We picked up our Toyota Hilux 2.7 4×4 in the Northern suburbs of Jo-burg equipped with everything we needed for our 2 month Safari – stove, tents, sleeping bags, food, water, table and chairs. 0km on the tripometer, full of excitement, expectation, and a full tank of gas we gunned it to the border of Botswana only to be held up in massive traffic jams and road works between Jo-burg and Pretoria. There seemed no urgency in the workforce as we passed them, hopefully they would speed up in time to finish before the World Cup started but then again TIA!
We managed to make it within 100km of the border before darkness fell and we managed to find a campsite. So many people had told us not to drive in the dark in Africa due to the numerous drunk drivers, bad roads, no street lights and wandering cattle and wildlife on the road. We decided to make some rules – 1st rule of camping, find a campsite by 4pm – an hour before sunset, 2nd rule of camping – always fill up whenever you see a petrol station or when under half a tank, 3rd always keep the jerry can full of gas and 4th rule of camping, never ever camp near kids!
By early next morning we arrived at the border crossing of Groblesburg after an incredible scenic drive through the rolling, rugged and craggy hills of the Waterburg region. As soon as we entered Botswana the geography of the landscape changed. Gone we the hills and in front of us were vast areas of flat savannah scrub land with endless straight roads and vast flat plains of nothingness with not a soul around.
Botswana is roughly the same size of France but with only 2m people inhabiting the vast country makes it pretty deserted. Covered in many salt pans it makes life hard going for even wildlife to survive but we were heading further North to the world renowned watering hole of the Okavango Delta. Botswana enjoys a high standard of living as 3 of the world’s largest diamond mines were found here and the going on the decent roads were although straight and flat but boring were pretty easy going. We would often travel 100’s km without passing a single village or person let alone any petrol stations but luckily for us our hilux had an extra large fuel tank of 140 liters.
Our second nights stop (800km) was at the Karma Rhino Reserve, a small reserve a third of the way up into Botswana. Opened in 1989 to protect wildlife (especially Rhinos) from poaching the reserve is located next to an army base for added protection from poachers. It covers approximately 10,500 acres and provides the animals with natural watering holes and all the food they need. It houses around 32 Rhinos which are the main attraction and Sarah’s first Safari in Africa. We camped within the park that night under a beautiful Mokongwa tree and under a blanket of radiant stars.
Early the following morning we set out on the tracks around the reserve looking for game. We were not disappointed as at the second waterhole we spotted a mother and baby White Rhino. We were treated to watch them drink and feed around the waterhole not 50m from us. Close enough as the females can weigh up to 1600kg, have horns up to130cm and are very protective of their young. They have poor eye sight but excellent hearing and smell and if charged the only way to escape (if on foot) is to run zig-zag to confuse them. Throughout our drive that morning we spotted Ostrich, Eland, Gemsbok, Impala, Wildebeest, Bat eared Fox, Kudu and many stunning birds. We then had a lot of ground to cover as we were heading for Maun the gateway to the Okavango Delta, where we broke 2 rules of camping. Firstly we almost ran out of petrol mainly due to so few petrol stations around and secondly we arrived in Maun in the dark. Being so dark with no street lights it’s hard to find your way around and even more difficult to see the signs for camping sites. To add to the danger the roads in Botswana are littered with cattle and donkeys that aimlessly end up wandering onto the road. We narrowly avoided numerous stupid cows and made it in one piece to the campsite (1400km), tired and exhausted after a perilous journey. It was a lesson learned that camping rules are not meant to be broken!