Northern Botswana, Lobatse, Sun City (2016)

Botswana Highlights: Chobe, Moremi, Savuti, Linyanti, Okavango Delta

The highlight of every Botswana trip are the parks Chobe, Moremi, Savuti, Linyanti and the Okavango Delta. Starting points for tours are Maun and Kasane.


Before we explore the north of the country, we stop in Maun, the tourist boomtown and gateway to the Okavango Delta. For 3 days we pitch our tent at the Old Bridge Backpacker, a very lively accommodation, next to the river with a colorful crowd of all ages and countries of origin. Important: Free WIFI, running water (also warm) and a well-stocked bar.

At the starting point for tours into the Okavango Delta by dugout canoe (mokoro) or safari vehicle there was a lot of activity all morning. Today we will take it easy. After the many driven kilometers we want to take a few walks today.

Yesterday we took a boat trip on the Thamakalane River. The conversations with other travelers relaxed us deeply and prepared us for the next 7 days in the camps Moremi, Savuti and Linyanti. 

Moremi - finally elephant country

We stock up on delicious rump steaks and grilled sausages at the Beef Boys in Maun. The butchery offers a great selection of meat, biltong and delicatessen. Since our refrigerator only works sporadically, we only buy meat for the next three days. Noodles with tomato sauce have to do!
The drive to the Moremi Wildlife Reserve takes only two hours. The first campsite is located directly behind the South Gate and is therefore also called Southgate Camp. We move into site number 8 under a large mopane tree. With already practiced routine table and chairs are set up. The site is located in the middle of a dense mopane forest with campsites pleasantly far apart. It is about 200 m to the sanitary facilities, which should only be covered on foot during the day. This also applies to all other camps (Moremi, Savuti and Linyanti).

The first game drive takes us to the Black Pools. There we experience a real "wow effect".  After almost three weeks of driving through sand and drought, we turn around the last sandy bend and enter a green oasis, populated by zebras, giraffes, antelopes and other animals. One of the waterholes is occupied by hippos, which show only their eyes and ears in the midday heat.

On the way back to the camp a group of elephants blocks our way. With pleasure they tear down trees and do not let themselves be disturbed. After a while we turn back and do without the planned round trip. Too many baby elephants in the group. Elephant mothers can be very sensitive. 

 Eye to eye with the grey giants

Passing the Black Pools we "dig" the 40 km to the next stop, Third Bridge Campsite. We choose the approach via the entrances "First Bridge" and "Second Bridge". These "bridges" would be allowed in the Palatinate Forest at most for pedestrians and are made of logs. To the joy of all offroad-lovers, a pond must also be crossed at the Third Bridge.

During the rapid passage, our front license plate unfortunately fell by the wayside, or rather in the water. The idea to look for it in the water didn't even occur to us while crocodiles were snoozing. The camp operated by the Xomae group surprises us with a small store (drinks, toiletries, chips and firewood) and clean, well-maintained sanitary facilities. We are warned about pesky baboons and pointed out wild animals roaming the camp. Fortunately, the pesky monkeys are busy with other guests and spare us.

We move into Campsite No. 9 right next to the Tented Camp (more expensive, permanently installed "tent houses").

In fact, Third Bridge is the most wildlife-rich camp of the tour so far, even during the day. Elephants, giraffes, hyenas, hippos and leopards can be found here. The hyenas are shy or not so hungry. They show themselves but keep their distance. The elephants walk through the camp day and night. At first you shy away from any elephant, but after a few hours you get used to it. Finally, you can determine the distance to the animals yourself.

At night it looks different. Then the animals graze peacefully around the tents. It was exciting when Klaus opened the tent in the morning and looked into the eye of an elephant. The nightly urge to urinate was suddenly gone! 

To the photos:

2: elephant visits us at the wash house; 3: he is not interested in our car; 5: the Southern Carmin is the biggest Bee-Eater in southern Africa. Africa; 6: the 2nd Bridge is a bit old; 7: the 4th Bridge is new and looks stable; 7a: it takes some courage to cross the 3rd Bridge; 9: finally Sabine managed a snapshot of the Red-billed Hornbill (yellow and gray were more common); 10: once again a visitor at the campsite; 11: he leaves us a gift; 12: the giraffe also likes it with us.

 Xakanaxa Campsite

At this site, ten campsites line up generously along a lagoon surrounded by tall grass. We have pitch no. 5, near the sanitary building. Of the 10 pitches, 7 are occupied, 6 of them with German-speaking guests.

By chance we meet Peter and Inge from Switzerland (Central Kalahari) again. In the meantime they have their third car, despite booking through the higher priced provider "Bushlore". Because of the exchange they had to accept some waiting days. So we are still well served with our "low budget package".

After a joint boat trip through the Okavango Delta, they invite us to a glass of wine, which is drunk in style from glass wine glasses. This is included in the Bushlore package! They entertain us with stories from 40 years of traveling through Africa. Already in 1973 they crossed the Sahara with a VW-combi. We will never be able to top that!

To the photos:

1: African Hoopoe; 2: Woolly necked Stork; 5 and 6: there the monkey is laughing and the baby is gobsmacked; 7 and 8: the Hippo Pool is our favorite place; 9: a tranquil boat ride; 10: elephants need cooling too; 12: the Jesus Bird can walk on water.


The drive to the Savuti region is again a small feat. We leave the Moremi Reserve at the North Gate with Kwai Bridge. At the park entrance to the Savuti Reserve a dedicated young woman informs us about the current road conditions in the park. She recommends driving on the Marsh Road towards the camp. The dryness makes it possible, often this road is very marshy.

The uninviting, barren environment does not excite us at all at first. But already after a few kilometers the first surprise: next to the road a small lion family has looked for a shady place in the midday heat. After that highlight, 40 really hard kilometers follow on hard-packed and washed-out tracks in a desolate environment. I struggle with the slope, suddenly Sabines outcry: "Lions, I think there are lions". "It's probably just a termite mound, take the binoculars". She is right: indeed lions again and Sabine is justifiably proud of her first lion hit.

Camp Savuti itself is located on a river that dries up at this time of year. Before we enter the camp, we get by chance (or inability) on a track that leads directly along the riverbed. Giraffes, wildebeests, kudus and impalas are standing in rows on the river bank, watching us this time. All the campsites, including ours, offer a beautiful panoramic view of the roaming animals. 

Actually we should have stayed here one more day. After the long drive, we had far too little time to relax.

To the photos:

1: Bridge at Northgate leaving Moremi; 2-4: We are more interested in them than the other way around; 5-6: Sabine's lions; 7-9: in the riverbed; 10-11: Campsite; 12: The remains of my T-bone steak;


Despite vehement protests from Sabine, we leave for Goah Gate right after breakfast (6:45 am). She wanted to drive again through the riverbed, but the driver (me) decided otherwise. And this time I was right! Three vehicles (neighbours from the campsite) are ahead of us. Already on the way into the park two of them get stuck in the sand. Both are quickly free again. Shovel and Sandrails help.

At the gate we say goodbye, as we are the only ones driving towards Linyanti. The first 38 kilometers driving is quite easy. Some deep sand passages alternate with hard clay passages and meter-deep holes. There are still 7.3 kilometers to go. Then it happens. We are stuck!

Spades out, Sandrail out, let's go. The situation is really difficult. After an hour of digging and rising frustration, a military truck approaches and also stops. They offer their help, switch to our lane and .... are also stuck!

But the guys don't let it get them down. They deflate, shovel some sand, amuse themselves about our folding spade "it's a bit smaller than my hand...", hook up our car with a tow strap and after another hour both cars are free again. We thank them with a six pack of beers.

Quite exhausted, we then enjoy the views and animal encounters in Linyanti. The forest of dead trees on bare white ground looks spooky. It is teeming with elephants, kudus and other animals. They all gather in the floodplain in the early evening to drink water. It is a poignant image as more than 100 elephants pass by in single file. Groups of hippos lie on the sandbanks and frolic in the water.

At night it gets restless, because elephants, hippos and hyenas obviously have a competition: Who screams the loudest? Wonderful!

Departure towards Kasane at 6:30 am. Sabine pushes, because we have to cope again with the horror route of the previous day. The idea behind it: If we leave first there are still some behind us who can pull us out! Dreaded, done! We get stuck again. After an hour of digging (a fantastic early morning gymnastics!) we free ourselves under our own power!

Conclusion: Arrival and departure a little horror, the (too short) time in Linyanti a dream!

To the photos:

1-2: First the Dutch are stuck, then we are; 3-7: Views from the campsite to the river; 8: Vultures are patient; 9-10: Elephant forest; 11: This guest is undoubtedly living large!

Chobe National Park

We stayed at the campsite at Kubu Lodge, just east of Kasane. While walking in the garden, Sabine spotted and photographed a green water snake. Supposedly it is not poisonous. From the terrace of the restaurant we have a nice view of the Chobe River.

2 km further east is Kazangula, the Botswana border crossing to Zambia. The countries are separated by the river. The ferry across the Chobe has been discontinued due to the construction of the new bridge. Temporarily 2 pontoons were set up, but only one of them is in operation. Every 15 minutes 2 trucks can cross to Zambia. The result: a 10 km-long traffic jam. The waiting time for the truck drivers is about 5 days. Boredom can arise.

The first day in Kasane was quickly over with shopping and sightseeing. On the 2nd day we played 9-hole golf for the first time. The course belongs to the 5-star Mowana Lodge (greenfee 8€). In the afternoon we treated ourselves to the already traditional boat safari on the Chobe River. The variety of animals was impressive as always. The only downer is that word has gotten around: Meanwhile, a variety of watercraft of all sizes cavort on the river. All in all a bit too busy.  

From Francistown to Lobatse

Contrary to our original plan, we have cancelled the Tuli block on our way south and want to visit our friend Gerhard in Lobatse instead.

Since the distance from Kasane to Lobatse (about 1000 km) would be difficult to cover in one day, we decide to spend the night halfway in Francistown. Francistown is the oldest town in Botswana and the second largest in terms of population. Its foundation dates back to gold discoveries that triggered a short gold rush. Since the veins were not very productive, the frenzy quickly subsided. However, a certain Mr. Francis stayed and founded a trading post, from which the city developed. So much for the historical outline in short form. 

I myself have not been there for a long time, Sabine never. In Francistown, there has been a lot of construction activity for a few years now, and the flair of the old colonial town center has suffered a lot.

For our overnight stay we chose the camping site of the Cresta Maranga Hotel. It is located a bit outside directly next to Tati River, which of course has no water at this time of year. We were the only campers.


The drive to Lobatse to Gerhard was interrupted by frequent roadblocks by the police. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Botswana they showed presence. We had to justify again and again the missing of our license plate (got lost in the water at Third-Bridge), but got through scot-free. Shortly after noon we were warmly welcomed in Lobatse by Gerhard. Good conversations, cool drinks and hearty barbecue helped us to recover fast. On Sunday we drove with Gerhard to the south of Lobatse to a new game resort that was about to be completed.  Although not yet officially opened there was already a lot of activity. 

 Sun City - Pilanesberg

After crossing the border from Botswana into South Africa, we drove 250 km in a northeasterly direction to the "old" entertainment metropolis of Sun City. Sun City was built during Apartheid as a hotel complex with a casino in the "independent" homeland of Boputhatswana to allow wealthy South Africans to enjoy the pleasures of gambling, which was forbidden in South Africa at that time.

In the meantime, the facility has been expanded and modernized several times and, with the "Gary Player Links" and the "Lost City Course", Sun City is one of the top golf destinations in South Africa. 

That appealed to us! Some relaxation after the exhausting safari days would do us good. So we pitched our tent at the Pilanesberg Nature Reserve campground right next to SunCity. A huge campsite with 4 ablution blocks, swimming pool, restaurants, archery, horseback riding, quad biking, etc. and what felt like 1500 campers with screaming and romping children ... 

The Gary Player course was unfortunately closed due to preparations for the international professional tournament Nedbank Challenge. Playing on the Lost City Course compensated us for everything. Great condition and outstanding design. Signature hole 13 is a par 3 with a pond in front of the green, populated by rather large crocodiles. Guess where my ball landed!