Okavango delta

 

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// Nikon D7200 | secret location ! | alt. 930m

Border crossing from Namibia to Botswana was better than expected. Always easy on the Namibian side, always a mess on the Botswanian side….. but since we already have a 90days visa, they cannot prevent us from getting inside 🙂

Just after crossing the border, you get onto the highway connecting Ngoma to Kasane, which crosses the Chobe national park. Along the way, plenty of dirt roads getting inside the park, but no official entrance, no gate, just a lot of signs saying “no entry”.
But eventually, we found a road with no sign (well, there was a pole, and maybe the remains of a sign lying in the bush, so we played stupid on this one 🙂 and managed to get inside the park.
Nice drive along the river, few elephants on the way, but nothing spectacular like you can read in books or see in documentaries. We went to the first campground…… bad idea. Since a few years, all the campgrounds have been privatized, upgrading the price tag from a very friendly 30pulas (3usd) while under national park management, to a 30usd, once private…… For this price, what do you get ? A legal bushcamp inside chobe park…. At least, you get an ablution block with hot showers and restroom, fire pit and a bin. It’s important to keep in mind there is no fence whatsoever, so any animal may cross the camp at any point….
The security guy also asked for our park fee, which we didn’t have since we didn’t see any gate. And no way to pay here, we have to get to the main entrance, on the eastern side to pay all those things.

As usual, we setup a fire to stay warm at night, and also to repeal the wildlife. We could hear elephants and hippos around us, maybe 50m away, but no way to spot anything in the dark (and elephants eyes don’t reflect light). Despite the fire, something big went pretty close to us, ….. so close we had to run inside our cars ! But we didn’t see anything, and this curious massive animal went away :p

Next day was a totally different story.
Leaving early in the morning to surprise a few lions which we never saw, we met herds of elephants (one male came to me, wondering if he should charge or not. I cut the engine, remained still, like a stone….. I am a stone…….. I am a stone………….. and he went away :p) large groups of giraffes, zebras, baboons, hippos, and all the antelopes one could potentially imagine. All of it, in half a day on a very small section of the park. Sounds promising !

We now had to leave the park, and pay the bills….. it was very tempting to simply drive away, but we are not these kind of persons. At the gate, the guys at reception could not believe it….. we managed to get inside the park for 2 days, camp and everything without paying, and we were here to pay ?! They were shocked, obviously, honesty doesn’t exist in Africa.

This time we hit the big part of the national park. From the Namibian border, to the southern end of the Okavango delta, everything is part of a national park, that’s a massive area, with a complex network of the most challenging dirt roads among Botswana. This will be our sandbox for the next few days.

And we start from the beginning : Driving on tar road from Ngoma, we quickly drove onto dirt, then sand….. then very soft sand…. ok it’s not looking good at all ! Time to stop and to change the tyre pressure, from 3bars to 1.8. 4wd on, low gear, here we go ! It’s hard but mister Fox made it to the gate of the southern Chobe park.
Here we wanted to pay the park entry for a few days, but then they asked for our accomodation bookings….. we cannot tell them we are planning to bush camp in the park 😀 so we only get one day, and at the next gate, we’ll have to pay for another day.
We asked the park ranger about the road condition, and she said we did an easy part, the next kilometers are even better, but below Mababe, and all the way to Maun, the road is extremely bad.
As usual, never thrust a park ranger in Africa, they have no idea what they’re talking about, they’ve never been inside the park anyway :p
So the true was, we did a very bad section, the next to come is the worst of the park, and from Mababe to Maun, it’s in very good condition. Kinda different isn’t it ?

Next section was very bad, with extremely soft sand…. despite deflated tyres, the fox sank into the sand like a stone on hot butter….. Took me time to shovel it out, get sand ladders in position, successfully drove one meter on them……. to sink again once back on the sand…. Shovel again, sand ladders in position, drove one meter, and sunk again…… that happened 3 times in a row, until I made it to a fairly packed area where I could finally drive without sand ladders…… This during the afternoon, 34celcius outside, strong sun, no wind, sand everywhere and dirt in my mouth. That eats a loooot of your stamina.
50m later, troopy, Eiji and Chizu’s car, was stuck in the sand, but they eventually managed to get the car out without the need of sand ladders :p

At last, we made it to the next gate, 2min before sunset (official closing time), but there was nobody here, and the gate was locked…… shit !
15min later, someone came, the gate keeper, he’s too scared of lions to stay at the gate at night…… something everyone could easily understand. We were glad he came back for us and we wished him a safe walk back to his place.

It was now time to find a place to bush camp, which was very easy to find, I was pretty confident no one would find us here. But animals did.
Next morning, we had a few massive piles of fresh shit all around the cars : elephants ! Most of the trees were flattened and lot of debris and bark all over the place ! At least they didn’t smash our cars !
We left early to spot some game, and took the dirt road along the Khwai river. We didn’t have to wait more than 15min, a group of wild dogs crossed the road in front of us ! There was about 5 safari cars in the same place, looking for those dogs as well (a very rare sight !!) They all went in one direction to track them, but looking at the dogs and the map, I decided to go somewhere else. After months stalking animals in Africa, I’m getting better at finding spots to intercept them. This time I managed to find the exact spot where they would cross the road. They are on the hunt, and once you know what they’re looking for, you can easily setup a meeting point. They all went around the cars, not even looking at us, they are all building a strategy to take out a very large antelope. This is a very impressive sight, and those dogs are beautiful ! (they also call them painted dogs for a good reason)

We then kept driving along the river, spotting tons of hippos, elephants bathing (and one charging a group of hippos !), giraffes………..and to end this wonderful day, a lion walking on the road, 5m in front of my van !!!
All those sightings within a very small section part of the park (5kms radius max !) between Khwai and Mababe, which is part of the Moremi game reserve. I managed to drive on the dirt roads all the way to bypass the gates, so we didn’t pay any fee 🙂
We found another place to bushcamp for the night, but this time, Eiji and Chizu took way too much time to pack their stuff in the morning, and we were busted by a patrol car…. At least, we didn’t have to pay any fine, just to pay for a night at the nearest campground (22usd per person…..). Eiji paid my share.

I guess it’s time to get out before someone asks for our park permit. We made it back to Maun, where we could have a careful look at the cars for eventual damage : dead alternator and heavily damaged front skid plate on mister Fox, cracked pop-top, broken wheel studs and broken engine fan on Eiji’s car….. that should keep us busy for the next few days 😀

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