit and vegetables was poor, lacking even onions, we were able to get most of what we needed. The store was very busy, perhaps because it was a Friday afternoon. We loaded our groceries into the Land Rover and headed for Motsentsela Tree Lodge, where we were to spend a night of luxury before heading into the bush.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 08:46 AM
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Hi robin,
I'm getting very inspired from yours and a few other recent self drive reports.

I used to rough camp but no longer. Perhaps, I'll reconsider.
Question;
Were both of you allowed to drive the vehicle? We both like to drive.

Re;
Riley's garage.
I was amazed at the lengthen of time it takes to get gas there. It doesn't sound like there were as many people as when you were there but none the less, it took a good 45 minutes to gas up and for our driver to get his butts.

This, actually ended up being a good thing because it allowed me to get out and talk to some children.

I'm so looking forward to your Moremi adventures.
Did I miss your pictures?
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 09:02 AM
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Robin

Add Ron's Fresh Produce to your list. It is also an excellent butchery. You can call or email ahead of time and they will have the meat ready and vacumn packed in the sizes/weights/servings you want. www.safarisupplies.co.bw
What Ron's doesn't have, then I go over to Shoprite.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 09:24 AM
  #53  
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I'm not certain what we were doing could be called "rough camping" with hot showers every night and the surprisingly roomy and comfy roof top tent - at times we felt quite spoiled! Certainly compared to Motsentsela, it was rough. I would highly recommend this mode of travel - we so enjoyed ourselves that we are already planning our next self-drive through Tanzania and Kenya.

Riley's certainly didn't take 45 minutes - we were in and out in maybe ten minutes. Good grief - you mean we were there when it was quiet? It seemed insanely busy to us!

Yes, we both could and did drive - for a couple of reasons. Driving on the roughest roads was tiring and required concentration, and didn't allow you to enjoy the scenery/game quite as much. So, we switched off. Also, we both wanted to be able to drive the other out in the event of an emergency and in that situation, we would not have wanted to learning how to drive the Land Rover. Safari Drive never even asked if we both would be driving, they just assumed. We were both asked to submit our driving records.

No, you haven't missed our pictures. My poor husband is still labeling - we took 8000 pics over the 6 weeks, about 3800 in Botswana. We will be posting some on Flickr shortly. He's working on it!

Luangwablondes - you had told us about Ron's, but we didn't feel we had time to go there after our visit to Shoprite. We were a bit worried about the drive to Motsentsela. In retrospect, we would have had lots of time and would certainly go there on future trips. Thanks!
Robin
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 09:27 AM
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Hello Robin! I'm loving reading your trip report and I can't wait for the next installment, and thank you so much for your kind words, it's so lovely that writing that blog has proven to be so helpful to you and other travellers who have driven the same tracks since. This year I went trekking with a group in Nepal, a wonderful but very different experience, as my husband and I are sadly nolonger together. One day I'll return to Africa to self-drive and camp, it just seems a daunting prospect as a single female. Keep the posts coming about your trip report, I'm really loving reading them, I want to hear all about Moremi and Ihaha. Thank you for taking the time to do this.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 09:38 AM
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Hi Kathy!
So good to hear from you. I can't tell you how much we enjoyed your blog and how helpful it was. It saved us many times - including when we arrived at the Motsentsela Gate. Thanks to you, we had known enough to ask Albert for the combination to the lock, which had not been provided in our information! You will laugh at our experience with the satelite phone, however - coming up soon. Happy reading! I am sure it will bring back memories. I am sorry to learn about you and Ed. Robin
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 09:56 AM
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Thanks for your reply, robin.
I should have been clearer when I referred to my old rough camping days.

There was no vehicle, toilet or shower.
We'd backpack deep into the woods with whatever we could carry on our backs.

As various areas got more and more populated/discovered or friends insisted on bringing the kitchen sink, we stopped.

That and the fact that mice ate our gear, LOL.

I no longer have the desire to camp for the sake of camping.

I would, however, if I could view wildlife, save money, do some type of activity i.e. kayaking, biking, etc.
or go to remote areas.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 10:01 AM
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Ah yes, that definitely sounds a tad rougher than what we were doing!
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 11:30 AM
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Gosh – missed a couple of days so need to catch up!

Just to add that UK credit/debit cards have a 4 digit pins and we had no problem using them in Maun ATMs.

To go back to Grasslands – I looked this place up when PB mentioned it in one of his reports but they don’t mention camping on their websites – has anyone camped there recently?

Your writing is so descriptive, I can ‘see’ Maun better from your description than a photo. Thaks for taking the time to do this - looking forward to the photos too.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 08:00 PM
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Motsentsela Tree Lodge lies about 12km from Maun along the tarred Maun-Nata highway. Safari Drive had warned us that it can be a bit difficult to find, and that it would take us about half hour to drive there from Maun. Armed with our maps and GPS, we set out from Maun. This would be the first time that we used the GPS since taking a course and doing some practicing around Calgary, so we were anxious to see if we could find our way. It was a fascinating and very pretty drive though woodland forest to the lodge, early on taking us through a large village of rondavels and kraals. There were few people about, but those we did see gave us a friendly wave. We were intrigued to note that some of the mud walls of the rondavels had bottles or beer cans neatly incorporated into them. Most of the kraals were empty, which would perhaps explain why there were donkeys, cows, goats and chickens all over the road. The road consisted of a sandy track - several sandy tracks actually, which might explain why guests sometimes have difficulty finding the lodge. Thanks to our GPS and Tracks 4 Africa map of Botswana (www.tracks4africa.com), we had no difficulty finding our way. To my chagrin, Robert made a point of always taking the track that looked the most challenging. He explained that if we were going to have to extract ourselves from deep sand, we might as well learn to do it near civilization in case we required help. Great! Thankfully, we didn’t get stuck and, in fact, the Land Rover sailed easily through even the deepest sand.

We arrived at Motsentsela’s entrance gate around 3:00pm. Thanks to Wilddogs’ travel blog, we had known enough to ask Albert for the combination to the lock, so we had no trouble getting in. The track through the indigenous forest to the main lodge was very pretty and we took our time. Shortly after driving through the gate, we stopped to admire three giraffes that were feeding on acacia trees next to the road. The lodge lies next to the Thamalakane River, on a 200-hectare game farm with gemsboks, giraffes, elands, zebras, ostriches, kudus, springboks, impalas and 400 species of birds. The main lodge was very pretty - a large, open-plan wood and thatch building with doors opening onto a large teak deck that was shaded by two magnificent trees - a birdplum tree, from which the lodge derives its Setswana name, and a leadwood tree.

Tired and hot, we settled into some very comfortable chairs in the shade on the deck and enjoyed a cold glass of fresh juice brought to us by our hostess. We enjoyed the company of a very tame helmeted guineafowl, which sat on the deck railing next to us. It was a noisy spot, with the hysterical giggling of arrow-marked babblers, the frenzied cackling of red-billed francolins, which we added to our bird list, and the piercing “wurk wurk wurk” of the helmeted guineafowl. We had arrived at the lodge at the same time as a couple from Belgium, who had just been picked up at the airport in Maun. We were intrigued to learn from them that Albert would be delivering a Land Rover to them in about an hour and that they were undertaking a very similar journey to us, although somewhat in the reverse order. We chatted excitedly about our itineraries. Robert and I had been assigned to tent #1 and it was lovely. Set in the middle of the forest, well away from the other eight tents, our Meru-style tent was large, and had a teak floor which extended out in front to create a comfortable deck. Inside, there were twin beds with luxurious linens, a ceiling fan, beautiful wooden furniture, and a large bathroom with double sinks and a huge claw-foot bathtub. Through a zippered opening at the back of the tent we discovered an outdoor shower. The flaps of the tent were open and we collapsed onto the beds and admired the sights and sounds around us. It was all we could do to keep our eyes open.

After a brief rest, we reluctantly agreed that it was time to go and organize the contents of the Land Rover. We had left our belongings and the groceries scattered about the vehicle. Out in the parking lot, we spread out the tarpaulin and started to empty the back of the Land Rover. It felt like Christmas as we discovered all sorts of treasures. I concluded that the kitchen was as well equipped as mine at home, with every possible utensil and cooking implement provided. I am certain that Albert and Lets, who were having a vehicle briefing with the Belgium couple nearby, must have been amused by our unpacking and repacking. In order to give us more space in the vehicle, we unloaded some items on Albert that we didn’t need. We had brought dishes, pots and pans and various other pieces of kitchen equipment from Canada, which we had used in the South African National parks. We acquired a 20-litre jerry can for petrol that the Belgium couple felt they didn’t need. We were going to have to carry nine days worth of petrol, so we thought that we might need the extra jerry can.
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Old Nov 1st, 2008, 08:01 PM
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The back of the Land Rover had the most ingenious set up, with a large, 20cm-deep drawer that extended the length and width of the cab. It was designed to hold all of our non-perishable food items. The drawer was divided into sections and we took a bit of time to organize our groceries into some semblance of order. The drawer already contained an amazing food starter kit provided by Safari Drive, which included everything from salt and pepper, herbs and spices, coffee and tea, mayonnaise and ketchup, and peanut and jam to rice, pasta, cereal, tinned vegetables and tuna. We even discovered “sweeties” thoughtfully placed in the armrest between the seats. We weren’t going to starve! Thankfully, a list of the contents of the starter kit had been provided in advance, so we had known what we didn’t need to purchase. The drawer full, we slid it back into place and took stock of what was still sitting on the tarpaulin. Everything else fit neatly stacked on top of the drawer. There was a 40-litre Engen refrigerator, which ran off a second vehicle battery that was tucked under the back seat, and a large cool box. We put our most perishables food items into the Engen fridge, having discovered that it was far more efficient than our 50-litre Canadian thermoelectric cooler that plugged into the cigarette lighter. We used the cool box provided with the vehicle to protect all of our juice and long-life milk from the bumpy roads. Our drinking water occupied a huge Tupperware bin that had carried all of our camping equipment from Canada. We had been warned that the drinking water bottles often break because of the rough roads, and that we should try as much as possible to keep our water somehow contained.

There was a large table, two chairs and a box of dishes that included a tablecloth and wine glasses. There was a large box of pots and pans and a large canvas bag that contained every possible piece of equipment that we would need for a braai. There was also a large box of emergency supplies that held everything from spare belts, fuses and wheel nuts to spare oil, a tire pressure gauge and a winch. We optimistically put that box out of reach at the back of the cab, along with our suitcase of non-camping clothes and souvenirs that we weren’t going to need for the duration of our trip. There were three dish pans, along with tea towels, dishcloths, detergent, paper towel, garbage bags and matches. On the roof, in addition to the tent, we found sandladders, which we would put under the tires if we got stuck, the high lift jack, and a gas bottle containing propane, which we would use when we didn’t wish to braai. After an hour, the Land Rover was neatly packed and organized and we felt ready to go. We couldn’t wait for morning!
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