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Maghoto River

Looking a lion in the eye

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The further one travels into Botswana, the more alone one is but the less alone one feels.

“Why is this?”, I ask myself as we travel along in a happy silence on some of the loneliest roads in Africa.

Even the music playing softly in the background gets too much. I switch it off and Arthur, my husband, gives me “the look”. But he knows better than to say anything and we just smile at each other and carry on.

We both love the bush with a passion and need to go often. After every trip I feel as though my senses are in the right order and my priorities back in place.

As we are pensioners, there is no hurry and we usually travel for around six to seven weeks at a time. Jealous? Yeah, I bet you are! LOL.

1st night

Silver Rocks

We travel in a 2009 Fortuner D4D of which the back seats have been removed and replaced with hatches and drawer system with a fridge.

Behind our trusty Toyota is a camping trailer that my husband and my son built. We are currently on our third model and have been extremely happy with it… except for when we broke the axle crossing over to Mabua in the Kgalagadi, but that’s a story for another time.

When we go to Botswana we normally stay at Khama Rhino Sanctuary for two nights. That gives us a day to enjoy what the park has to offer.

We then travel up to Drifters camp just outside Maun for a night so we can collect our permits from the DWNP offices.

We then head on to Second or Third Bridge and spend about four nights there. Then it’s on to Maghoto or around there somewhere for another four nights. We love Maghoto as it is against the river and there is always something exciting happening.

Elephant

Close encounters at the camp site

We spend a day driving to Savuti, which is pretty hectic, but once here we spend six days to a week in the area.

Then we head north to Chobe to camp at Ihaha, and after a few days we head down to Senyati, which has a fantastic underground bunker for guests. From here we make our way back down to Woodlands and then next day back into SA.

But let’s back up to Savuti…

SAVUTI – THE UNPREDICTABLE

Savuti, of Savute, means “unpredictable – something that cannot be explained” and refers to the history of the channel. It runs over a 100 kilometers from the Chobe River, through a gap in the sand ridge, and creates a small marsh where it enters the Mababe Depression. The channel was flowing in explorer David Livingstone’s time, but from around 1880 it was dry for about 70 years… it flooded again in 1957, but has again been dry for the past 18 years.

On a recent trip, travelling from 3rd Bridge to Savuti, we came around a corner and could go no further: There are elephants everywhere and they have pulled a tree over right in our path.

Because we are towing our off-road trailer, there is no real option of reversing.

Suddenly the Matriarch spots us and takes an instant dislike to our Fortuner. We are not sure why… we love it!

She faces us and flaps her ears, trumpeting loudly. I grab the radio and call Sean, our friend who is travelling behind us, telling him to reverse in as calm a voice as I possibly can.

I grab my camera while bracing myself as Arthur puts the vehicle into low range 4×4 and slowly starts reversing, praying that the trailer doesn’t start to swing.

Then just as quickly, the big grey snorts and turns off into the bush nearby, disappearing into the silence.

We both breathe a sigh of relief and drive around the chaos left in the road.

Sometimes luck is on your side and this was one of those times that Nature was kind! This is not always the case though.

Sunset in Botswana

IT’S A WILD WORLD OUT THERE

As we were packing up that very morning, Bradley picked up his bag that holds his groundsheet and gently shook it in case of creepy crawlies.

Out popped a tiny field mouse and it promptly lay down on the ground and pretended to be dead.

After much oohing and aahing and coaxing from little Milla, he accepted a piece of cheese and sat up eating it watching her all the time through his glassy eyes and twitchy whiskers. He was ever so cute…

But no sooner had we turned our backs to carry on packing up, than I caught a glimpse of a Hornbill swoop down, grab the mouse in its claws and promptly land on a branch just out of reach and start tearing the little guy apart despite us shouting and waving obstacles at it.

Nature can be cruel!

Lioness and cubs near Savuti, Botswana

THE MANE EVENT

There are always highlights on a trip that we tend to cherish in our memories.

At Savuti the one day we rode down the marsh road passing by hundreds of impala, wildebeest, buffalo, elephants and various other common plains game in search of something different.

We came to an open patch in the tracks and decided to stop and have some coffee and rusks. We open the drawer system, fill the kettle and pop it onto the burner on the ground behind the Fortuner.

We stand around chatting and eating, waiting for the kettle to boil, when all of a sudden about 200 impala come pronking and bounding towards us.

They were clearly “verskrik”, snorting and all looking behind them, totally ignoring us.

I grab my camera and start snapping away madly, until… out of the bush a female lion comes walking straight towards us.

She was in no hurry and had this arrogant air about her as if she was not afraid of anything.

We hurriedly jump into our vehicles, leaving the kettle on the boil and the back door of the Fortuner wide open. The lioness walks right across the front of our vehicle and pauses about 20 meters to the left, sniffing the air.

We sit in silence, the only audible noise the shutter of the camera going constantly.

We decide to wait until she’s a little further away before we venture out to carry on with our coffee.

Just as well we did because not two seconds later another female lion with a tiny cub comes sauntering out of the bush!

And just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, another cub comes… and then another two!

We watch in awe as they move along, grabbing at each other’s tails and playing catch, right in front of our eyes.

Eventually, they all settle under a bush no more than 100 meters away for a nap.

After much deliberation, we decide to finish our coffee-making before moving closer to the bush. After all, it was after 10 in the morning and they usually would rest for quite a while.

So we climb out our vehicles, keeping a watchful eye on them all the time in case they changed their minds and decided we were more interesting.

I’m at the back door of the vehicle, setting up my camera with the lenses want to use, when a movement through the opposite window catches my eye.

I glance up and horror of all horrors, Daddy Lion is walking through the bush coming right towards us!

Lion, near Savuti

I cringe in fear as I watch him stride purposely across the grass… he’s got that look in his eye. This time the fear is real as we all jump into our vehicles, slamming doors, closing windows and trying to take photos at the same time.

He walks right past us to join his family under the bush where he promptly lies down to rest, all the time keeping a beady eye on us.

That is what I love about the true bush: You can be calm and relaxed one minute and the next you are terrified out of your socks! It plays havoc with your emotions, yet leaves you feeling revitalised and fulfilled!

 

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