THE GREAT NORTH­ERN LOOP

On this route you’ll see the Oka­vango Delta and Pan­han­dle, the Zam­bezi Re­gion, the Kwando River, the Zam­bezi River, the Chobe River, Vic­to­ria Falls and Mak­gadik­gadi Pans.

go! Botswana - - DO IT YOURSELF -

DAY 1 South­ern Botswana

It’s a long drive to Botswana. De­pend­ing on where you live in South Africa, you’ll pos­si­bly only cross the bor­der on the sec­ond day of your hol­i­day.

If you’re trav­el­ling from the West­ern Cape, Eastern Cape or North­ern Cape, head for the town of Kang on the west­ern route to Maun via Ghanzi.

If you live in one of the other prov­inces, travel to Serowe and ap­proach Maun on the cen­tral route.

OUR PICK! Kala­hari Rest near Kang (page 85, west­ern route) and Khama Rhino Sanc­tu­ary near Serowe (page 86, cen­tral route).

DAY 2 Maun & Oka­vango Delta

If you’re on the west­ern route, you’ll travel through the Kala­hari to Maun. The cen­tral route will take you along the Boteti River. (See page 22.)

Maun is one of the big­gest safari towns in the coun­try. You can join a tour on a day trip to Moremi, or do a mokoro out­ing. Book at least one ex­tra night’s ac­com­mo­da­tion if you want to do any of th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties.

Maun is on the south­ern edge of the Oka­vango Delta, but the land­scape is flat and you can’t re­ally see the vast ex­panse of water. The best way to see

the delta prop­erly is from the air. Take a 45-minute flight – see page 90 for rates and book­ings.

OUR PICK!

Si­tatunga Camp (page 89, west­ern route); Drifter’s Camp Maun (page 90, cen­tral route); Is­land Safari Lodge (page 89, ei­ther route).

DAY 3 Oka­vango Pan­han­dle

Book your flight over the Oka­vango Delta for early morn­ing. Af­ter­wards, do your gro­cery shop­ping for the next few days be­cause Maun is the last big town you’ll see for a while. Drive to Se­hithwa and turn north – this tar road is in a poor con­di­tion so drive care­fully.

The Oka­vango Pan­han­dle is the wide part of the Oka­vango River be­fore it fans out to be­come the delta. There are many camps on the river with great bird­ing and fish­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. It’s not as wild as Moremi so you can sleep soundly, but there are hip­pos and crocs so stay away from the water.

DAY 4 Oka­vango Pan­han­dle

Stay on the pan­han­dle for two nights – re­lax in your camp­ing chair or in the shade of a wa­ter­berry tree. You can also go see the rock en­grav­ings at Tsodilo Hills (a World Her­itage Site), but the road there is for bakkies only. Mokoro and house­boat cruises from Sepupa are also pop­u­lar.

OUR PICK!

Se­popa Swamp Stop, Shakawe River Lodge, Drot­sky’s Cab­ins – page 94.

DAY 5 Oka­vango River, Namibia

Now for Botswana’s secret cor­ner: the Zam­bezi Re­gion (for­merly the Caprivi Strip). It’s not in Botswana, but this part of Namibia is a log­i­cal ad­di­tion to a hol­i­day in this re­gion. The small area be­tween the Mo­hembo bor­der post and Divundu has more camp­sites and lodges than the whole pan­han­dle on the Botswana side.

Plus you have ac­cess to two great parks from here: Ma­hango Game Re­serve and Bwab­wata Na­tional Park.

Game view­ing in Ma­hango is easy be­cause the roads along the river are usu­ally tra­vers­a­ble in any ve­hi­cle. You’ll see ele­phant, gi­raffe, buf­falo, sable an­te­lope and roan an­te­lope. Game view­ing in Bwab­wata on the other side of the river is 4x4 only, but you can do a guided game drive if you’re in a Corolla. (Book via the place you’re stay­ing at.) If you’re in­ter­ested in the his­tory of the South African Bor­der War, visit the ru­ins of the 32 Bat­tal­ion mil­i­tary base.

DAY 6 Oka­vango River, Namibia

Stay on the banks of the Oka­vango for at least two nights. Three is bet­ter. Four? Why not. You don’t have to drive ev­ery day. Watch the river flow­ing past and look for ele­phants on the op­po­site bank.

OUR PICK!

Ngepi Camp, Nunda River Lodge, Shametu River Lodge, Ma­hangu Safari Lodge, Nd­hovu Safari Lodge – page 101.

DAY 7 Kwando River, Namibia

The Kwando River is so pris­tine that it catches you off guard. The new tar road south of Kon­gola leads you al­most right to the camps where you want to be. Stay here for one night to break your long jour­ney east through the Zam­bezi Re­gion. If you have time, do a river cruise or a guided game drive in nearby Mudumu Na­tional Park.

OUR PICK!

Camp Kwando; Ma­lyo Wilder­ness Camp (wild); Na­mushasha River Lodge (more tame) – pages 101 – 102.

DAY 8 Zam­bezi River, Namibia

You don’t have to cross another bor­der to see the mighty Zam­bezi. Set up camp south of Ka­tima Mulilo, book a sun­set cruise and sip a G&T while the river­ine for­est groans un­der the weight of all those birds. Try to hook a tiger fish while you’re here!

OUR PICK!

Caprivi House­boat Safari Lodge; Namwi Is­land Lodge; Caprivi Mu­toya Lodge; Is­land View Lodge – pages 102 – 103.

DAY 9 Kasane

When you drive back to Botswana from Ka­tima Mulilo in Namibia, go via the Ngoma bor­der post with its clump of baobab trees. Ele­phants are of­ten seen here. The tar road from Ngoma through Chobe Na­tional Park to Kasane shouldn’t be over­looked – you might see a lion next to the road!

Kasane will be your base for the next few days. The town is busy but still quintessen­tially Botswana: there are ba­boons on the roof of the liquor store and warthogs in the Spar park­ing area.

DAY 10 Vic Falls, Zim­babwe

We rec­om­mend a day out­ing to Vic Falls – even if you’ve been there be­fore. Why? Ev­ery visit is dif­fer­ent and the tum­bling water touches you on an al­most emo­tional level. Go have another look… and another!

Leave your ve­hi­cle in Kasane and book a tour through the lodge you’re stay­ing at. You’ll be taken to the Zim­babwe bor­der as part of a group, helped across the bor­der and picked up by a tour op­er­a­tor on the other side who will trans­port you to Vic Falls.

This way you won’t have to pay ex­tra fees to get your ve­hi­cle across the bor­der (R800+) and some­one else will take care of all the lo­gis­tics. You can just en­joy the day.

DAY 11 Chobe Na­tional Park

You can switch day 10 and day 11 around if you’d like – or skip Vic Falls and spend two full days in and around Chobe Na­tional Park. Your park fee is valid for the whole day: Visit the park early in the morn­ing for a guided game drive (book at the place you’re stay­ing). The roads in the park are very sandy and for 4x4s only – rather let an ex­pe­ri­enced field guide take you straight to a lion.

The high­light of any Botswana trip is a late af­ter­noon cruise on the Chobe River. Again, book via your lodge or camp. Sit back with your cam­era and binoc­u­lars and en­joy one of Africa’s best gameview­ing ex­pe­ri­ences: ele­phants in the shal­lows 10 m from the boat; a buf­falo cross­ing the river; ev­ery kind of king­fisher un­der the sun and maybe a cameo ap­pear­ance by the res­i­dent lion pride.

OUR PICK!

Chobe Safari Lodge (page 98); Thebe River Sa­faris (page 100).

DAY 12 Nata

Time to head home. Look for ele­phant, ze­bra and gi­raffe next to the road (and on it) be­tween Kasane and Nata. There are lots of an­i­mals in the area.

If you haven’t seen enough el­lies yet, overnight at Ele­phant Sands north of Nata. Dur­ing the dry sea­son, hun­dreds of ele­phants flock here to drink water. Bird lovers can visit Nata Lodge south of town and the eastern tip of Mak­gadik­gadi Pans at the Nata Bird Sanc­tu­ary. Some­times thou­sands of wa­ter­birds like flamin­gos and pel­i­cans con­gre­gate here. The pan oc­ca­sion­ally has about half a me­tre of water, but it’s mostly dry. OUR PICK!

Ele­phant Sands; Nata Lodge – page 93.

DO IT YOUR­SELF

VELD & VLEI. The roads in Botswana are gen­er­ally in a good con­di­tion (above). But drive slowly be­cause the odd pot­hole can cost you a tyre.

On the 12-day Great North­ern Loop, you can en­joy a boat cruise on the Chobe River (op­po­site).

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