After being on the bucket list for a very long time we finaly decided it is time to visit Swartpan in the north western corner of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana.

Botswana/Caprivi Roete

Preparation for the trip

 

With our Land Rover (Shrek) and Trailer (Donkey) by now well equipped there were not a lot of preparations to be done other to plan the route and make the bookings.

Our final route was from Pretoria to Botsalano near Zeerust, from there to Kang in Botswana, then Kaa and the next day to Swartpan. From Swartpan we travelled back to Kaa, then to Polentswa for a few nights and then a few nights at Rooiputs.  We left the park at the Twee Rivieren Gate from where we travelled to the Augrabies National Park, Mokala National Park and then back home to Pretoria.

Botswana/Caprivi Roete

Al the preparations for the trip were done well in time and Shrek and Donkey were packed long before the time. We don’t believe in last minute packing as that is when you forget some essential items at home.  Because we are travelling alone we informed family and friends of our route and gave them contact numbers where to find us should something go wrong on our trip or at home.

Day 1: Botsalano (Saturday – 14 December 2013)

On the first day of our trip we stop over at the Botsalano Game Reserve not far (53Km) from Zeerust and 317km (a 4 hour drive) from Pretoria. Botsalano is 14Km from the Ramatlabana border post with Botswana.

By stopping over at Botsalano we were able to be at the border post very early the next morning before the normal rush hour start and that made the border crossing a brease. That also allowed us to travel all the way to Kang and arriving there not to late in the afternoon and get a good nights rest before tackling the sand roads to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

The entrance fee at Botsalano at the time of our visit was:

R 40.00 per adult per day, and

R 10.00 per vehicle.

Good tar roads until a few kilometers from the park where it turn into a bad corrugated dirt road. The road from the park to Ramatlabama is also a bad corrugated dirt road.

Day 2: Kang (Sunday – 15 December 2013)

We were up early the next morning and left Botsalano as the gates open at 06:00 and made our way to the Ramatlaban Border. There were only a few people at the border post and crossing a border was never so easy.

The total border fees (Road tax, carbon tax and 3rd party) for Shrek and Donkey came to a total amount of P 230 (Botswana Pula).

From Ramatlabane we travel north with the A1 to the cirle where it cross the A2 just before Lobatse. From there it was all the way in the westerly direction with the A2 to Kang.  Good tar road all the way from Ramatlabama to Kalahari Rest.

We camped for the night at Kalahari Rest 25km west of Kang.

The total distance from Botsalano to Kalahari rest is 466km.

Day 3: KAA (Monday – 16 December 2013)

We left Kalahari Rest at sunrise the next morning and made our way back to Kang were we turned in a south western direction towards the town of Hakuntsi after we filled our vehicle and jerry cans with diesel. The road to Hakuntsi is a good tar road.  At Hakuntsi we filled our vehicle again as the next available fuel might only be at Nossob in the South African side of the Park.

From Hakunstsi to Zutshwa is a corrugated dirt road with potholes. We deflated the tires on Shrek and Donkey to make the ride a bit more comfortable.  The filling station at Zutshwa were out of diesel.  Just as well that we filled up at Hakuntsi.

From Zutshwa the road turned into a deep sand track and we had to deflate the tires even further (to 1.2 bar) to avoid getting stuck in the loose hot sand. Even with that going was tough.

From Kang to Hakuntsi is 108km. From Hakuntsi to Zutshwa is 59kom of dirt road.  From Zutshwa to the Kaa Gate is 72 km of deep sand tracks.

We camped at the Kaa Gate campground just a kilometer away from the gate. There are only two campsites at the gate.

We camped at the Kaa Gate campground just a kilometer away from the gate. There are only two campsites at the gate.

On the right of the photo above, just above the bonnet of Shrek, I circled a bush in red. There is a story about this bush, that’s why I marked it for you.

While we were busy setting camp we heard snoring/snorting noices coming from that direction but did not pay much attention to it as we were tired of a long day travelling sand tracks and just want to get ready to settle in.

After everything was sorted, and we eated, we sat on our chairs between the tent and the tree next to it just behind Shrek and watch as night set in. Just before the last few rays of light disappear Gerida notice an animal, which at the time she thought was a Hayena, appears from behind the marked bush and start walking in our direction.  She alerted me and we immediately moved in the direction of our tent.  I tooked the flashflight and shine in the direction of the animal, and it was not a Hayena but a Lioness slowly making her way in our direction.  When I shined the flashlight she slightly change direction and walked past us infront of Shrek.  Shortly two other Lionesses followed her from behind the bush.

The snoring/snorting that we heard was the three Lionesses sleeping under the bush while we were setting up camp, and we did not notice them at all. The next morning we could see their pawprints merely 20meters from where we were sitting enjoying the sunset.

The snoring/snorting that we heard was the three Lionesses sleeping under the bush while we were setting up camp, and we did not notice them at all. The next morning we could see their pawprints merely 20meters from where we were sitting enjoying the sunset.

Days 4 – 7: Swartpan (Tuesday to Friday – 17 to 20 December 2013)

We were up and ready to hit the road aka track to Swartpan early morning at daybreak. We wanted to cover as much as possible before the heat of the day.

It took us almost 4 hours (take into account that we did stop along the track at a lion killing and when the cover of the tentpole box came off) to cover the 78 kilometers of deep sandy tracks to Swartpan.  But it was worthwhile the effort.

Be carefull when driving on this route. We nearly had a head-on collution with an approaching vehicle that has decided the best way to negotiate the sandy dunes was with speed, and that was the only other vehicle that we saw for days.

We asked them to be on the lookout for the cap of the pipe in which we kept our tent poles which we lost somewhere on the road on our way to Swartpan. Luckely we saw that it is missing when we stopped to look at the spoor and drag marked of a lion that has caught a wildebeest and dragged it across the road to a tree with shade.  No tent poles were lost and we had a spare lid in our toolbox that we could use.

Our campsite at Swartpan was very basic. A tree that provided some shade during midday and a watertap with undrinkable water.  The nearby waterhole for the animals and the view of the pan made this an unforgettable experience.

From the campsite you can take a drive around the pan and to the border with Namibia. There is an airstrip on the pan that clearly has not been used for a very long period.  It does however provide for a drive on the pan to view view the animals such as ostrich, meerkat and jackal that has made the pan their home.  You can also see wildebeest, orix and springbuck that come to the waterhole on different times of the day to drink.  We also saw a flock of vultures that came to rest on the pan every afternoon.

If you won’t mind a few new scratched on your vehicle you might also take the drive to Deo’s Pan 17km from Swartpan. The round trip and stops to take photos took us plus minus one hour.

Days 8 – 10: Polentswa (Saturday to Monday – 21 to 23 December 2013)

 

On day 8 of our trip we made our way back to the KAA Gate where we spend the night. On arrival we enquire about the lost lid and the guys that we met on the road did pick it up and left it for us at the gate. How lucky can one be.

However, we also lost our “Piet Fluit”, a handmade kettle somewhere between the KAA gate and Swartpan.

We left early morning for Polentswa. Our trip of 121 kilometers took us 6 hours and included a visit to Unions End.  The deep sand track between the KAA Gate and Polentswa slow you down and makes it difficult to drive at times.  The scenery however made up for it.

Reaching the road between Nossob and Unions End on the South African side of the park we decided to turn left and drive to Unions End, 32km from there, before continuing with our trip to the campsite at Polentswa. The extra 64km added to the trip was well worth the time and effort.

Unions End is the point where three countries, South Africa, Namibia and Botswana meet.

The entry road to the Polentswa Campsite is for 4x4 vehicles only. The reason is that a 4x2 might get stuck in the Nosseb River when it is wet.  We camped for two nights at campsite 1 on the edge of the Polentswa Pan before moving on to Rooiputs.

Days 11 – 15: Rooiputs (Tuesday to Saturday – 24 to 28 December 2013)

 

Shortly after leaving Polentswa it started to rain heavely. On the way to Rooiputs we came across the biggest herd of Springbok that we have ever seen.  There were hundreds of them and the pictures that we took is not a true reflection.  The noises that they make while slowly trekking towards the Nossob river was just mind blowing.

Rooiputs is 199 km from Polentswa and it took us 4 hours to get there. The road is a terrible corrugated dirt road.  At the time there were some detours as well as they were busy rebuilding the road.  The entrance to Rooiputs is for 4x4 vehicles only as you have to cross the Nossob River towards Rooiputs.

From our campsite (campsite no 4) we had the most stunning views of the area and amazing sunsets.

From Rooiputs we did a circle route of 104 km that took us pass the Kieliekrankie Wilderness Camp, the Auchterlonie Museum, all the way to Twee Rivieren, and from there back to Rooiputs.

A few kilometers on this road, still on the Rooiputs towards Nossob road, we came across a male lion, a female and two cubs.

On our way back to our campsite at Rooiputs we came across a tree right next to the road with a large weaver’s nest in it. When slowly approaching to have a better look we notice a snake scanning the nests for food while the birds are doing their best to distract and scarred the snake away.

Days 16 – 18: Augrabies National Park (Sunday to Tuesday – 28 to 31 December 2013)

On day 16 of our trip we made our way to the Augrabies National Park where we spend two nights to see the famous Augrabies Waterfalls. Augrabies is 396 km from Rooiputs and the trip took us 5 hours including a visit to Ashkam for fuel.

Days 19 – 21: Mokala National Park (Wednesday to Friday – 1 to 3 January 2014)

We left Augrabies on Wednesday, 1 January 2014 (New year’s day) and headed for the Mokala National Park near Kimberley, 531 km’s and a 7 hours drive further.

Mokala is a new park recently developed by SANParks. This was done after a successful land claim on the older Vaalbos National Park.  All the game from Vaalbos was relocated to Mokala by SANParks.  Abeautifull park and definitely worth while a visit.

Day 22: Home (Saturday – 4 January 2014)

This was officially the last day of our holiday and we headed back home 625 km from Mokala. The trip to Pretoria took us 7:30 hours.

Highlight of the trip

The highlight is most definitely the visit to Swartpan. The peace and tranquilty cannot be captured in words.

Will we do it again

Yes, we will do it again with one change in the itinerary, we will not visit the Augrabies National Park again in summer, it was just to hot for us.

Greetings

Pieter & Gerida

Landrovingafrica

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