Saturday, 27 February 2016

Botswana Safari #3 - Travel Details

Some readers have asked for details on our recent Botswana trip, so here is the information on where we went and how we traveled.  The map is interactive - click on the icons for images from that site. On the map below, we started at the top and traveled anti-clockwise.

We specially wanted to see Botswana because of the fantastic book series we had read - The Number One Ladies Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith.  Those books spoke vividly of the spirit, courtesy  and graciousness that is everywhere in Botswana.

The best game viewing was in the Chobe National Park (right at the top) and in the Moremi Game Reserve, in the south west.  However, you will see game wherever you travel in these regions - baboons and warthogs run around the towns, and elephants have right-of-way corridors between the towns and the farms.  Giraffe run along side the highways even 200km from any national parks - the wildlife is everywhere.

We flew in and out of Kasane in northern Botswana, which is only a few hours drive from Victoria Falls. It would have been more efficient to start in Kasane (or Victoria Falls) and finish in Maun, had we known the state of the tracks when we booked.

4WD Truck Rental - Bushlore

There are many companies offering 4WD rental vehicles at varying prices, the cheaper units being not so well equipped. Our truck was a Toyota Land Cruiser long wheel base utility, with a six cylinder diesel and a custom camper rig fitted into the utility tray. It came from Bushlore in South Africa, one of the more substantial hire operations, who provide excellent equipment. They have bases in Kasane, Victoria Falls, Johannesburg and Windhoek (Namibia). We saw many broken rental vehicles on our travels, but none from Bushlore.

The vehicle was well prepared and completely reliable. Fitted with a spacious fold out tent on the roof, it also had a 12volt refrigerator, second battery system and 100 liter water tank. Folding chairs and a folding stainless steel table stowed in the rig. We carried additional water and fuel on the roof rack. A comprehensive kit of bush travel equipment was included - two spare wheels, tyre repair kit, tow rope, compressor, tyre gauge, high-lift jack, rubber sand tracks, first aid kit etc etc.

On the back of the truck was a cunningly effective Braii plate (BBQ) that strapped to one of the spare wheels. The camper rig included compartments for everything, including massive slide out drawers for food and supplies storage.  Dual gas bottles with stove tops handled the cooking when we didn't have a fire burning. Setting up camp usually took about 20 minutes after arrival.

Detailed specifications for the truck and equipment can be downloaded here.

The Bushlore vehicles are priced from the base in Johannesburg - we paid additional fee's to take delivery in Kasane, but it saved us one or two days of highway travel to make the drive north into Botswana.

The truck was supplied with basic maps and comprehensive wildlife guides. GPS navigation and satellite telephones are options - we carried our own satellite phone, and used our iPads for GPS navigation running the Tracks 4 Africa application. With this free application we were able to purchase just the maps we wanted (Botswana) for US$29.00.  Included with the maps was a complete interactive database of the parks, reserves and camps, plus special features, viewing spots, shopping and fueling locations etc. The camp database included photography, service and contact details, so we were able to contact the parks and camps in advance for bookings and confirmations.

Detailed GPS navigation was an essential tool on our travels in Botswana - we found many other visitors lost or unsure of their travel options, as they did not have good mapping or position information.

What To Wear - And Not To Wear

It may seem bleeding obvious, but you do need to wear the right clothing.

For example, if you want to wear thongs in the showers, don't even think about wearing them to and from the shower block. The African undergrowth is full of spikes and prickles that will make you regret your decision.

This photo shows the spikes I collected on just one visit to the shower - the real problem is that some of the spikes are long enough to go right through the rubber sole. Both Ley and I suffered "spiked foot" from this silliness!

Do wear light cotton or synthetic clothing for the daytime, but be prepared to rug-up in the evenings. You certainly don't need to visit a safari outfitter - just be smart about it. The organised tour groups in brand new co-ordinated safari clothing stood out so clearly at the airport - it really did feel like Disneyland - they were all so clean and shiny. Of course they stayed in electric fenced hotels and ate in restaurants every evening... no spikes in their shoes. Those groups fly with guides into the Okavango Delta in light aircraft, no dirt tracks for them.

You can have a fine time touring in Botswana that way, but you won't have your own personal travel experiences - it wouldn't be half the fun! And you will never sit by the river in the moonlight, watching the elephants graze just meters away ...

Part 1 of our Botswana Land Cruise is here.

Part 2 of our Botswana Land Cruise is here.

Ley Preparing Dinner, While In The Background The Elephants Head For The River

After Watering The Herd Moves Toward Our Camp to Graze In Front Of Us

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