A few months ago, Lonely Planet released their much-anticipated Top Destinations for 2016 lists. We were rather proud (but not entirely surprised) to see one of our Southern African neighbours sneaking its way into top spot on the countries list.
Botswana is the kind of place that few travellers visit once. Unless you have at least six months at your disposal, one trip simply can’t do it justice. Come to think of it, if you were lucky enough to spend six months up there, you’d probably never want to leave.
A little while back, Kerryn and I travelled to Botswana for our wedding anniversary. It was the second time we’d visited the country together, and we’re pretty certain it won’t be our last. We spent almost all our time in the pristine wilderness of Moremi Game Reserve, in the south western corner of the Delta. On our previous visit, back in 2012, we did the classic route through Moremi and Chobe, from Maun to Kasane. This time round, we decided to spend a full week in the Moremi, at just two campsites. Apart from only having to set up and pack away camp twice, it also afforded us the luxury of getting to know a relatively small area rather intimately.
After a marathon 14-hour drive from Jo’burg on our first day, we overnighted in Maun and headed into the park the next morning. We then spent four nights at the awesome Khwai (North Gate) campsite, and two nights at Xakanaxa, about 40kms to the west. We broke the long journey back to Jozi in Nata, where we squeezed in a very memorable sunset on the amazing Makgadigadi salt pans.
For us, the best thing about Botswana’s game parks is that there are seldom any fences around the campsites. Of course, this means that there is the very real chance of dangerous animals strolling right through your camp. It’s not uncommon to have elephants tip-toeing around your tent whilst eating from the trees above. Hyenas patrol the outskirts of the camps most nights. And don’t be surprised to find lion and leopard spoor in the morning, just meters from where you had been sleeping. It can be a little unnerving at times, but it’s also an incredible rush being in a place where you are no longer at the top of the food chain. So long as you play by the rules, and always have the utmost respect for your surroundings, it can be a safe and incredibly rewarding experience.
Places like Moremi are rare these days. They give one a glimpse into what Africa might have been like hundreds of years ago. It’s pristine, raw and ridiculously beautiful. If you have yet to go, and the opportunity arises, grab it with all the hands you can muster!
We plan to write a few more posts on our experiences in Botswana, covering some of the more technical aspects of independent travel in this part of the world. But for now, here are some photos.