My wife, Angela, and I initially intended to do a trip to Namibia and Botswana on our own, towing our Fendt caravan and sticking mostly to tar roads, as I am told this is possible. However, my wife’s sister and her husband, Sylvia and James, wanted to join us, so we decided rather to do a camping trip and use that as a platform for future possible adventures through these two countries.
We spent approximately a year in the planning, and booked all the sites in advance. In retrospect, this was probably not necessary, but it gave me the peace of mind of not having to worry about accommodation.
As we would be leaving Cape Town, and Sylvia and James would be leaving Johannesburg, they would meet us in Ai-Ais in Namibia. Friends of theirs decided to join us for part of the trip.
Angela, in her normal efficient way, kept a diary of each day’s events. I will try to keep it as brief as possible, and hope to highlight specific times that we experienced, good and bad.
14 August 2014
We left Cape Town at 10h00 and headed up the west coast to camp in Van Rhynsdorp for the first night. It was rather windy, and extremely cold at night. Okay, I’m a bit of a ninny, so we had our electric blanket in the rooftop tent, and I’m not ashamed to say that we slept soundly. We had stayed here before and must say it’s a very pleasant stopover campsite.
15 August 2014
Our next stop was the Springbok Caravan Park, and here, too, we have stayed before. With all the spring flowers out in full bloom, it is a majestic sight. It was again very cold, especially when the wind blew.
16 & 17 August
We made our way to the Namibian border at Vioolsdrift, getting there at 11h30. It took only an hour to get through both border controls with no problem.
We got to Ai-Ais at 14h30, via the D316 which was a very pleasant dirt road. We stayed at the main campsite which had electrical points. It was very pleasant and we enjoyed a swim in the hot springs.
The following day, Sylvia and James arrived from Johannesburg, as did Malcolm and Sue. Before they arrived, we took a drive to the beginning of the Fish River Canyon. It was very dry and desolate but quite spectacular, and we saw many beautiful Quiver trees.
Back at the camp, we had a spectacular lamb and veg potjie, while hearing some interesting stories about how everyone had got to Ai-Ais
We packed up and at 09h30 headed out on the C10 to get to the B1. We passed through Grunau on our way to Keetmanshoop, where we stocked up with more fresh meat and provisions.
A few kilometres after Mariental, we turned off onto the C20 to our next stop, Anib Campsite. Although it was very rustic, it was nevertheless very pleasant and we had our own ablution, braai and veranda. There is an electrical point, which was very handy.
We enjoyed a braai with fresh salad and basil pesto bread. Although James is convinced that his drink was “spiked”, and after much laughter, we all had a good night’s sleep.
We made an early start as we wanted to get to our next stop by afternoon, and passed the Tropic of Capricorn on our way to Windhoek. We were advised to have lunch at Joe’s Beer House – what a fascinating establishment. Although they say that they open only after 16h00, they were kind enough to let us have a pub lunch, and I thoroughly enjoyed the bratwurst. Joe’s is certainly well worth visiting with all its memorabilia and fascinating rooms with so much to see.
Continuing on the B1 past Okahanja, we turned off on the C31 and found our way to the Ombo camp site. This was another lovely campsite, grassed, with single ablutions that have a toilet, basin and shower in each one, and a “donkey” to heat the water.
We watched the giraffe being fed, and were fascinated by all the other animals running around. There was a lapa where we set up camp and I made a Malay bobotie in a potjie, with all the trimmings. Hot coals on the lid made a lovely crust on top. It’s amazing what one can do when camping. Yes; another worthwhile camp site to stay at, and with electrical points, too.
20 & 21 August
We had to make an early departure at 08h30 in order to get to Etosha by midafternoon, after first restocking with provisions at Otjiwarongo.
We left the B1, took the C38, and finally arrived in Etosha… and it was not long before we saw what some were calling the “ghosts of Etosha”. These awesome, beautiful elephants covered with fine white dust are a sight to behold.
Heading on, we arrived at Halali campsite at 14h00. This is a very sandy and dusty campsite, but very pleasant and very busy; and they also had electrical points.
We stayed here for two days to see as much as possible. A waterhole about half a kilometre from the camp proved to be very entertaining, with plenty of animals to see. Besides all the various antelope, warthog, etc., we were delightfully entertained by 13 elephants and their babies!
After packing up, it was just 75-odd kilometres to Namutoni campsite – another spot well worth staying at. There are grassed sites, electrical points and clean ablutions.
Although they do have a waterhole, it was not as well populated as the one at Halali.
Much renovation was taking place at Namutoni at the time, and I’m sure that once this is completed, it will be an awesome spot to stay. The fort is fascinating; certainly one of my highlights.
23 & 24 August
The trip to the Caprivi from here is a long one, so after an early pack-up, we departed at 08h40 to tackle the 650- odd kilometres to our next campsite. We stopped briefly in Tsumeb, where I was able to find a Midas store and purchase a rear cluster light for the trailer which had suffered damage in the corrugated roads through Etosha.
In Grootfontein, we stocked up for the next three days. After an uneventful day of driving to Rundu on the B8, we refuelled at Divundu, from where we took the road that runs next to the Kwando River to get to Ngepi campsite. This is an interesting and worthwhile community-run camp. There was some deep sand on the way to the site, but it was manageable.
We stayed for two nights, and saw a lot during a sunset cruise on the river. The bird life in Namibia is just as incredible, and was a pleasant surprise. We saw numerous kingfishers, fish eagles, darters, skimmers, spoonbills and many others.
The campsite is right on the river, with nicely grassed sites, and some unusual ablution facilities. The campers’ “throne” had a marvellous view over the river, and the shower (under a tree) was a delight to use, provided as it was with solar-powered hot water. We could also have a bath under the stars, overlooking the river, if we were prepared to light the donkey for hot water.
There were several tree houses one could stay in which were situated right on the river bank, and very pleasant indeed with their own en-suite facilities.
Ngepi has a pleasant restaurant, in which we treated ourselves to dinner on the second night; and the bar overlooking the river was a delight to experience.
We enjoyed Malcolm and Sue’s beef stroganoff before having marshmallows on the fire for dessert. Yes, it’s a community-run campsite, and certainly a place I would like to return to one day.
Although there is limited electrical power, there is sufficient to operate the fridge; however, it works only between 10h00 and 22h00 as it is solar powered, so (again) the gas option for my fridge came in handy during the night.
Our next destination was not too far away; we went back to Divundu and onto the B8 again towards Katima Mulilo, then towards the Ngoma border gate. Just a few kilometres outside Katima Mulilo, we turned off to the left to get to Namwi Island Campsite.
This was another beautifully grassed campsite under magnificent trees, right on the banks of the Zambezi River. There is a swimming pool, clean ablutions, and electrical points.
26 – 28 August
We set off to the border post of Nongoma, where it cost us R190 per couple to get through. Right outside the office was a huge Baobab tree, and one could actually walk inside it.
We travelled through Chobe National Park on a good tar road and saw numerous elephants and zebra crossing the road at various places. We arrived at Chobe River Lodge at lunch time on an extremely hot day. We were a little disappointed in the campsites, which seemed rundown and in need of some attention.
We were continually raided by monkeys and baboons, and warthogs scavenged through our campsite. However, the setting was magnificent, right on the banks of the Chobe River, and it was lovely to be able to sit on the veranda and watch the animals and birds.
We went on a sunset cruise which lasted about one-and-a-half hours; what a wonderful experience it was to see the abundance of animals in such a small area. These included buffalo galore, and elephants crossing the river to get onto the island, as well as many hippo and various antelope, crocodiles, and (yes, again) the wonderful bird life with pied kingfishers and the familiar call of the magnificent fish eagle.
The following night, we had dinner on a riverboat, which we had been so looking forward to – but which again left us a little disappointed in terms of value for money.
The following day, we went to Victoria Falls and had lunch at the magnificent Victoria Falls Hotel. The falls were spectacular, even though it was the dry season. This was certainly one of the highlights and very worthwhile visiting. Crossing the border into Zimbabwe and back was fairly effortless.
We were now on our way to the Elephant Sands Camp site and arrived there at lunch time, in very windy and sandy conditions. The sites were very open, and the ablutions were quite acceptable.
We spent most of the time at the office-cum-restaurant area in front of a waterhole. Elephants do just walk through the campsite to get to the waterhole. We were fortunate to see them, although we saw only one at a time; and, around the dinner table that night, we half-seriously wondered if there was only one elephant which kept returning to the waterhole.
Leaving at 09H00, we headed for Old Bridge Backpackers in the Okavango Delta, and arrived there at 15H00. On the way, we stopped to look at Planet Baobab, which was well-laid-out and certainly a place where we would like to spend a few days. It has a very nice campsite and some wonderful specimens of beautiful Baobab trees.
Old Bridge Backpackers is a magnificent spot, especially if one is staying in one of the cottages on the banks of the river. The entertainment area is wonderful, with a very inviting swimming pool overlooking the river; the whole ambience is beautiful with the abundance of bird life. The toilets and showers were a treat, with ample hot water.
Unfortunately, there was one very disappointing factor: the few camping sites which are at the back are somewhat neglected, and we had seepage on our sites which must have come from the restaurant kitchen waste water, and the wash-up area for the campers.
We were continually requesting the staff to unblock the sinks; in fact, the whole wash-up and cooking area at the back was in dire need of attention. The low level of these few campsites seem to allow flooding from the high water table. The water-treatment plant is adjacent to the campers and the pump’s continuous running created a serious noise problem. (Not to mention the odour at times).
We almost decided to move on, but thought we’d try to put up with it. We decided that the following day should be spent relaxing at the entertainment area overlooking the river, catching up on washing and just chilling out.
We took a trip on the Mokoro boats into the Okavango swamps. This necessitated a 30-minute drive to the boat launch site, then an hour’s motorboat trip up the river to get to the Mokoro boats, in which we then were taken into the swamps to an island after a further hour.
We moved silently through the reeds and canals made by the hippo, as our guide skilfully pushed our Mokoro along with a long wooden pole. What a wonderful experience.
We had close encounters with two enormous elephants; we saw hippo, zebra, tortoise, saddle-backed stork, black-smith plovers, bee-eaters, spur-winged geese, white-faced duck, fish eagles, pied kingfishers, and many hornbills.
Our guide was very knowledgeable. We eventually had to make the trip back, and saw some amazing horses grazing belly-deep in the water; something I’d never seen before.
2 & 3 September
Our next trip was to Kumaga. We had to stock up with sufficient supplies as there were no facilities in this park. Entering from the south necessitated crossing the Botiti River on a ferry. What a nice experience; with the heavy rains they had recently in Angola, the Okavango Delta had plenty of water and the Botiti River was flowing quite strongly. We were informed by staff at Makgadigadi National Park that the river had been flowing since 2010, before which it had been dry for years.
The sites at Kumaga are close to the south entrance, and very sandy. New ablution blocks were a pleasure, and our campsite was on the bank of the river. As the river was flowing strongly, the hippos were spread out and we often saw them frolicking in the water right in front of us.
After setting up camp, we went for a drive – you can expect very deep, soft sand, but we certainly saw plenty of wildlife. There were elephant, giraffe, zebra, kudu, and wildebeest, to name but a few.
The following day was hot and the wind was starting to blow quite hard. We went for another drive through the park, and when we got back to the camp, we found that the monkeys had raided James and Sylvia’s tent, leaving quite a mess. Little rascals; they can be such a nuisance, but fascinating to watch.
At night, wildebeest came right into our camp to graze on what little grass they could find. We did notice some hay, which we presume had been left out for this purpose.
4 & 5 September
After packing up early, we crossed the Botiti River again on the ferry and made our way towards Serowe.
We got provisions at Letlakane before arriving at Khama Rhino Sanctuary, where we had to pay an entry fee of about 420 pula per couple. It was very hot and dry, with very thick, soft roads in and around the camp.
Each site has its own Baobab tree, a water tap with a birdbath, and a braai. We prepared a chicken-and-chorizo casserole with mashed sweet potatoes, as well as stir-fried spinach with Portuguese garlic. Another amazing outdoor-meal adventure.
There are no electrical points at this campsite, and after running out of gas, I had to get the bottle refilled in Serowe. We saw plenty of bird life in this campsite, including woodpeckers, a waxbill pied babbler and crimsoncrested shrike.
While driving around the park, we stopped at Serwe Pan, where we were delighted to see 8 rhino, including 2 babies. There were plenty of wildebeest and more rhino at Melema Pan.
After departing at 08h30, we stopped at Palapye to stock up with a few provisions. We arrived at our last destination in Botswana at the Mokolodi Nature Reserve, a camp with a few surprises: some delightful, but others rather disappointing.
After booking in at the entrance, we realised that this was the most expensive campsite we had ever stayed at. Each site was nicely segregated with its own toilet and open-air shower. There were no electrical points and we had to buy our own wood to light the “donkey” for hot water. There was no hand basin in the toilet. We were told to buy at least two bundles of wood per person for the donkey, so, as there were four of us, it came to 8 bundles of wood at over R60 per bundle! Now, that’s an expensive shower! We were not allowed to collect any wood in the reserve.
After lighting the donkey, we heard a loud “bang” and much hissing, and found that the underground pipe from the donkey had burst. We managed to phone the office, and a ranger was despatched to attend to the problem. He had no tools, so borrowed our spade, pliers, etc. We also informed him that the toilet had no water. We asked him about the wood, and he said that 2 bundles per person would never be enough, but said that we should not worry as he would bring some more wood for us. He repaired the fault as best he could, as he realised that there was no pressure-release facility and had to leave the tap slightly open to release the pressure.
Anyway, we all managed to have a hot shower eventually. The campsites are rather nice but very rough, and the road to and from the camp is extremely rough. All this at the ridiculous price of over R500 per person per night (excluding the R480 for the wood.) We will not be returning.
We left at 08h00, said our goodbyes to Sylvia and James, and then made our way through Lobatse to the border post at Ramalabama. After an effortless border crossing, we headed to Mokala National Park outside Kimberley. We were told that the campsite was full, so we booked into a self-catering chalet at Lillydale. What a pleasant surprise! It is reasonably priced, and the park has plenty to offer with some great sightings of buffalo, rhino, and the usual wildebeest, gemsbok, zebra, warthog, etc. Our chalet overlooked the Riet River… We will definitely be going back there.
We made our way to Mosa Lodge, where we had breakfast in the restaurant before leaving the park. It was a pleasant drive to Beaufort West and we camped one night at Karoo National Park – one of my favourite stop-overs, especially for pensioners out of season. We were woken during the night by a huge porcupine scavenging through our rubbish bag.
We left the Karoo National Park and arrived safely home in the early afternoon. It was a wonderful experience and certainly a most enjoyable holiday, and I am already starting to plan our next venture into Namibia – maybe in the caravan next time…