Wednesday 15 April
Felicity’s birthday continued in Botswana. On entering we crossed through a Foot and Mouth checkpoint, where you all have to get out of the vehicle, wipe your feet on a mat soaked in chemicals and drive the vehicle through some dip. The lady asked if we had a fridge and then went round to check its contents. Raising some sandwich ham above her head she asked Felicity if we had any meat, to which Felicity replied no and we were allowed to carry on!
We drove the main road through the National Park to Chobe Safari Lodge, spotting some sable and an ele bull on the way. The lodge and campsite are situated on the edge of the Chobe River and the unusually high water had flooded a few of the camping spots and normally well situated campsite bar. We had sundowner cocktails beside the river before cooking birthday curry at the campsite to the sound of an extremely angry ele creating a load of racket and keeping the guards very busy.
Thursday 16 April
Felicity’s parents and bro caught up with us today, having driven from Windhoek, and after some very excited hellos, we exchanged stories over a couple of beers.
It was Felicity’s second birthday and to celebrate we went out on afternoon river safari, which was excellent and very relaxing. We saw loads of game and it gave a different perspective to the Park. When we got back we had a braai and Felicity opened more (maybe not such surprise) presents.
Friday 17 April
We got up early for a full day safari in Chobe. We mainly drove along the river route, but having 2 4×4s we also had a good explore down some of the smaller, less used tracks. On the way back the bush was absolutely crawling with ele coming down to the river to drink, which everyone, particularly Cherry enjoyed. In fact, she was so excited she would quite regularly screw her eyes up and make a squealing noise! The highlight for her was definitely when a large ele bull stood blocking the road, clearly going nowhere and Bob had to coax it out of the way, so we could continue.
Sunday 19 April
Yesterday we relaxed at the lodge with Cherry while Felicity’s family went off to Victoria Falls for the day. In the evening we pushed the boat out a little and ate at the restaurant. There was some fantastic cultural singing and dancing and almost countless buffet style courses, which we did our best to gradually work our way through.
After sad farewells to Cherry today, we stocked up on supplies and the rest of us headed off to the funky Planet Baobab (with its giant aardvark) close to the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans.
Monday 20 April
The organised excursions to the Salt Pans and nearby National Parks were all very pricey, so we decided to take the risk of driving into the unknown of Ntwetwe Salt Pan on our own, with a surprising confidence that having two vehicles and more worryingly Marc we wouldn’t get lost, or stuck in the wilderness to become one of the few travellers that, according to the guidebook, never make it back!
We drove to Gweta and then as directed south with the added hope that we may find the huge zebra migration that we had been advised was down that way. Basically there are loads of tracks winding their way down to and across the pan and no set route. Fortunately, the GPS came in very handy again, as it had Chapman’s Baobab, at the northern edge of the pan, marked on it. This immense and quite famous baobab was our first stopping point before we started out across the desolate and vast pan itself. The tracks became fewer and fewer as we carried on and the horizon was a blur of mirages. This and the slight concern, having read in the book about the risk of breaking through the pan crust and getting stuck made the drive quite exciting! We stopped again in what we believed was the middle at a sort of petrified dune (slight rise in the flatness) for some brunch.
Feeling adventurous, after brunch we decided to keep going south and then wind our way back up around the western edge of the pan, wildly guessing that would probably be the direction the zebra would have been moving. Taking bearings we gradually made our way back north and found our starting point. En route we also found thousands of zebra poos, but we did fail to find th 10,000s of zebra.
Tuesday 21 April
We found out that we had been hot on the hocks of the zebra yesterday, but that they had actually entered the Makgadikgadi National Park already, so we purchased a permit to visit Nxai Pan in the morning and then drive through Makgadikgadi on the way back.
We did find the herds of thousands of zebra this time spread across the large open expanses of grassland and spent the afternoon just watching them and enjoying the peace over a couple of cold Savannas (ciders).
Thursday 23 April
Yesterday we drove to Maun the entry town for most visitors to the Okavango Delta. We got the power steering pump that Cherry had brought out with her fitted and then camped at the peaceful and friendly riverside campsite of the Old Bridge Backpackers.
Today we were all very excited, as we were flying in to the Delta for a bit of luxury, courtesy of Felicity’s parents. In the morning we decided to get Bob a jet and engine wash before we flew, which proved a bit of a mission. Place number 1 had a 2/3 hour wait, at the second the guy succinctly explained, “Err, you see sir, err, the problem is err, my machine it is fucked!”, and finally finding somewhere that could do it they waved us into the covered parking bay. As we drove cautiously in, pointing at the jerry cans on the roof and the height of the bay, the guy watched them meticulously and waved us on until crunch - we hit the bar and broke the jerry can holder! Tight for time we made a temporary plan, got the car washed for a discounted price and a promise they would fix it when we got back and went to the airport to meet the others.
We arrived on the dot of check-in time and much to the relief of Stuart (F’s dad) who was looking a bit tense. The flight was just us and one other person in a little 6-seater and we watched the channels and amount of water gradually increase as we flew further into the Delta to Pompom; the first of two camps we were staying at.
Pompom, was a pretty little camp on the edge of a large lagoon and with permanent luxury ensuite tented rooms; quite a contrast to the rest of our trip. All food and drinks were included, which we all quickly made the most of and our evening activity was a game drive in our own guide and vehicle.
Friday 24 April
Today’s morning activity was a mokoro (traditional dug-out canoe) trip along the channels. This was a very peaceful way to enjoy the Delta from a different angle and we stopped to look at smaller things like the tiny painted reed frogs.
Felicity’s family were pretty keen to try their hands at poling the mokoros, as they had been punting on the Thames most years in the UK. The guides seemed pretty surprised by their skills and that they didn’t just fall in, as the mokoros are quite had to balance.
After a short siesta - much needed due to all the effort we were putting in to eating, drinking and sitting - we took the mokoros out again in the afternoon; this time poling ourselves and one accompanying guide around the island.
The day ended with another delicious meal and then we sat around the fire, having a drink, as the camp staff entertained us with some dancing and singing. Felicity was dragged up, much to her embarrassment, but put on an excellent, if not fairly crazy, impression of their dancing.
Saturday 25 April
We had a morning drive and then early afternoon had a ten minute flight to Gunn’s Camp, situated deeper into the Delta on the edge of Moremi Reserve. This had a bit more of a rustic and more informal feel to it, which we liked and the main lodge bar and lounge area looked out over a vast expanse of swamp and waterways with 4 large ele bulls in view when we arrived. We also had the entire camp to ourselves for the first night.
After settling in to our rooms we went out on the mokoros along the much deeper channels. We then had a short walk (due to the amount of water here all activities are boat based, or walking). We actually saw quite a bit of general game during the walk, but the highlight was walking into some ele bulls; one of which picked up on us and gave a spirited trumpet and mock charge, sending a couple of hearts racing. We made our way back before sunset and the mokoro munching hippos came out into the main channels.
Sunday 26 April
We started at 6, had breakfast, and then set off on the motor boat to a large sand island in Moremi and a full day in the bush. We had another really enjoyable and much longer morning walk and saw lots of general game, smaller stuff (tracks, signs etc.), herds of ele and came across a recent kill. Although we didn’t actually find the carcass itself we followed the stench to the kill site, which was quite exciting when we knew we were so close.
After the walk we nipped across to another smaller island, shared only by some hippos and a black mamba! and tucked into our picnic lunch. As we lazed/snoozed a herd of eles crossed the river towards us, creating a huge amount of drama and noise as they did so to scare away crocs and anything else from the young with them. The young had to swim through the deeper channel with just their trunks out of the water and as they reached shallower water again the herd picked up speed, kicking up loads of spray, as they passed nearby.
We had a short afternoon walk before making it back to the lodge for sundowners.
Monday 27 April
We had an early flight out of the Delta, as Felicity’s family had a long drive to their next stop. After breakfast we made a quick visit to the new and more luxurious Gunn’s Camp, which was in the process of being built.
Back in Maun we sais our goodbyes at the supermarket and Felicity’s family set off through the Kalahari back to Namibia. We got the jerry can holder fixed and then went back to the backpackers to camp for the night, the crew reunited again.
Tuesday 28 April
We headed up the western side of the Delta today to the Panhandle and stayed at Drotsky’s Camp. On the way we passed through a couple of foot and mouth checkpoints and at the first the lady said we couldn’t take our bacon through with us and she would have to confiscate it and burn it. Instead we quickly pulled over and cooked it up beside the road, so we could take it through.
Wednesday 29 April
We went to Tsodilo Hills today; a group of hills/mountains in the otherwise flat plains, with a lot of cultural and spiritual importance and famous for the San rock art there. We relaxed there until late afternoon when we went for a guided walking trail to see some of the rock art and climb up on to one of the hills. The guide was pretty unenthusiastic about the whole thing, but we enjoyed the walk.
In the evening we set up camp at the foot of the hills and listened to a school group singing nearby after it got dark. This created quite a mystical feeling to the place, as we sat, with noone else around, the mountains lit by the moon and they seemed to sing back. This was made even stranger, as the timing of the echo did not seem to be right and the voices from the school were female and those that sang back from the hills sounded male.
Saturday 2 May
From the Panhandle we drove back through the Caprivi Strip and Chobe in Botswana to Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, Bob was broken into and the camera bag with Marc’s camera, lenses and the video camera were stolen at the border crossing from Bots to Namibia. Luckily we had just downloaded the photos, but we lost most of the video from the trip.