14th January, a rainy Ingwelala. Bags are packed and we’re ready to go. Up tomorrow morning, crack of dawn, Kalahari here we come! En route we’ll be stopping at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary in Botswana for a couple of nights.
Had to make last minute changes to bookings. We’re now staying at Deception Pan from Jan 18th for 3 nights, 3 nights at Phokoje Pan and 2 nights at Kori Pan – all in the Central Kalahari.
It’s serious bush camping, totally self sufficient, wild Africa – no facilities whatsoever (including toilets!) and plenty of Lions around the campsites 🙂 We have 150 litres of water for 9 days and between long range fuel tanks and spare Diesel we will have 160 lites of Diesel. Emma’s cooked up a storm; no chance of starvation!
Not sure what’s awaiting us but have invested in recovery gear – sand tracks, snorkel, high lift jack etc. just in case.
After Central Kalahari we’ll probably be in dire need of a hot shower and cold beer so plan heading for Drifters on the Boteti River. From there we will take a couple of days out in the Okavango. After that it’ll be Maun where we’ll decide on the final leg of the journey. All down to weather conditions but hopefully we’ll get to Khwai River and Moremi Reserve.
You know what they say – you make plans and God laughs at you!
DATE: 16th Jan 2013
11 hours driving in pouring rain from Ingwelala to Khama Rhino Sanctuary. The Border post was a breeze, we gave away one of Emma’s home pasties and were treated like Royalty!
There were no chalets available so we stayed in the Dorm!
Today (16th Jan) it tippled down all day. We saw Rhino, Eland, Springbok, Red Hartebeest, Wildebeest, Warthog, Jackal, Impala. We came across a female Springbok badly injured. She had lost her horns (presumably in a fight, although females don’t rut!) was bleeding and looking very sorry for herself. The attitude of the herd towards her was quite remarkable. She definitely seemed persona non grata (I have tried to capture this in a photo).
Tomorrow is an early rise. We are planning entering the Kalahari around midday and hope to arrive at Deception Pan around mid afternoon. We don’t yet know how the rain has affected the roads in the park and hoping for the best. At time of writing (9pm 16th Jan) the rain has stopped – let’s pray for some sun to dry things up!
17th Jan 2013
We left Khama in the pouring rain and it became torrential all the way to Mopipi. At this stage we were starting to worry about the feasibility of making it through to the Kalahari without getting stuck. At one point Emma was emphatic “we’re not going to make it and it’d be crazy to attempt it – we’d spend forever digging ourselves out of the mud!”. I had to agree but as we approached Rakops the weather started to clear. I enquired at a local shop who told me the Parks people had used the road that day and it was OK. So off we went.
We arrived at Matswere gate and were greeted by enthusiastic and very cheerful staff. We arrived at Deception Campsite, swiftly set up camp and went out on our first game drive. there was plenty of Game around Deception Valley – herds of Gemsbok, Springbok and Wildebeest. There are dozens of Yellow Billed Kits in the trees and on the ground around Deception, together with Marabou Storks. We managed to find a Cheetah but it was very shy and headed off into the bush. There was Lion spoor close to camp – about 100m away.
That night the rain returned with a vengeance!
18th Jan 2013
The rain was unabated from the previous night. It just hasn’t stopped for breath. We expected thunderstorms (were quite looking forward to that!) but this is a deep depression, very low cloud, and persistent heavy and then light rain. A bit like an English summer! Nevertheless, we went back to Deception Valley this morning for a drive and in the afternoon managed to get a break in the weather to get to Leopard and Sunday Pans. The roads are becoming increasingly muddy by the hour. The Landy has been great and takes in all in her stride, we’ve had a few back end slips but as yet not had to engage in low range. The rain returned so no fireside dinners, we are confined to barracks and relieved we’ve got a two room tent to shelter from the rain. In dire need of a G&T but we decided to have an alcohol free trip – Ba Humbug!
19th Jan 2013
That four letter word again – RAIN!!! Last night it poured down continuously, gimme a break, I thought this was a desert?! No respite at all; even the animals have disappeared from the Valley, presumably getting shelter in the bush? We said Sod It and decided to have lunch in the Deception Valley, out in the open. We just managed a 20 minute crackers and cheese lunch when the heavens opened again. Back to Barracks!
The rains later let up and we had a glorious sunset – different hues of red, orange and yellow across the whole sky. We are convinced the rains are over and tomorrow will be the day of the Current Bun
20th Jan 2013
Well last night the Heavens opened up again and waking from our tent we are greeted with the sight of low grey cloud and drizzle. Nevertheless we went out for drive and came across a natural water hole with the biggest Toads I’ve ever seen. They made noises like cows and spent all their time fighting each other – little bit like Liverpool on a Saturday night!
The day of the Jackal! We must have seen over 20 Jackal on our evening drive. Taking the Deception Valley Loop we were surrounded by pronking Springbok and Gemsbok as the sun set. The sky now clear of cloud and more like the Africa we know. I tried my luck with some backlit shots and have to say am very impressed!
We saw one other vehicle today – that’s 3 in total, two of which were commercial vehicles. This truly is splendid isolation.
21st Jan 2013
Time for our next camp – Phokoje 78 kms from Deception. It’s a beautiful morning, current bun and Mr. Blue Sky! We got on the road around 7.30 am and saw lots of Bat Eared Foxes en route. We also came across loads of Ostrich for the first time. As we entered Phokoje Pan, we had a lovely surprise of the Pan being full of around 30 Giraffe; quite a sight on an open Pan.
We are probably 150 miles from the nearest human being. Love the solitude and isolation – never quite experienced anything like this. Set up camp and went for a drive. My first impression is that we’ve picked a loser here; little game around and no other Pans for miles and miles. How wrong can you be. As night fell and we were sitting around the campfire, we heard Lions either side of us. Sound carries in these parts as it’s so open but they sounded pretty close!
22nd Jan 2013
Up early, 5am. We decided before leaving home not to bring blankets and sleeping bags; what a faux par! The temperature drops dramatically from being in the 40’s in the day to around 15C at night – anyway too cold to sleep with only a sheet. You never stop learning!
We concentrated on Phokoje Pan where we thought we may find the Lions. We went 9kms and no sight of them. On the way back, Emma picked out a Lioness with her bino’s. She then located another three Lions, two females and a Black Maned Male. He was mating with two of the three Lioness’s – respect! We stayed with them for nearly two hours as they surveyed their territory and hopefully their next meal. Needless to say, we got some great shots of them with the nearest possible person to us >100 miles away!
That afternoon there was a thunderstorm around 3pm. After that we went in search of the Lions. There they were on the Pan in the same place. Initially the mating pair but later they were joined by the other two Lioness’. Just before sunset a fourth Lioness showed up with a cub in tow! The cub was hilarious and was up to all sorts of antics. There was second, wilder storm just before sunset and I managed to get some great pics of the wet Lions and the backdrop of a blackened sky accompanied by a Rainbow.
23rd Jan 2013
Headed out to San Pan this morning and on the way back, three Cheetahs strolled out in front of us. They went undercover, looking to ambush their next meal.
We have not seen a single vehicle in four days and reckon it’s been at least a week since anyone came by this way.
24th Jan 2013
Time to pack up Camp and head off to our last venue – Kori campsite. We took the route via Tau Pan. Tau is quite a spectacle and from what we’ve seen, the jewel in the Kalahari’s crown. An enormous circular pan, dotted with Acacias around the edge. Filled with Gemsbok, Springbok, Wildebeest it’s a very special place.
After setting up Camp, we went to Leopard Pan and had a lucky sighting of a Caracal.
25th Jan 2013
Our last day in the Kalahari. We spent the day around Deception. Another belter of a day – must be in the 40’s.
26th Jan 2013
Drove to Maun and now staying at Okavango River Lodge. We’ve arranged the next stage of the Safari; four nights at 3rd Bridge, Moremi and then an additional two nights at Savuti. As we’ve been completely out of touch, we didn’t learn about the Kruger floods until this evening. I had a panic attack, dreading we’d been washed away again at Ingwelala. A couple of phone calls confirmed all is OK. The river is flowing just beneath our Boma but no damage -phew, what a relief!
Shopping done, provisions loaded, we’re ready to go first ting in the morning.
27th Jan 2013
Arrived at South Gate, Moremi this morning and headed for 3rd Bridge – our next camp. We needed to make a detour as much of Moremi is flooded! 3rd Bridge is made of wooden poles and was under water but still navigable. We set up camp and took a two hour boat ride into the Okavango Delta with a Dutch couple we met en route. Just as we got back, word was out that there were Wild Dogs 2kms from camp. We found them and followed them as the sun was going down – they were very entertaining. Two of the staff had to hop on the roof of our vehicle as the Dogs were taking a little too much interest in them! We all got out at the staff quarters and were very clsoe to the Dogs on foot, quite an experience.
Lovely camp and we have a nice spot close to the river- facilities are very clean, hot showers and everything well looked after.
28th Jan 2013
Kept awake by an Elephanyt munching the bush right next to us! He was BIG. Emma was asleep and when I undid the zip in the tent she awoke and said sarcastically “are you deliberately trying to wake me up?”…………”No love, just trying to make sure we don’t get trampled to death!”
Then the Lions kicked off and we had a Male Lion in the Camp roaring for Africa …….quite a sphincter test!
29th Jan 2013
Birdlife here is stunning with many species endemic to the region. There is one road we travel that has some really smart Carmine Bee Eaters. They follow the Landy and fly right next to the window (there’s pics of them) and swoop to get the insects we kick up.
30th Jan to 1st Feb
Lots of Game drives around the northen sector. We hear Lions every night but can only find their spoor. Nevertheless, there is plenty of general game, Zebras, Elephant, Wildebeest, Hippos…..lots of! and the odd Croc!
Time to leave 3rd Bridge and make tracks for Savuti on 1st Feb. It’s either a challenging and risky shorter direct route across the Moremi floodplains or a much longer route back to South Gate and head North again. After much consultation, we go for the former and had quite an eventful day!
All is going well until about 10kms from North gate; we encountered marshland and got well and truly stuck in mud up to the level of the doors. It seems others had got stuck there before and had used thick branches to dig themselves out. Those hidden branches were responsible for us stalling in the mud. The Landy wasn’t budging. Emma asks “are you already in Low gear?” …….. “Yep”………….”Oh s***!”. I thought we would have a lengthy stay in this place but fortunately the newly acquired mud mats worked a treat. I dug them in deep beneath the wheels and out she flew. I kissed them!
After passing through North gate, we had a fortuitous meeting with a bunch of Sky Divers on Safari. They helped us through a diversion (which we would never have found). Hey TIA – This Is Africa! We had to ford the Khwai River with water at a height over the bonnet of the Landy. We made it through fine but had water everywhere insdie the cabin.
We eventually arrived, 8 gruelling hours later (for a total of 153 kms!) at Savuti. The Savuti Channel is flowing again (it was dry for over 30 years) and we are camped right next to the Channel.
2nd Feb to 4th Feb
Elephants everywhere. We have seen them in the Channel, having plenty of fun and we have another nightly visitor that attacks a bush, right next to the tent – again!
First thing in the morning, we take a “drive” up Quarry Hill. Respect for the Landy, it’s a 45 degree rock face. Going up was tough but comimg down was something else. Worth it? For sure – what a beautiful view. It was just like Out Of Africa and we could see herds of Elephants on the Plains and heard Lions somewhere in the distance.
We decided to stay an extra night. We heard Lions close by each night but couldn’t locate them in the day. We drove all of Savuti – the Plains, the Pans, the Swamps and the bush. Loads of game – Elephant herds aplenty, Giraffes, huge herds of Zebra and Wildebeest, Hippos, Crocs, jackals, Hyaenas – everything but Cats!
I’d given up on the Lions. Then on our way out on 4th Feb at 08:45am there were two young male Lions right in the middle of the road. We watched them for a while and noticed they were preoccupied with something. The something was a baby Cobra……with a big attitude. The Lions whacked it a few times but it stood it’s ground, flared its little hood and gave as good as he got. We then heard a commotion close by – it was a Lioness chasing a Warthog. The Warthog was squealing but somehow managed to get away with the Lioness giving up the chase.
After that it was the long drive home – 3 days of 8 hours per day. First stop was Island River Lodge in Maun – lovely place. We then stopped in Palapye at Imutela the following night. Made it back to Hoedspruit yesterday. Amen!!