Published: August 4th 2010August 4th 2010
“To travel and wander is to discover”.Anon…..running out of travel quotations.So it was with a touch of wanderlust and the addiction of the African bush that we delivered ourselves on the morning of 1st August to one of Africa’s best game reserves…..Moremi.This is about as wild as it gets and our first two nights were spent at South Gate camp site.No fences here so you are living with whatever is out there.For good measure,as we set about deciding where to locate things in yet another camp site routine,we heard the snapping and cracking of breaking trees close by and there they were…..a herd of elephant quietly going about their business of seeking the juicy bits of Mopani trees.Interesting tree this as Moremi is broadly described as a Mopani wooded region which fringes on the southern most rump of the Okavango Delta.In our game drives around Moremi we were to see many of these trees some of which grow to impressive size but the vast majority, for reasons I do not know,are small at about 3 meters.The game viewing,wherever they grow alongside each other in abundance,is poor and you need to find the open plains and water pans to see the many
animals found in this reserve which spans about 4800 square km’s.Back to the Mopani tree which is a real gold nugget for a number of reasons…firstly,much loved by elephants for their high protein leaves and then sought after by home builders as the timber is termite resistant.Of course us camping types find it very useful for camp fires…long burning and produces great coals.Then it is responsible for the Mopani worm which is a delicacy for some tribal people and a handful of others……all 7cm of it minus the head.There are three roads leading north to the delta from South Gate and we explored the North Gate area as well as the road up to Xakanaxa(rolls easily off the tongue if you repeat many times).In both cases most of the route is through heavily wooded areas and it is only when one gets within 3-4 km of these two camp sites that wooded glades become more prevalent.They are spectacularly beautiful with winter brown grass fringing huge trees sustained by the delta waters close by.Elephant in numbers and often they appear out of nowhere in the twists and turns of the sandy roads.One can only marvel at these magnificent animals as they
move silently and slowly in their family structures.Generally they were fairly calm but a few times we did startle a few when rounding a corner and then there would be a bit of trumpeting and ear flapping before they backed off.Animals we hadn’t seen thus far now included Roan Antelope,Steenbuck and Red Hartebeest.South Gate is a beautiful camp site nestling under Mopani trees and we were indeed surprised to find that since Bruce and Megan were here 3 years ago,brand new ablution blocks have been built sporting solar powered hot water showers and flush toilets.This is the case at all four of Moremi’s camping areas and I’m sure will only serve to further increase the huge popularity of this game reserve.There are only about 10 camp sites in each with demand far outstripping supply….getting a camp site booking is almost “mission impossible” made considerably more difficult by a ridiculously inefficient system devised by the Botswana Wildlife people.Each camp site is managed by a separate individual/company(a sort of outsourcing/empowerment model)so the booking process is challenging to say the least.The routine in the evenings is well established and there is little to beat sitting around a camp fire listening to the call
of Scops and Wood Owls and the whooping call of hyena.A roaring log fire and al fresco dinners accompanied by a few glasses of red wine(Tall Horse Shiraz stocks dwindling at an alarming rate)……all of this under a star lit African sky.Our evenings at South Gate were not spent alone as we had a wandering hyena drifting in and out of camp hoping to snatch some morsel when we weren’t watching.The sandy roads are interesting to say the least and in true African bush style there is no apparent attempt to actually fix them which I guess is deliberate as it enhances the real bush experience.There is,however,a looming problem as some of the drifts are now so deep that when the summer rains arrive(and it rains like hell here),there is a good possibility that pods of hippo will take up residence in the middle of the road.In fact we cannot see how many roads will be usable come the summer unless some basic repair work is done.One night was spent at Third Bridge camp site and getting there was an event all of it’s own.The distance is about 42km’s which took us all of 3 hours to maneuver.Before one gets
to Third Bridge you have to negotiate First and Second Bridge.Now don’t think conventional cement type bridge…these are a series of poles located in the water which essentially carry the vehicle across steams or pans.Problem is that with a number of large 4x4’s and large overland trucks trundling across these structures the wood sort of rearranges itself.We managed but did hear of a tour group on an open Landie stuck on another bridge for 2 hours.The camp site at Third Bridge was outstanding and located right on the edge of a swamp region so the sound of hippo was ever present.Our neighbours in the next camp site were less fortunate as they had a large troop of baboons camping in the trees right over their camp site…the shrieking and barking of this troop early in the morning must have sounded like the early stages of a serious horror movie.Remarkably around the camp fire at Third Bridge conversation suddenly shifted to planning for 2011 and it looks highly likely that this will be a Namibia experience.This is what this wild camping thing does to you!The bird count is ticking over and the tally is now 172 which is not bad going
considering that all the summer migrants are not around.The panel duly sat and our rating for these two camps is:South Gate 3.8/5 and Third Bridge 4.1/5.The mood around the camp fire on our last5 night at Moremi remained upbeat…why shouldn’t it as we are headed on 4th August for four nights in the Central Kalahari Reserve.Much wilder and more remote….no flush loo’s or solar showers.