Botswana Report Delta trip
After meeting our group at the Martins Drift Border post we settled in for the first night of our trip. The decided route was to take us up to the MakgadiKgadi Pans then onto the Okavango delta and up to Chobe via the linyanti. These areas have been made famous by their abundance of wildlife and pristine environment.
The Makgadikgadi Pans is home to thousands of Flamingos during the wet season but when it dries up it becomes a vast open salt pan stretching twelve thousand square kilometres. Leaving a rocky outcrop laden with ancient Baobabs as a landmark and destination better known as Khubu Island accessible for all to see. This would be our first stop over point for our expedition and the first time the guests would experience such vast open spaces. After setting up our camp under a stand of African Star Chestnut trees we set off to explore the Island littered with signs of ancient cultural ceremonies. As we sat on one of the rocks and watched the sun go down a sense of calm came over us as we felt the dark embrace us and the night comes alive with the sound of Nightjars and owls. The nights are lit by the thousands of stars and create some of the best start photography opportunities you can have. Taking advantage of this opportunity a few of us headed up the rocks to set up for a photo shoot. The results were nothing short of magical.
The following morning we packed our camp and headed North across the Ntwetwe pan following the GPS towards Gweta. Coming off the pan near the town we enter the Mopani belt and the first signs of elephant appear. We pushed through to Maun were we filled up the vehicles and grabbed the last supplies before heading through to the Moremi Game Reserve and our home for the next few days at south camp.
The following days would be spend exploring this watery wonderland with all its channels and marshlands. Arriving at the designated camp site we watched an elephant amble off into the thickets not far from us and setting up camp was done to the sound of breaking branched with the calls of grey hornbills as the elephant fed on the tall Mopani trees. We had decided to settle in for the night and didn’t go out exploring. Around the fire in the evening we spoke about our adventure this far and no sooner had darkness fell that we were joined by a few hyena. There whooping calls sending a primal shiver down our spine as we realised that we were now in one of the wildest places in Southern Africa. We watched the clan move through the shadows around us and every now and then get close enough to bump one of the tables in camp or brush up against one of the vehicles. The rest of the evening was filled with their calls and the distant calls of a pride of lions to the west of where we camped.
The following morning we travelled through to a new area opened up to the public called Black Pools. The route in was mainly deep sands with the odd wet patch and we made it to our decided breakfast spot in good time. It was after we had finished breakfast that the track got interesting and the deep sands started giving way to water channels and black cotton soils. We got to a crossing and came to a halt as the water ran still and deep. A few Lilies could be seen just below the surface with the current washing them back and forth. After some deliberation I started up the vehicle selected low range 4x4 and waded in. at first it wasn’t particularly deep but that soon changes and the water level started to move up the door. The ground felt firm still and we pushed on. We had past the deepest part of the crossing when I felt the vehicle shift and drop into some old ruts left by a previous vehicle. As the Pajero dropped in the diff settled on the middle mannetjie and traction was lost. A rooster tail of mud and plant material shot out behind the Paj as she buried herself in knee deep water. We were stuck! A hippo gave a call of disapproval at our presence a few meters away and a goliath heron took off for a safe spot at the next channel.
After digging and pulling and digging some more we hadn’t moved much and a decision was made to send the convoy around on another route to the front of the vehicle were dry land was closer and we could get better traction for the pull. I spent the hour or so waiting for the convoy by jacking up the stricken vehicle and finding logs and rocks to place under the tires to get it some traction. The first of the convoy to arrive was the discovery 3 and with a gentle tug the Pajero came out the mud and we were on our way again.
The rest of the route was not too bad with shallow water crossings and a little bit of mud but went without issue. The herds of Lechwe and Tsessebe are abundant and the pools of water left behind from the flooding created sanctuary for multiple bird species and the ever present hippos and crocs.
The delta is a true wilderness area with areas untouched for thousands of years.
We departed the delta 4 days later after having some great sightings of African Wild Dog, Hyena, Honey Badger and Buffalo along with the many species of antelope and headed for the Linyanti camp site along the banks of the Linyanti River. It was just after we had left the gates of the Moremi Game reserve that we faced our first real river crossing a tributary of the Mbudi River was coming down and as the saying goes “still waters run deep”. We had been assured by the gate attendant that it wasn’t too deep to cross and as I selected second gear low range and locked up the diff I entered the water the drop off was steep and soon the water level was way over the bonnet of the Pajero. At that point I was glad that I hadn’t charged into the water as the force would have sheered the fan blades off and possibly could have caused some serious damage to the radiator and engine bay. Pretty soon the nose of the Paj started to rise and the water washed off the bonnet and rushed back towards the flowing river. The discovery 3 was next and without issue lifted the suspension and waded through the river without issue.
Next was the Amarok and without a snorkel and lower suspension than the Disco it entered the river a little too fast and sent water over the top of the roof and coming out the other side it stopped. Water had got into the engine and had caused damage. A quick tow and the vehicle was recovered from its position half in and half out the water.it took a while to start with us towing it for about an hour but eventually it got going and managed the rest of the trip with a bit of smoke coming from the exhaust. It was only when we got back to South Africa that we learnt that the vehicle had taken water into the engine and bent the conrods.
We carried on our journey and decided to take a “shortcut through to linyanti up an old cutline hoping to halve our travel distance. This turned out to be a bad decision and we came up to an equally full Savuti river with a damaged bridge the made it impossible to cross. The maps came out and the decision was made to turn back and follow a 2 track to the west were we could see was another bridge. The sand got deeper and deeper and the fuel usage went up and up. The best thing to do in these deep sands is to keep the vehicle going at a steady pace to stop it from sinking in. The hours passed and the vehicles carried on. We had unintentionally entered a safari concession and a polite guide with his guests on board pointed us in the right direction towards the bridge as the sun started to set.
As in most remote parts of Botswana the bridge that we faced was no more than a few logs bound together by rope. Once we had all got across the decision was made to rest for a few minutes before heading on through the dark on unfamiliar roads following the tracks for Africa and a map till we got to the designated campsite. Driving these track s at night is not recommended and the going got slower and slower. The Amamrok had picked up a tear in the side wall of its tires and was soon followed by the Prado meaning a stop to change before we headed on again.
We finally arrived at our campsite at around 22H30 and setup a basic camp before hitting the sack. The view the next morning was nothing short of spectacular as the Linyanti River flowed past on our northern side. Hippos lay in a group a few meters from camp and stirred as the camp became active. It was one of the most amazing sights to be rewarded with after a heavy previous day. Our next destination was Kasane and it didn’t take us long to get back onto a tarred road. A feeling of accomplishment overcame me as I realised what we and our vehicles had achieved.
Our fuel supplies had started to run low and between the trucks we managed to get enough in all the vehicles to make it through to Kasane and on to the Chobe safari lodge were we would spend the last few nights of our trip in relative luxury as opposed to what we had been through.
Our final few days were spend resting around the camp and joining the multitude of tourists on the evening boat cruises up the Chobe River were elephants and buffalo were abundant and the constant call of the fish eagle reminded us that we were in Africa and that even though the going was tough we would not do it any other way, it is the tough times and the rough going that forms the memories that will stay with us for a long time. Im sure whenever any person on that trip hears a hippo grunt or a fish eagle call it will flood their mind with memories of an amazing trip through the wetter part of the Beautiful Botswana.