We started this road trip with an overnight stay outside Pretoria, then continued to Botswana’s capital, Gaborone. While we had heard that there really is not much to see there (which also turned out to be true), I feel that you have not really been to a country unless you have visited the capital.
Gaborone is a modern city, and didn’t become capital until 1969. It is primarily a place for governmental authorities and business… everything is neat, orderly, sterile, and so boring. There is absolutely nothing of Maputo’s unruly charm and street life. We asked the hostess at our guesthouse what she recommended to see of Gaborone, whereby she suggested a few shopping malls. That’s the level of it! The Star Trek feeling is accentuated by the fact that neighborhoods have names such as Block 3, 4, 5 etc or Extension 37, 38, 39… No thank you, fast forward to the north.
Next stop was Francistown, where we stayed overnight just to break up the drive. It is the country’s second largest city, and although there were not really any interesting sights, it had a bit of street life at least. We then proceeded to Maun, which is the gateway to the huge Okowango Delta … the world’s largest inland delta. It is a small town entirely built around activity based tourism: companies that make expeditions into the delta, safaris in the neighboring Moremi National Park, and the like. We had decided to spend big time and do a one hour flight over the delta to see the wildlife of this unique eco-system from above.
We took off early in the morning with our little Cessna, safely controlled by our pilot/guide Oli. What we hadn’t really realized though, is how enormous this delta is. So basically we just skirted along the perimeter of the delta until it was time to turn back. We cruised at an altitude of 150 meters saw a lot of animals, mostly buffaloes and elephants, but not the really massive herds we had anticipated. A lovely and different experience anyway.
Then in Maun we tried to arrange a trip with the traditional canoe mokoro, but it wasn’t possible on such short notice. Bad planning from our side, for once. In the evening at our hotel we ended up at a show with local dancers. Stella was strong and did not back out when she was invited to join in.
From there we drove on to Kasane, in the very north of Botswana. On the way there we became aware of that you don’t even have to go into a national park to see game. Occasionally it was like a roadside safari. Just as the road signs in Sweden warn about moose, here they alerted for elephants. There were giraffes, zebras, elephants, ostriches and antelopes here and there next to the road. After a long drive we finally reached Kasane, which has the same function for the Chobe National Park as Maun has for Okowango. That is, a bonanza for game lodges and tour organizers.
This NP is named after the Chobe River, which is the border to Namibia. Here we started with a morning game drive organized by our lodge. We have already done several game drives in the Kruger Park so perhaps we have been spoiled, but this safari was really a waste of money. Of course there are never any guarantees for which animals you get to see, but it was almost completely dead now … just a few antelopes and giraffes. Some other guys in our safari vehicle really rubbed this fact in, when they mentioned the lions and leopards they saw the day before.
Anyway, the main reason we came here was to get another perspective on the safari experience: from the river, via a sunset cruise. And this was such a treat! We slowly moved up and down the river and took in the animal and bird life during late afternoon and dusk. The absolutely most stunning moment was when a herd of elephants decided to swim from the riverbank to an island in the middle of the river, just next to our boat. Some adult elephants at the beginning and end, and the little ones in the middle. They swam almost completely under the surface, with only the trunks sticking up like a snorkel. An amazing sight, and we had loads of boats of varying sizes swarming around us.
Then we headed on to Zimbabwe, which is the subject of another travelogue.