Botswana - Our Round Trip

We hear about the bountiful wildlife and beautiful landscapes all the time and dream day after day about experiencing it, anyone who loves wildlife & nature wants to go to Botswana.

I started with my research, planning and a rough time frame during Dec 2017. During a visit to our friends’ over a week-end, we had agreed on accommodation and took the leap. We went online and started looking for availability at the lodges where we would stay the longest and within minutes it was happening, we were going! There really is nothing more exciting than making that first booking, the plan came together over the next month as the rest of it developed and adapted.

In this blog I will be telling you more about our trip in a broad perspective, the routes we took and briefly mention accommodation at each stop-over. I will be blogging in detail about our accommodation for each of the places we stayed at with plenty of information on each.

We decided that we wanted to drive the whole round trip

It’s quite far for us Eastern Capies to get all the way up to the northern parts of South Africa, thus we decided to break the days up a bit but at the same time not waste too much time getting there. All in all, we were going to cover around five thousand kilometres!

We travelled over five thousand kilometers
Quick Overview of our Round Trip

Our Botswana adventure started on 17 May 2018 when we drove from Port Elizabeth (my hometown) up to Cradock / Somerset East Area where we joined our friends, Richard & Helena, for an overnight stay before we all left early the next morning on our first leg of the trip.

We are on the road and as it goes, everyone needs to find their ‘place’ in the first few days, with a few grumpy remarks (mostly from the men), serious back-seat driving & laughs we soon sorted each other out (lucky we are great friends) and it was smooth sailing from there on.

I certainly would not recommend a trip like this with anyone that sulks, you need to be able to give and take and not hold grudges, you must be able to move on and enjoy the time together, not spoil the rest of the trip for everyone by being bitter and twisted. We had that down, so all we had to do, was get there and enjoy!

The first day we drove +-850km from the farm to Lichtenburg. It was a long day driving with unexpected road works, getting lost and ending up at Makwassie (look it up, it exists!) on a road where there was not a spot that did not have a hole, all thanks to us wanting to take a short-cut. In the end we ended up being on the road for eleven odd hours instead of eight hours.

We arrived at our Guest-house, 50 On Greeff, rather late but to a lovey welcome by the owner. We very quickly found a local eatery, had a meal and a good few glasses of wine and settled in for a good nights’ rest.

We left Lichtenburg the next morning around 8:30am heading in the direction of Kang, Botswana. We had 515 kilometres to cover on this day including our first border post, all very exciting.

With no cues at the Skilpadshek Border Post, we were checked out of South Africa in a jiffy and checked in on the Botswana side at Pioneer Gate Border Post. Now officially in Botswana we headed for Kalahari Rest Lodge. We were amazed at the quality of the road at this point, really impressive. We made it to the lodge in good time.

From there we headed to Thamalakane River Lodge in Maun. We chose to stay at Thamalakane River Lodge for 5 nights, as they had so many activities and it just looked to be a place where we could spend some time and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. We had some great adventures here, but more about that in the blog about Thamalakane.

Leaving Thamalakane (Maun) on the morning of 25 May 2018, we made our way to Shakawe in the heart of the Okavango Pan Handle where we were spending three nights at two lodges, Drotsky’s Cabins & Xaro Lodge. We tried for a fourth night at the Xaro Lodge, but unfortunately, they were fully booked. We had a great few days here, certainly a must-do when in this part of the country.

There is a stretch of road, about 200 kilometres of the A35 heading to and from Shakawe, that is just horrendous. It was so bad that everyone ended up driving on the side of the ‘tar road’ as it was much smoother. It took all one’s concentration to focus on the road and not hit a hole, after 30 minutes of driving it, the driver was knakkered!

The boys jokingly said “The holes are so big that if you see ears, they are donkeys’ ears, not rabbit ears”, I can tell you for a fact that was no joke

Next on the list was driving through the Caprivi strip. We reached the Shakawe border post, Mohembo, and soon we were into Namibia and driving through the Caprivi towards the Ngoma Bridge border post. As we came up to the border post, we admired our first big Boabab tree and the beautiful view of the mighty Chobe River, absolutely breath taking. The Mohembo border post going back into Botswana did take a bit longer than the other border posts, probably about 45minutes, but not pain-fully so. From here to Thebe River Safaris, our next base in Kasane, took us about an hour to drive. More about Thebe River Safaris in another blog, but I just have to mention that it had a great, viby restaurant and great camp sites, but the room accommodation was disappointing.

We were based in Kasane for six nights and for one of those we went over to Zimbabwe and spent a fantastic two days with amazing experiences there. We arranged our transfers & all our activities through Shearwater Adventures during our time in Zim and also stayed in their new Shearwater Explorers Village. More about them in my Zimbabwe blog.

Before we wiped our eyes out, the time came to start heading back South, home.

We left Kasane for Nata on the morning of 2 June, over-nighting at the well-known Elephant Sands. From there, two overnight stays in Lephalale & Bloemfontein before heading back to the farm and Port Elizabeth.

One leaves this beautiful country with all it’s different biomes and friendly people with a heavy heart and a longing for more, a feeling that there is still so much to experience, to explore.

They say you have to see Botswana at least twice, once in the dry and once in the wet season, I feel like I could go back ten times in each and never experience all there is.

Any Lessons Learnt or Tips you ask?

Yes, I have learnt a few on this road-trip:

- You are in each-others company 24/7, choose your company wisely

- Try to make use of the smaller border posts (like we did), it makes a big difference time wise and to your mood if it is fast and quick, as the smaller ones tend to be.

- Don’t arrange any activities (boat cruises, game drives etc) for the day that you are travelling from one destination to the other. It places extra stress on everyone to get there by that time and inevitably the days’ driving takes longer than expected. It is also nice to arrive, unload and unwind instead of going into something as you arrive.

- If time permits, don’t arrange things to do every day, keep a day open every 3rd day or so for nothing, chill time. Yes, you are on holiday, but having something to do all the time is also very tiring, sometimes it’s just nice to be able to choose to lie on your bed and read a book or sit next to the river and have drinks, or if you prefer, just nothingness.

Thank you for reading this blog, look out for the next few blogs where I will be discussing each of the lodges we stayed at in detail.

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