Botswana 2023

Khutse GR, Tuli Block, Khama Rhino Sanctuary, Reunion with old friends

Lobatse, reunion with old friends

The flight with Ethiopian Airways was better than with Lufthansa. The transfer time in Addis Ababa was short (45 minutes) due to the delayed departure from Frankfurt, but sufficient.

Gerhard was already waiting for us at the destination airport in Gaborone. There was one curiosity. Before we left the arrivals area, all our luggage was x-rayed again. Why?

After a 45-minute drive we reach Lobatse. The traffic in Gaborone has once again increased. The city is constantly growing in all directions. In Lobatse, on the other hand, not much has changed. It feels like the only new thing is Gerhard's beer garden, which we visit immediately in the evening. A private tutoring school has set up shop in some of the buildings of Gerhard's former company WSE. The business model seems to be flourishing, as we often hear complaints about the deteriorating quality of the public school system.

Stopovers in Gaborone

After a long break, we once again visit Mokolodi, about 10 kilometres south of Gaborone. At 3,000 hectares, this rather small conservation area is also an important centre for endangered, injured and rare animals in the country. A special task is to familiarise children with the natural wildlife in Botswana. This is realised with numerous projects and its own accommodation for school groups with 80 beds. Teaching and learning naturally takes place outdoors. Our destination this time was not the animals, but the restaurant, which we have already experienced from "closed" to "recommended". At the moment, I would even classify it as "highly recommended".

Gaborone now offers a wide range of B&B accommodation in all price categories. Outside the high season, you can also find accommodation without pre-booking. We opted for the "Green Lagoon Guest House", with friendly staff and a sumptuous breakfast. The accommodation is quite central, so we were able to walk to the newly opened Mozambik restaurant in the evening. We know the owner of the franchising chain. Brett Michelin, whom we knew from a visit to his "headquarters" in Mozambik-Ballito. Not everything was running smoothly yet. We couldn't be served the wine we had chosen. It was stored in a locked refrigerator. The key is kept by the manager, who was not present at the time.

Khutse Game Reserve

The 2,500 square kilometre reserve is located about 240 km from Gaborone and was established on tribal land in 1971, bordering the much larger Central Kalahari Game Reserve to the north. The picturesque pans in particular - Motailane, Moreswa and Molose Pans - where wildlife congregates, especially after good rains, offer excellent opportunities for game viewing. Although lions, hyenas and leopards are also resident, we were unable to see them during our two-day stay. 

There are 25 individual campsites in the reserve, spread across five pans. All campsites in Khutse are privately managed by Big Foot Tours and must be booked through them, which didn't prove to be very easy. Early bookings went unanswered, so we had to visit the office in Gaborone in person. It is quite hidden on the 2nd floor of a car dealership and it took us some time to find it and book and pay for our 2 nights. It then turned out that their confirmation emails were going nowhere. Eventually we managed via WhatsApp and the booking process could be finalised.

Each campsite has an "outhouse toilet" and a bucket shower. You have to bring your own water. We didn't meet any other visitors during our stay. We were able to buy petrol and food in Lethlakeng, 100 km away.

The pitches are not fenced in, so a certain amount of caution is required, especially at night.

After seeing only a few animals on the first day, the second day was all the more successful. We were particularly impressed by the large herd of elephants at the waterhole in the Pan.

Serowe, rhinos once again

The main reason for the detour to Serowe was to visit the Maphanyane family. Modise and Vicky have been friends for many years (since 1980). After retiring from working life, they have rented out their house in Gaborone and built themselves a retirement home in Serowe. On our last visit to Serowe, the house was still under construction and now we want to see what has become of it. On the way to Serowe, we stop just before Mahalapye at the Tropic of Capricorn. In the past, only a sign pointed to the turning circle. The sign has now been replaced by an eye-catching installation.

Of course, we take the opportunity to visit the Khama Rhino Sanctuary again. We make the short excursion (25 km) together with Vicky and Modise.

The Khama Rhino Sanctuary is a community wildlife project. It was established in 1992 to save the disappearing rhino population and restore historical wildlife populations. It covers an area of 8585 hectares in the Kalahari Sandveld region and is home to black and white rhino, 30 other mammal species and 230 bird species.

Observing the animals is quite easy, the terrain is rather flat and 2 pans facilitate the observation of zebras, giraffes, antelopes, wildebeests and warthogs. Unfortunately, we were unable to see leopards and hyenas this time either.

The fact that the Khama Rhino Sanctuary is making a major contribution to rhino conservation alone makes it one of our sustainability favourites. It is also a community project that benefits the local population in an exemplary manner.

Moremi Gorge, a worthwhile detour

The Goo Moremi Gorge is a nature reserve about 67 kilometres east of the town of Palapye. We had read about it more by chance and did not regret the little detour.

The gorge is surrounded by the Tswapong Hills and has perennial springs that form a beautiful waterfall surrounded by hills and cliffs.

There are various hikes that can be undertaken. The most common hike starts at a car park, goes along a sandy path and ends at a colony of Cape vultures in a cliff face and in front of several waterfalls. A guided tour is compulsory. We were part of a group of weekenders, had good conversations and a lot of fun.

Cape vultures are unique in their way of life and appearance. They are the largest flying birds in the world and their wingspan can be up to 3.5 metres. They are also known for their slow and sluggish flight.  They use the steep cliffs of the gorge as breeding grounds. 

The relatively new Goo Moremi Lodge offers five-star chalets and camping pitches. The adjoining restaurant offered an appealing selection and friendly service.

Tuli Block, a first visit

The Tuli Block is a narrow strip in the easternmost part of Botswana along the Limpopo River, which runs through the border triangle of Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The landscape is extremely varied with open savannahs, forests, wetlands, grassy plains and sometimes bizarre-looking sandstone cliffs. Much of the land was once farmland and is still privately owned, but is now developed as a private game reserve for tourism. This area within the Tuli Block comprises several private reserves or concessions.

We had decided in favour of the Limpopo River Lodge. The former farm stretches 3 km along the river and covers an area of 25 km, i.e. an area of 75 km2.

This time we opted for an all-inclusive package, with full board and 2 game drives per day. Apparently there are leopards in the area, which we wanted to see with the professional help of a trained ranger. Despite extended game drives of 3-4 hours each and at all times of the day, including at night, we were again denied a leopard sighting.

Nevertheless, we had a very relaxed and informative time there. Our ranger (I can't remember his name) told us a lot about the flora and fauna and taught us how to read tracks. (We saw leopard tracks!)

The lodge consists of comfortable chalets with bathrooms. In addition to the ranger, we were looked after by his sister, who acted as chef, and a woman who was responsible for room service. A "caretaker" was responsible for keeping the outdoor facilities clean and tending the campfire in the evenings. All-round care!

New highlights around Gaborone

To round things off, we explored the area from Lobatse up to Gaborone. Sabine really wanted to see the Gaborone Dam, the drinking water reservoir for the city. My last visit there was decades ago and I was surprised at how the infrastructure had changed. In addition to an extensive residential area with very large houses, restaurants and excursion destinations for the capital's population have also been built. We were particularly impressed by the development, right on the dam. We took an electric boat out into the Notwane River, where we were able to observe a very diverse selection of birds as well as impressive crocodiles.

The owner of the restaurant, Michael C. Brook, was employed as an engineer at DeBeers for decades. He was directly involved in the construction of almost all the diamond mines in Botswana and had some very interesting stories to tell. He is also the author of books about diamonds and historical events in Botswana. He was officially commissioned by the government to write a chronicle for the 50th anniversary of the state.