Photos and report from our family road trip through Botswana and Namibia in October 2011, 6200 kilometers driven over 12 days, overnighting in 9 different locations, and well worth every minute. Our route took us through Gaborone with a one night stop at Kubu Island, one of the most awesome places I’ve ever visited. Maun, gateway to the Moremi national park, one of the last unspoiled wilderness areas in Africa, the unique Okavango delta then on to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia. Heading West through the Caprivi, through Rundu and finally turning South and home to Cape Town via Windhoek.
Driving in Botswana
Driving in Botswana means not just dodging drivers who have no apparent regard for standard rules of the road, it also means keeping a close watch for cows, donkeys and goats crossing the road. While the roads are usually pretty decent, it’s unwise to travel too fast, the numerous carcasses of deceased domestic livestock, as well as wrecked cars, is ample testimony to that.
Our route took us from Cape Town, via Kimberley to the Botswana border with a night spent at Mokolodi Backpackers just outside Gaborone, a comfortable stop after a long day’s drive.
Camp Itumela Palapye
From Gaborone the road headed north towards Francistown, little did we know that it was a public holiday and traffic was horrendous, with frequent road blocks. I thought that Cape Town drivers were bad, but these guys put our taxi drivers to shame. After a white knuckle ride we arrived at Camp Itumela in Palapye, our stop for the night before turning off towards Maun and Kubu Island. There are some really cool thatched chalets, a great little pub and the best Botswana fillet I’ve ever tasted, cooked over an open fire by the staff, just what we needed after a hectic day on the road.
Kubu is not an actual island, it’s a rocky outcrop in the depths of the Makgadikgadi Pans, Botswana that was an island in what was a huge inland lake some 40 000 years ago. It’s hard to reach and has no facilities whatsoever, you’ll need to take everything you need, but it’s so well worth the effort, an absolutely awesome place. To reach Kubu requires a 4×4 vehicle, there is thick sand, rocky areas and then a crossing over the Makgadikgadi Pans, which can be treacherous after rain but a pleasure to drive on in the dry season (which is when we visited).
Once back on the tar after our detour to Kubu Island, the road to Maun, gateway to the Moremi National Park is a breeze. It’s long, and passes through diamond mining areas as well as semi desert and vast, flat grasslands with cows dotting the landscape as far as the eye can see. Maun itself is a very chilled town, with supermarkets, restaurants, pubs and hotels, a good place to chill for a day, catch up with the world (because you now have a wifi connection) while enjoying a cold beer. It’s where I learned of the passing of Steve Jobs he day before, an event that happened while we were sitting in absolute isolation from the world at Kubu Island.
Moremi, is one of the last unspoiled wilderness areas in Africa, the Okavango Delta, an area of green vegetation and ample water in the middle of a desert. It’s born when the Okavango River gives up in it’s efforts to reach the ocean and disappears into the desert sands, creating a lush oasis, the likes of which is found nowhere else in the world. Wildlife of all kinds flocks to this incredible place, which is one of the best places to spot a huge variety of game. A 4×4 vehicle is essential, deep sand and river crossings are part of the territory. It is possible to camp inside the reserve, we chose not to, but of you do, be prepared to be woken by the sound of an elephant investigating your tent, or hyenas scavenging for food.
Heading North from Maun towards the Namibian border requires a lengthy detour to the Southwest as you skirt the Southern edge of the delta. After Lake Ngami the road heads North through the, by now, familiar scrublands, becoming greener again as the road converges towards the Okavango River panhandle. Numerous roads head off to the right to villages and campsites along the river, we stopped at an awesome spot, just South of Shakawe, the name of which now escapes me. Highlight of an evening cruise along the river was watching an African Fish Eagle swoop down and scoop up a small Tiger Fish. Awesome, the stuff dreams are made of.
The Caprivi Strip
From Shakawe to the Namibian border is a fairly short haul, relatively that is, after the huge distances travelled so far. Turning West the road is almost arrow straight for the 200 odd km between Divundu and Rundu. Rundu is a pretty uninspiring place to be honest, not much to say about it, other than that it was a welcome spot to have a few beers and a good night’s sleep, because tomorrow is a very long haul down to Windhoek.
The Long Road Home
From Rundu the road turns South, this time we bypassed Etosha and Windhoek, that’s for another episode, choosing to overnight at the beautiful Lake Oanob, around 70km South of Windhoek, outside Rehoboth. What an awesome place, quality thatched chalets overlooking this beautiful lake surrounded by dry, sun baked hills.
Felix Unite Orange River
An early morning start for the long drive through Southern Namibia, with our final overnight stop at the Felix Unite camp overlooking the Orange River. Then through the border into South Africa at Noordoewer and home. An absolutely awesome trip with the family, seeing some places that most people will never experience. Highlight of the trip has to be the one night spent in complete isolation for the world at Kubu Island.