Namibia/Botswana/Zimbabwe Sep 2007

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September 18th 2007
Published: November 12th 2007
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Our route for Sept 2007 Trip
Trip Report: Namibia/Botswana September 2007

Day 1: Luanda-Windhoek. A smooth flight out of Luanda. We were mistakenly informed to arrive at the airport at 10:30, only to find out that check-in didn’t open until noon! However, this meant that we were first in line. After only one person successfully cut in front of us (in spite of our best efforts to maintain position), we were second to check in. The flight was only about 2/3 full, and left and arrived on time.
We were picked up at the Windhoek airport by our rental car company (Africar) who drove us to our hotel and made arrangements to pick us up the next morning to pick up our rental 4X4.
The hotel (Klein Windhoek Guest House) was in a tony suburb of Windhoek and was only about 5 minutes from the rental car company. We were given a 2 bedroom suite which was clean and spacious. They serve a “light” dinner on request and a nice breakfast.

Day 2: Windhoek to Grootfontein. 275 Miles
We were picked up at 8:00 AM and driven to the rental car office, which is actually the owner’s house. We spent over an hour completing paperwork and getting a thorough overview of the operation of the car, as well as some helpful hints on dealing with any traffic stops. (Namibian Police are not allowed to ask for or take any money - so if you get a ticket you go to the nearest station to pay it)
We then hit the road and headed for Okanjanda, which is about 1 hour north of Windhoek and has a large crafts market. We spent almost 2 hours at the market.
Grootfontein is a pleasant enough town but doesn’t offer much in the way of entertainment. It’s main attraction is a large meteorite just out of town, which we took a small detour to go see.
We stayed in the Courtyard Guest house, which had large but basic rooms and ate at a small restaurant in town. The guest house served a nice breakfast. It was a nice location for running.

Day 3. Grootfontein to Ndovu Lodge 323 Miles
Another long day of desert driving. We made a quick pass through Rundu in search of a market the guide book had raved about to no avail, stopped off at Popu Falls which really should be called Popu Rapids, and rolled into Ndovu on the Western edge of the Caprivi Game Park in mid afternoon. That afternoon we went on a self driving game drive in the adjacent Mahongo Game Reserve. No carnivores but a fair number of antelope and baboons.
Ndovu is a basic tented lodge with en suite bathrooms on a very nice setting on the Okavango River with tons of hippos and elephants to watch. We had really wanted to stay at Mahangu Lodge which is next door, but it was booked up. Food was hearty but adequate.

Day 4. Ndovu Lodge.
In the morning we went on a self driving game drive in the adjacent Mahongo Game Reserve. That afternoon we indulged in a sundowner boat ride and again saw many hippos. A highlight was running over one with the boat which provided some excitement.

Day 5. Ndovu to Lianshulu 165 miles.
An easy day of driving and we were aiming to arrive at Lianshulu for lunch. Lianshulu was our “splurge” but we had heard rave reviews about it. We only were able to stay here one night as it was otherwise completely booked. The rooms were over the top luxurious
Angry HippoAngry HippoAngry Hippo

Angry Hippo near Namashusha Lodge
- huge with gorgeous bathrooms, a huge tub and an indoor and an outdoor shower! The eating areas had large expansive decks overlooking the Kwando River and yet more hippos. The price included 2 activities per day which were an evening boat cruise on the river and an early morning game drive. On the cruise, we saw yet more hippos and elephants. The game drive in Mudumu Reserve was pretty dismal with only a few antelope and some elephants. This area was apparently a hunting concession until recently and they are still working on bringing back the wildlife.

Day 6. Lianshulu Lodge to Namashasha Lodge 16 miles
We moved on up the road to stay at Namashasha Lodge for 2 more nights. This was a more moderately priced lodge but still had comfortable rooms overlooking the Kwando River (which is more like a very large marsh). The game drives were extra and we signed up for one the first afternoon. They take you in a boat across the marsh to the Caprivi Game reserve and then you hop on a huge vehicle called the “Monster” for the game drive. We saw the most game so far in our vacation,
Chobe River FrontChobe River FrontChobe River Front

A sea of Elephants
including a hippo out of water only about 10 meters away! He was not happy! More excitement ensued when we returned to the boat only to find too many Hippos in the area to go. We had to wait for about 15 minutes until the Hippos decided to move upstream a bit.

Day 7. Namashasha. In the morning the kids went out fishing and we did the nature trail along the river. In the afternoon we repeated the “Monster” game drive.
All in all we were very pleased with Namashasha and enjoyed it more than the much more expensive Lianshulu lodge.

Day 8. Namashasha to Kasane (Toro Lodge) 171 Miles
A moderate driving day with a stop in Katilla to get money and shop at a crafts cooperative. The border crossing into Botswana was easy and uneventful. While driving the “Chobe Transit Route” from the Botswana border to Kasane, Rachael’s eagle eye spotted a pack of wild dogs resting in the shade. We checked into Toro Lodge, which is pretty basic but on a nice setting on Chobe River. There was a snafu with the kid’s room where they couldn’t locate the room key. We went out on a game drive along the Chobe River Front, which was spectacular. The sheer number of the elephants in the water was amazing. We also saw 3 lions sleeping right by the road and a pair of necking giraffes.
When we returned to Toro, nothing had been done about the key. Some complaining by Steve netted us a free dinner at the hotel’s restaurant (which was excellent) and the management “broke into” their room so at least they had a place to sleep.

Day 9. Chobe Game Park (Toro Lodge)
We went back to the Chobe Riverfront in the morning, hung out in town for lunch (and visited the internet café) and back to the Riverfront in the evening. Found another family of lions in the morning and a lone lion in the afternoon half heartedly stalking a sable.

Day 10. Victoria Falls (Toro Lodge) Drove to Victoria Falls early. The Zimbabwe Border crossing was easy, no lines, and all the wanted was our money - $30 pp for Visas and $40 to drive the car in. Went to the park by the falls first - high entry fees - $20 pp. Great views and not too
Lion WalkLion WalkLion Walk

Four squirmy cubs with big claws!
much mist, so we were able to snag some pictures. Then off to do a little shopping before the bungee jump. Rachael and Daryl did the bungee jump. Then back to town for some lunch and more shopping and then the “Lion Walk”. The walk would be far better at the 7 am session - in the afternoon the lions were a bit sleepy and lethargic. But being that close to a 18 month old and 4 4month cubs was spectacular. The guides were very aware that the main thing people want are pictures and set up all sorts of great photo ops.
The drive back to Kasane and the border crossing back into Botswana went smoothly and was uneventful.

Day 11. Kasane to Santawani Lodge 198 Miles
The mother of all drives. The first 60 miles were on tar or packed gravel, and then deep sand or rutted dry mud the rest of the way. A true adventure.
As we approached the entrance gate into Chobe, the real sand started. A moment’s hestitation at a fork in the road caused us to get stuck. A lot of digging, sticks under the wheels, and pushing got us out in about 30 minutes, just as a ranger car approached. Just after passing into Chobe, we saw a grand male lion relaxing by the road. We reached the south gate of Chobe around noon and stopped for lunch.
Another patch of serious sand greeted us as we headed for the river Kwai. A safari group was stuck but luckily we were able to back up and get on a parallel track. Then we approached another stuck group and did a nifty piece of cross country driving to hop back on the other track. We knew at that point that any loss of momentum would result in getting stuck! We made it finally out of the deep sand to the flood plains of the river Kwai which had some nice game viewing. We should have, in retrospect, made arrangements to stay in this area for a night, it was quite pleasant. We then crossed over into Moremi Park, traversed it and popped out the south gate into another nice stretch of sand (the worst sand always seemed to be just outside the park boundaries!). We were holding our own until another safari vehicle stopped in front of us. By now it was 4 PM and we had little energy to dig ourselves out - luckily the vehicle realized we’d gotten stuck and a sense of guilt brought them back to help us and they gave us a tow. It was a relief to finally roll into Santawani Lodge!

Day 12. Santawani Lodge. Santawani Lodge is run as a cooperative by a local village. The rooms were comfortable and spacious, and the food good. Included with the tarrif is a guide that comes along in your vehicle as you do your game drives in the adjoining private concession, which is about 30 minutes to the south, along a river. In the morning we were fortunate to find a mother Cheetah with 2 cubs. We spent over an hour watching them stalk some antelope to no avail. The afternoon game drive was less spectacular but we did see a lot of elephants. In the evenings we would watch the action at the small waterhole by the lodge. That evening the staff put on a traditional dinner with singing and dancing which was quite nice.

Day 13. Santawani Lodge to Ghanzi (Tautona Lodge). Steve went out for one last game drive on his own, as the rest of the family elected to sleep in. As luck would have it, he hit the jackpot - a pride of 10 lions which included some mating action. He has the pictures and video to prove it!
Then a hard day’s drive through Maun and westward towards the Namibian border. We stayed at the Tautona Lodge which seems like it started off great but ran out of gas. The rooms were spacious and nice but the place as a whole seemed to be half completed and a bit of a ghost town. The food in the restaurant was good.

Day 14. Ghanzi to Winhoek (Klein Winhoek Guest House). About 5 hours of driving including the Namibian border crossing put us back in Windhoek in time to spend the afternoon shopping. As it was Sunday, all of the malls and shops were closed but there was some market action to partake in. Late in the afternoon we dropped off the rental car. They would then pick us up the next morning to go to the airport, which allowed us to save a day rental fees.

Day 15. Windhoek to Luanda. We flew back to Luanda and Rachael and Daryl headed back to San Francisco!


15th November 2007

What a wonderful trip you had! Thanks for the great photos. Can't wait to go there for our safari in December :-)

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