MR1980

South Africa & Botswana, we had a blast!

148 posts in this topic

I've recently decided to become a more productive contributor to this wonderful forum so I've already introduced myself on the dedicated section of this forum and now I want to start my first ever trip report! I've been reading a lot of them in recent years so I think it's only fair to share my story of a 4-week trip my girlfriend and I made in August/September 2012 to South Africa and Botswana. As I already mentioned in my introduction I've always wanted to come to Africa ever since I was a little boy and in 2010 me and my girlfriend spend 4 amazing weeks in South Africa. To cut a long story short, it was everything we had hoped for and more... We visited Cape Town, Giant's Castle in the Drakensbergen, St. Lucia, Imfolozi, Mhkuze, Swaziland and Kruger National Park and we loved every minute of it. When we were sitting in the plane on our way back to The Netherlands we were already planning our next trip to the continent! At some later stage I will probably post a trip report of that trip also but since than I have developed my photography and Lightroom skills so I think I will revisit my images before I write a trip report about it... :)

 

After our first trip we wanted to come back to Southern Africa but first we had to decide which countries we would like to visit. We were ready for a more adventurous trip so we thought about combining South Africa with Namibia or Botswana and after much debate we picked Botswana over Namibia because we then thought that Namibia was more about landscapes and Botswana was more about wildlife and we just wanted to see more wildlife. The people who have read my introduction already know we did the Namibia trip last June and we loved it! But also that trip report will have to wait because I want to focus on the South Africa & Botswana trip for now...

 

In my next post, I will explain the exact itinerary, I hope I got you all interested... ;)

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I did the research for this trip entirely by myself by visiting this and many other forums. As a result of this research we absolutely wanted to visit Moremi, Savuti and Chobe and since we don't have unlimited funds this would mean we would have to rent a 4x4 with rooftop tent. I did the accomodation reservations for the South Africa part of the trip myself and I contacted an agent I knew in The Netherlands for the accomodation bookings/campsite bookings in Botswana and I used him also for the rental car. We chose a Toyota Hilux 2.5 double cab with rooftop tent as our way of transportation, not the most powerfull car but sufficient enough for the terrain we had to challenge. After much debate, this was the final itinerary:

 

  • 19/20 August - De Wildt Shingwedzi Cheetah & Wildlife Ranch (Chalet)
  • 21/22 August - Marakele National Park (Bontle Campsite)
  • 23/24 August - Khama Rhino Sanctuary (Campsite)
  • 25 August - Kubu Island (Campsite)
  • 26/27 August - Makgadikgadi National Park (Khumaga Campsite)
  • 28 August - Maun (Discovery Bed & Breakfast)
  • 29/30 August - Moremi Game Reserve (Xakanaxa Campsite)
  • 31 Aug/1 Sept - Moremi Game Reserve (North Gate/Khwai Campsite)
  • 2 September - Savuti (Campsite)
  • 3/4/5 Sept. - Chobe Safari Lodge (Room)
  • 6/7 Sept. - Chobe Game Reserve (Ihaha Campsite)
  • 8/9 Sept. - Nata Lodge (Campsite)
  • 10/11/12 Sept.- Northern Tuli Game Reserve (Nokalodi Tented Camp)
  • 13 Sept. - Protea Hotel The Ranch (Room)

 

Now I only have to find out which is the best/easiest way to add pictures and I can begin with the actual trip report. This will probably be after the weekend... :)

 

This was our set-up during most of the trip, this is at Bontle Campsite in Marakele National Park, South Africa.

 

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Cheers,

 

Michel

Edited by MR1980
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well i better get settled in and go on this long ride with you. :)

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Looking forward to this, excellent start. :)

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It looks like a terrific itinerary MR1980, I'm looking forward to following your experiences.

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Me too! Really looking forward to more...

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Welcome! Can't wait to get started.

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Great start @@MR1980! Looking forward to following this TR...

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Welcome Michael, This looks like a very cool trip and I look forward to seeing/reading more.

 

Cheers from Boston,

 

PT123

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Posted (edited)

Thank you all for joining me on this trip report! For this trip we opted for a flight from Amsterdam to Jo’burg with a stop-over in Zürich, this would save us some money which we could use later on for a flight over the Okavango Delta or something like that. The flight was with Swiss Air and was perfectly fine and without delay so we landed on time at O.R. Tambo International, but getting into the country was a whole different story… Long lines at customs so it took us about 90 minutes to get through, so valuable time got lost. The agent we used had booked us a car with Bushlore so after we got some cash and picked up our bags we went looking for our driver who would take us to Bushlore.

 

We arrived at their office and were soon brought to the car that would be our home for most of the time during the next for 4 weeks only to find out that they had prepared a car with a rooftop tent and a fridge but without all the other camping gear we would need. This was all caused by a miscommunication between my agent and Bushlore, but fortunately they handled it swiftley and soon they had the car ready and after instructions on how to use all the gear and getting the rooftop tent ready for use we could finally hit the road and fill our Hilux up with fuel and get our supplies for the first couple of days! So a bit later than planned we headed for our first destination, De Wildt Shingwedzi Cheetah and Wildlife Ranch in the Waterberg area.

 

When preparing this trip I thought the distance from the airport to Marakele was to far to travel on the day of arrival so I decided I wanted a stop-over not to far from the airport but not your typical hotel/bed-and-breakfast. De Wildt Shingwedzi seemed just the place I was looking for as it was on the road to Marakele and as a satellite facility of The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre in the Magaliesberg we would serve a good cause by staying in one of their thatched chalets for a couple of days. Although on paper it wouldn’t be a long drive, because of the delays and because we had to get used to the Garmin GPS with Tracks4Africa we arrived at De Wildt Shingwedzi when it as already dark. You can imagine the mood in the car got a bit tense because driving in the dark is not exactly recommended but after we arrived safely and were brought to our chalet everything was fine again… :)

 

On the left our braai and relaxing area, in the background a patio, and even further back our chalet big enough to accommodate 6 people. Our chalet was called Thutlwa and even had a private pool and lookout tower with a great view!!

 

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After this intense day of flying and driving we were very hungry so after a quick shower and some unpacking it was time to fire up the braai for a nice meal. While we were enjoying our boerewors and a cold Savannah Dry we suddenly heard some noise from the bushes around us and we were wondering what it could be?? The sound came closer and closer but we still coulnd’t see it, it even scared us a little, also because we didn’t know exactly what kind of animals were living on the reserve… But finally it showed itself, and guess what, it was an Aardvark!! Our first ever, and up until now only sighting of this illusive animal so we were thrilled that our trip started off so well. But because we were eating and it was dark we didn’t have a camera at close range so I don’t have proof unfortunately so you have to believe me on my blue eyes. We saw it only for a couple of seconds but we were very excited and full of hope of what the rest of the trip would offer us. The Aardvark didn’t show itself again so we finished our meal and went to bed early so we would be fresh and ready the next morning to enjoy the bushveld and some activities that we had planned on the reserve. To be continued…

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

Edited by MR1980
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What a great start! I am very excited to hear about your trip.

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An aardvark? I don't believe you. (Just kidding!). What a fantastic first sight after such an arduous day. Even though you didn't get a photo, I'll bet you will never forget it.

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The aardvark at the outset is a gem! I am very interested in several of the spots on your action packed itinerary, for example your stay at DeWildt Shingwedzi and also Khama to start it off.

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Thanks for all the nice comments everyone! Sorry it took a while for an update to appear, but here goes... :)

 

After a good night sleep I opened the curtains of our bedroom only to find out our car was nowhere to be seen… We thought, what’s this?? We’re on a game reserve and our car got stolen?!?! Obviously this was not the case, I went outside, walked to the parking area and found the car in a different spot with the back of the car almost touching the chalet. What had happened? At first we thought maybe a Rhino had moved it but than we realized the surface at the back of the chalet wasn’t completely flat so when I parked the car I probably hadn’t pulled the handbrake strong enough so during the night the car drove slowly backwards, luckily not crashing into the back of the chalet. During the rest of our trip we always made sure the handbrake was pulled up with maximum force as you can understand…

 

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After all this excitement we made ourselves a healthy breakfast before leaving for the reception area to start with the activities I had booked in advance. During our trips to Africa we like to visit a “good cause” to help the not so fortunate animals we love to watch in the wild and De Wildt Shingwedzi seemed to be just that. At first we had the opportunity to meet their ambassador Cheetah and after that we had a two hour tour where we drove around the reserve, had a look at their faciltities and went to see some of the animals that were staying at De Wildt temporarily or in some cases for the rest of their lives. During our visit we saw Cheetahs, a rare King Cheetah, Wild Dogs, Caracal, Serval and African Wild Cat. Roaming freely on the reserve were Kudu, Impala, Wildebeest, Giraffe, Eland and many other species.

 

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We enjoyed it all very much, some of the animals such as the Wild Dogs and the Caracal were a first for us so that was great but we also felt sorry for them not being able to live in the wild where they belong. After the tour we went back to our chalet to have lunch and relax a bit. In the afternoon we drove around the reserve ourselves to enjoy the bush veld and to take some cool panorama shots. We didn’t drive around for long because we wanted to enjoy the sunset from our private lookout tower while drinking an ice cold Savanna Dry, Africa at its best!! Later that evening we started the braai and had a lovely dinner although the Aardvark didn’t show itself again. It can’t be Christmas every day… The next morning our stay at De Wildt Shingwedzi ended with a Cheetah Run, you can probably imagine what this means. A Cheetah is brought in a large enclosure where he is able to demonstrate its incredible speed by chasing a lure. The guide said it’s good exersice for them and they seem to really enjoy it. It was also good exercise for me because capturing a running Cheetah on camera isn’t easy. After this last activity it was time to say goodbye to De Wildt Shingwedzi and its staff. All-in all we had a wonderful time, it was a perfect start to our trip and I can highly recommend it as a stop-over for a couple of nights on your way to Botswana and want to have an easy start to your trip. We were able to get to know our Hilux 4x4 a bit on the reserve, saw some beautiful animals and enjoyed our first couple of braais. What more could we want? Next stop will be Marakele!! To be continued…

 

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Cheers,

 

Michel

Edited by MR1980
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Lovely panoramas. Did you stitch them together yourself or is that an in-camera feature?

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Lovely panoramas. Did you stitch them together yourself or is that an in-camera feature?

 

Hi @@Marks, thanks for the compliment. On my Sony camera it's an in-camera feature. It works perfectly and I use it a lot on trips like this so you can expect many more during this trip report... :)

 

I thought it was possible to edit my previous post and add some more images from De Wildt Shingwedzi but for some reason that's not possible, does anyone know why? For now I will just add them to this post...

 

 

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Edited by MR1980
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I think I didn't come too late to the party?! Lovely photos, and panoramas are excellent. BTW which Sony camera?

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Awesome....my wife and I will be doing a similar trip in Namibia...rent and drive.

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Hi @@MR1980 I'm looking forward to reading more of your report

 

 

I thought it was possible to edit my previous post and add some more images from De Wildt Shingwedzi but for some reason that's not possible, does anyone know why? For now I will just add them to this post...

 

Editing is time limited, after you add your post you have 1hr during which you can go back and put right any mistakes you may have made, after that you’re stuck with whatever you posted, unless you ask one of the moderators very nicely to change something for you.

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From the high of an aardvark to thinking your car was stolen. That turned out lucky, no damage.

 

We all love your panoramas.

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Thank you all folks for the kind replies!! I have been on short holiday for the past week so I'm sorry for the lack of updates... I hope to continue the report very soon! :)

 

I have just started the report @@xelas so you're right on time! My camera is the Sony Alpha SLT-A55V. Not exactly high-end or anything but I'm pretty happy with it. I'm still in a positiion (probably like a lot of you) where I rather choose to spend the money on travelling and being able to go to Africa rather than buying a new camera but can't go to Africa.

 

I'm sure you will have an amazing trip @@SSF556! We loved Namibia last June...

 

Thanks @@inyathi, that explains a lot about the editing! :)

 

Hahaha yes @@Atravelynn, and that was only the first 2 days!

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As promised, the story continues...

 

While preparing this trip Marakele National Park (MNP) seemed to be an ideal stop-over between De Wildt Shingwedzi and Khama Rhino Sanctuary (KRS) in Botswana for several reasons. From what I have learnt on the internet the Bontle Campsite is very popular among campers because of the relaxed atmosphere, the possibility of Rhino’s strolling over the campsite and the fact that MNP also has a Big 5 section. But besides that it would be a perfect place to get used to setting up the rooftop tent and getting to know all the camping gear. After an easy 2 hour drive we arrived at MNP at the end of the morning and after a smooth check-in procedure we were on our way to the campsite. Quit a few sites were already occupied but we found a nice spot at the edge of the campsite overlooking the bushveld and with a view of a waterhole in the distance. It was still early in the afternoon so we decided to go for a gamedrive and see what we could find. Not much unfortunately… Besides a crash of White Rhino in the distance we only found some Giraffes, Zebra’s and Warthogs. It wasn’t a very long drive because we still had to setup the rooftop tent and start a fire for the braai and of course we didn’t want to do all that in the dark, who knows what could be lurking in the dark for an easy meal… :) It was our first experience with an unfenced campsite so we were still pretty nervous about it although while looking back at it, it wasn’t anything like Moremi as we discovered later on so it was great to get used to the routine of staying at an unfenced campsite. I remember we didn’t sleep very well that first night and were happy when the sun came up and we could get out of our tent safely and go for a much needed visit to the ablution facilities…

 

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We made some fried eggs (sunny side up) and rooibos thea for breakfast, as almost every day while we were camping and when we finished our meal it was time to head for the Big 5 section of the park of which we had high expectations for 2 reasons being our first possibility to see Elephants and Lions and the drive up the mountain pass to reach Lenong View Point which should have spectacular 360 degree views. Unfortunately we didn’t see anything interesting animal wise during our drive but the landscape of the Big 5 section is the real drawcard here, it’s spectacular! I can say a lot about it but I think the images speak for themselves. The drive up to Lenong View Point was a real test for my 4x4 driving skills as the road is very steep and very narrow but I managed it and there were no cars coming down the mountain. There aren’t many places where cars can easily pass each other so luckily there was no need to drive up- or downhill in reverse because that would have been a serious challenge! The view was indeed spectacular so a definite must-do when you are in MNP someday.

 

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Back at the campsite we relaxed at bit, had lunch and I worked on my camera skills in camp while practising on different subjects, mostly birds. Later in the afternoon we decided to book a guided afternoon gamedrive. We hoped the guides of MNP might have a better knowledge on where to find animals but unfortunately we had no luck. We got close to a Lion kill but the Lions were nowhere to be found. The highlight of the drive were a couple of White Rhino’s but it was already very dark so photographic opportunities were not great to say the least. We arrived back at the campsite in the dark but since it was our second night we weren’t very nervous any more so we had a pretty relaxed braai and went to bed early. Next day we would have a long drive ahead of us…

 

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How would I rate Marakele? A perfect stop-over between Jo’burg and Botswana with spectacular landscapes, especially in the Big 5 section and a very nice campsite with indeed a relaxed atmosphere but if you’re really into animals then there are probably better options or we were just a bit unlucky animal wise, we saw no Lion, Elephant, Buffalo and also no White Rhino’s strolling over the campsite which the campsite is famous for but also the usual suspects were a bit scarce. The Big 5 section is very big, there aren’t many roads in this area and I think the number of animals is not very high so this could be an explanation for the relative lack of animals we saw during the time we were there. Something which also surprised me was the fact that you are allowed to drive a normal sedan in the Big 5 section, I would definitively not recommend doing so. MNP would also be great for a weekend camping trip with the family if you live the Gauteng area.

Next episode? Khama Rhino Sanctuary!

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

 

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I hope you like the size of my images? I have uploaded them to this website so I can choose a couple of sizes, I have chosen the largest size for the above post. If I select a smaller size they are a lot smaller but if you think that's a better option I will change it for my next post.

 

I also have another question, my story continues in Botswana so it's probably best to continue the story in the Botswana section of this forum?

 

Cheers,

 

Michel

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@@MR1980 All looks good to me Michel. Keep it coming! Matt.

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You're right, that landscape really is something. I also like the hornbill on the post; incredibly crisp focus there.

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