Part 8. Larking Around Namibia. Chobe, Woodlands and Marakele.
We left Namibia sadly and on arrival in Botswana drove through the Chobe NP on the way to Kasane.
Having not booked to stay anywhere when we arrived in Kasane, we headed for Senyati – a campsite recommended. It is about 6 kms from the Kazangula intersection with the Kasane/Francistown road about 10 kms south of Kasane. The drive to the camp from the main road was atrocious – deep soft sand requiring low range especially as we were towing. The receptionist was very off-hand and we did not like his attitude, the campsites were not level and the surrounding area very open and dry. So we headed back to Chobe Safari Lodge to see if we could camp there.
We managed to get a campsite in a tight space which required much manoeuvring of the trailer to get it in. We were given other choices but they were far worse. The nice campsites with space and close to the water were all reserved for Overlanders and big groups – they remained empty for the 2 nights we spent there.
A number of friendly birds welcomed us to our campsite – both in song and sight. The most exciting of these a Collared Palm-Thrush who appeared throughout each day that we were there.
The campsite deck not only overlooks a large corner of the river but has excellent views over the Chobe National Park plains and wetland area. Hundreds of Buffalo and Elephants were visible with numerous species of birds intermingling among them. Skimmers and Collared Pratincoles were clearly visible. We took the scope to enjoy the sight and had sundowners there both days.
Having decided to go into Chobe NP on our own we obtained our permit the afternoon before. When we arrived at the gate at 6 am we drove straight in – in fact we simply drove past all the game drive vehicles and in without anyone checking our permit.
The main road through the Park is horrendous and 4×4 low range was essential for long stretches.
As soon as we could we got onto the minor roads which were much more manageable. They took us down to the flood plain.
Many interesting birds were seen there – probably the highlights being a Rosy-throated Longclaw and a Slaty Egret. We did not see a wide variety of game in the Park.
After the morning tea break we had had enough and headed back to enjoy the campsite deck and to prepare for the next leg home.
We thought to stay at Elephant Sands which we had heard much about but never visited – failing that then Nata or possibly Francistown if we made good headway.
The road has been recently renewed and widened – except for a 30kms stretch which they are currently working on. Gone are the potholes of yesteryear.
Elephant Sands – one km off the main road. So we turn in and round the first corner – thick sand so into low range – much needed. Anyone driving an ordinary vehicle better watch out! We arrive after 2 kms at a small waterhole with chalets dotted about, no sign of a campsite and 30 elephants at the waterhole. We did not even bother to stop but did a U-turn and scarpered – not because of the presence of the elephants but because of the smell of the elephants – it was overpowering. And as fearfully anticipated we come across a huge bull elephant crossing slowly in front of us. Fortunately he was only interested in the water and although he gave us an unhappy stare he moved on.
We had made good time so continued on to Francistown arriving early afternoon. Unfortunately the only place we knew was Woodlands Stop Over. I had forgotten I had vowed never to return. And I soon found out why when they quoted us for the night. 95 pula each then another 30 for power (20 last year .. how much next year?) then another 20 for the trailer although we did not intend using it, then another amount as a community charge. Apart from Namutomi this was the most expensive campsite. An utter rip-off. I asked to speak to the owner twice to no avail. I doubt the receptionist even bothered to call him. It is either that or he was too scared to face my criticism. I will be sending him a link to this report and I will put the info out on all the birdnets and the 4×4 forum. Sally was tired, we were unsure of the other place we had seen in the camp book for Botswana so we paid. Never again especially as the campsites were literally on top of one another.
The next morning we were up early and on our way quite quickly as we had used our Malamoo 3 second tent. The Stockport border gate was our goal – avoids the delays at Martin’s Drift. What a breeze – through both sides in less than 15 minutes.
The journey home was broken in Marakele NP. We decided to stay 2 nights so we could enjoy the park and recuperate from the long drive from Francistown. Up went the roof-top trailer tent and out we went for a drive.
The next day we rose early and went through the tunnel and up the mountain to the Marakele Bergfontein Tower – over 2000 metres up.
It is quite a challenging drive up and definitely not for the faint-hearted especially on the way down. The road has been cut into the cliff face and long stretches are wide enough only for one vehicle with no railings on the cliff edge side. You do not want to meet a car coming in the opposite direction. One of you has to reverse and pull over in the precarious passing zones.
At the top we were not disappointed and saw numerous Cape Vultures soaring close by. We also had a picnic with an extremely friendly Buff-streaked Chat. Other birds seen included Gurney’s Sugarbird and Cape Rock-Thrush.
We had clear views down the valley and could see the road below. Keeping an eye out we observed 4 cars coming up so we abided our time before heading down. Luckily our timing was right and we got down without meeting another vehicle.
Too quickly it was time to pack up and head home.
The holiday over – 3.5 lifers for Sally and 9.5 for me. The half being the Tinkling Cisticola which we had only heard.
Altogether we had seen and or heard 360 species and seen most of the Namibian endemics which we could expect in the areas we visited. Now it is back to planning our next trip!
Hope you have all enjoyed the read and the pictures.
Paul and Sally Bartho
PS I will try to lump all the photos of birds and aminals which we could not ID in another post and another with the Namibian specials (those we considered special and we were lucky enough to photograph).