I had an invitation to visit a project in
South Africa, I have done some pro-bono
work on in the past. Now, it
should be launched commercially, and I'm asked to give my input, and
hopefully work on it, in the future. Realising how little I actually
know about South African highland and tropical plants, I figured I
might do a tour around the premises. Especially the Kalahari Desert
and Okavango Delta
are drawing me.
While studding the flora, I will try to
sell some assistance to the parks I meet along the road. I
also hope to be able to collect
material for DNA-tests for Dr. Tanja Schuster, who is mapping
Oxygonum. I will visit the wild and
unspoiled nature scattered around this area. I plan to do a quick tour
from South Africa
through Lesotho, Swaziland,
Mozambique, Zimbabwe and
Some facts about the country.
(Jump to diary)
Republic of Botswana is a rather large
country in middle of southern Africa. It is bound by Namibia to the
east and north, Zimbawbe to the east and South Africa to the south. It covers
measuring roughly 1000 times 1000 kilometres, and it feels
significantly bigger, driving its roads! The country is
predominantly flat, tending toward gently rolling tableland.
Botswana is dominated by the Kalahari Desert, which covers up to 70%
of its land surface. The Okavango Delta, one of the world's largest
inland deltas, is in the northwest. The Makgadikgadi Pan, a large
salt pan, lies in the north.
With only a population of little more than
two million citizens, here are quite some
nature. 70% of the country's citizens are Christians. 20% have no
religion, while 10% of the people held other believes.
MONEY: The currency is Botswana Pula (BWP). 1 DKK=1,55 BWP.
Botswana is landlocked and has a subtropical desert climate
characterized by great differences in day and night temperatures,
virtually no rainfall and overall low humidity. I'll be here in the
"rainy season", and can expect an occasional late afternoon shower.
Temperatures during the day around 32C, significantly colder at
The northern part is semi-arid while the southern 70% is arid.
I will expect 50-100 mm of rain - they call it the rainy season! The
temperatures should be a nice 20-32C.
ANIMALS and PLANTS:
Botswana is around 90% covered in savannah, varying from shrub
savannah in the southwest in the dry areas to tree savannah consisting
of trees and grass in the wetter areas. Three national parks and
seven game reserves that are wildlife shelters occupy 17% of the
land area of Botswana. The three national parks are the Chobe
National Park, the Nxai Pan and Makgadikgadi National Park and the
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
The plants in Botswana I especially want to find, beside from the
Oxygonum are some of the numerous caudiciforms, found here. A
baobab tree (Adansonia
digitata) is just one of them. Floral diversity of
vegetation in Botswana, which receives only an average annual
rainfall of about 450 millimetres (18 in) only, is generally defined
under three broad heads namely, hardweld, sandveld and
Okavango deltaved .
Botswana is a natural game reserve for most animals found in
southern Africa, including lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants,
giraffes, zebras, hippopotamuses, rhinoceroses, African buffalo,
hyenas, and 22 species of antelope.
Bird species reported are 593 out of which eight species are under
the globally threatened category. Eastern cattle egret (Bubulcus
coromandus) is the national bird of Botswana.
22/1 Arriving by road from
difference is not as significantly as the other
crossings, I have done the last two months. And the
border is rather quick to pass, although a bit expensive for the
car: US$150. We find a gas station that accepts Visa
card, and then it is Chobe National Park that is the next
Some sandy, but fairly easy sand trails lead along the
River. Here are thousands of Impalas along the road,
hippos in the ponds along the river and Marabou Storks
on the islands in the river. Vultures sits on carcasses while the white headed fishing eagles fly right
over our heads. Warthogs are everywhere, so are the
A few tortoises cross the road, and elephants
can be seen in the bushes along the road
and in the marsh. The giraffes in huge groups are on
both sides of the road, completely neglecting our
From time to time, we get a great look over the river
and the marshes behind it. We even meet a few cars, and
new experience to us. Hammerheads, Black&White
Ibises, Bee-eaters, Nile Geese and some huge, dark
geese, ox-pickers, weavers in red and yellow, and
many other birds are all over the place.
Then the elephants seem to be everywhere. Coming from
the marshes, crossing over the road, numerous in the
bushes right along the road and on the road. In some
places, they are mixed with large herds of giraffes.
Some meadows are covered in yellow flowers of low
Fabaceaes while the
grass seems to have been eaten most
places. Never the less, herbs make the ground look green
Well over noon, we reach the picnic
spot, and make a short break. The toilets are as in a
nice hotel, and the animals are everywhere. When we
continue, we see bathing elephants, drinking giraffes,
Large Buzzard, sleeping giraffes, more Impalas,
Waterbucks, hippos and way more.
We reach the camp in this end of the park at four, but
don't have sufficient funding for the US$80 campsite -
nor the lust. We take the closest road to the public
road, passing through the park - a bumpy and narrow
sandy trail, and head towards Ngoma, when we reach the
sealed. We pass a grassing elephant, five metres from
but don't bother to stop. We have only driven
around 30 kilometres within the park, which
stretches for around 200 kilometres south-west.
Ngoma is just a border control, not a city at all. No ATM, no camp sites. We
can either go back to the border we came in from, or head
towards Maun, 400 kilometres south of here by sandy
We find a nice campsite in Muchenja for half price, and
settle in. We have a view over a plain, to which herds
of zebras are seen in the mornings. As we start cooking,
the distance thunder get closer and closer. The owner
pops by, and we learn a bit about the long sealed road
contra the sandy shortcut.
I favour the sandy one, leading right through one
national park after
another, while the sealed one is
dull and eventless.
The first drops are falling, and as we start to eat -
fast, the owner returns with bad news: He just spoken to
a friend, telling him it is a real bad storm, coming our
way. The good news is, he offers us a chalet-upgrade for
free. Hard to say no! We get an adorable little cottage
with kitchen, bath and shower under the stars. We try to
mess up as little as possible, but enjoy the luxury.
I sit and work to real late, but the rain seems to go
around the area for now. One of the officers at the
border complained about the missing rain, and this is
surely an El Nino year in Botswana too.
23/1 We avoid the rain until
six, then the sky opens for a short while, and I'm
wondering if the small holes in the tent-cover is on top
or bottom of the pool it forms. On the bright side; the
rain actually fasten the surface of the sandy road, and
binds the dust.
We leave at seven, because it is a long drive, and
we need to reach Maun to camp. The first 50 kilometres
is nicely sealed, and offers some great - but
rain-spoiled motives of huge baobabs and rondawel farms
The sandy road is fare from what I had imagined. It is
just two real deep wheel tracks with grass in-between,
and they are loose! And this is the beginning. How it
will be the next 350 kilometres of unoccupied
I can only imagine. I have to focus 100% on the tracks,
and have both hands on the steering wheel, and it is
bumpy, and the trails catch the car and force it
Suddenly the sealed road seems so much more appealing.
We turn around, pass the lodge and then into the Chobe
National Park by the public road. We have to sign in,
but it is for free, where the sandy road costs US$60.
Enough to pay the diesel for the entire detour.
The sealed road through the park is a poor man's
game drive, and we see several elephants on the
shoulders of the road. Then we spot some large, black
birds. It is several pairs of Ground Ravens, scavenging
in the grass along the road. It seems like they don't
notice us at
all. Well, except the one posing on a branch in all kind
While we are watching them, a family group of elephants
cross the road, 100 metres away.
Next spotting is some Spotted Hyenas, right next to the
road. They ignore us, drink rainwater from a iron-lit
and chew on a carcass. The alpha female has a radio
collar on, and it is only when a truck stops, they
In Kasane, we find a ATM and the
south-eastern highway towards Nata. Nice,
well-maintained road with only a few huge trucks. It
leads us through Sibuyu Forest Reserve along the
Zimbabwe border. In other places, it is completely flat
farmland with fields, measuring several kilometres each
way. A single little city around the huge corn silos are
the only settlement.
In the surprisingly small Nata, nothing make us stop. A
few kilometres outside, we stop
to relax and have a bit of lunch. Then we drive through
Nxai Pan National Park, and more elephants are grassing
along the road. Actually, we see just as many outside
parks as inside.
Here, the grass takes over from the bushes, and they
suffer significantly more from drought. But it seems
like it is coming to an end. The rain have followed us,
and now it catches up. Black clouds with lightning and
occasional heavy rain.
We reach the Maun Wildlife Office ten
minutes too late. We have to pre-book and get a
confirmation to go to any parks in Botswana, and the
office is in one of four towns in the entire country. Slightly annoying, improvising
we are. We fill the car once more, and try to find a
house to sleep in. The first lodge has a sign, telling
they are closed, but first at the office door. Not at
the signs, showing to it the last five kilometres. The
both a chalet and a restaurant, and as we move in, as the
rain and thunder gains strength.
After dinner, we plan the next twelve days - or at least
make some guesses of what we can accomplice. Here are
many uncertainties, and little information. The boys at
the bar are sure it will rain tomorrow, and then I don't
feel like sitting in a canoe in the Okavango Delta. Many of
the roads on our map, which connect the dots are gray;
"ask locals for use".
We have roof over our heads this evening, but it seems
like our tent is actually more waterproof - if it is
assembled right. Here, the straw roof leaks over one bed
and on the floor.
24/1 After a slow start on the
day, we drive down to the
to pay the mandatory park fees at the Wildlife Office.
It is a clear and sunny day, not rainy as expected. We
find the office, but can not pay the fees, before we
have a confirmed reservation from the private run
campsites within the park, and we can't enter the park without a prepaid
We find one of the agent-offices opened, and are able to make
a camp reservation and payment for Okavango. The other
offices are apparently closed on Sundays. Back to the
Wildlife Office to pay for two days in Okavango.
The entrance guard is doing his morning routine, coming
from the back of the office, barely dressed. The first
officer we talk too, look like the worse hangover. The
second is sleeping over the table, and a one year old
child is playing on the floor, while the television is
turned up. Neither seems to be sure what to do or say,
despite this is the only function of the office. We get
a piece of paper and pay 580 Pula.
look for an internet cafe to try and make the additional
camp reservations online, but the cafés are either
off-line of simply closed. One is at an exchange office,
but she won't touch the 5500 Mozambican Metical I'm
We are back at our little cosy house before noon, and
fine-tune the plan. I kind of connect to the internet,
and Gry catch up on her stuff. We are located ten metres
from the Okavango River, in a real nice lodge.
The afternoon is spend sewing, washing, prepare
slideshows, make budget, figuring the Okavango
experience and talking. We even get a hotmail account back
from the banned.
25/1 I start the day early,
using the sparse
internet to upload all slideshows from
Mozambique. The grass
is wet from drew, the birds are sinning and it looks like
we are in for yet another perfect day. I see eagles,
doves, ibis, kingfisher, drugon, cocoo, water-hens,
hammerhead herons, weavers, pigeons, cormorant, bulbuls, lapwings, egrets, sparrows,
starlings, flycatchers, martins and many unknown birds.
At our house, a nice, little and fat toad sits at the
At eight, we start the rather long drive up towards
Okavango and South Camp. The first little bit is nicely
sealed, but then it turns into a wide but unmaintained
sandy road for the last 50 kilometres. As a special
treat, some ostriches crosses it in front of us.
The bushes along the trail are
elephant-trimmed, and their calling cards are on the
road. Despite we are not in the park, here are no farms
and it all looks pristine and unspoiled. The recent rain
still forms ponds along the road, and even on the road.
A single tortoise crosses the road, and just before the
entrance, I finally spot a chameleon. We buy a map of
the Moremi Game Reserve, which forms a third of the
entire Okavango Delta, and is said to be the most game
rich and beautiful part. The ranger advises us to spend
the day exploring the Black Pools area, which should be
teeming with life. It is just a huge flat, sandy area
with open areas and bushland, along with few bit trees,
roughly 20*20 kilometres. Several narrow sandy tracks
crosses it, and with our map, we actually manages to
find around the entire area.
Right inside the park, a lot of the
large Marabou Storks are walking around. In the
surrounding trees, kites and Golden- and Short Tailed
Eagles are sitting, and here must be a carcass
somewhere. Then we meet the first little Stein Buck,
which is one of the tiniest antelopes.
Right around the corner, four zebras are posing next to
the road. A bit further out the narrow sandy road, we
passes a huge elephant bull. It is being watched by a
White Headed Fishing Eagle from a tree top. Impalas are
everywhere, and many of the temporally ponds have small
ducks, Nile geese and the huge black gees.
The more permanent pools have huge numbers of egrets in
different sizes, Hammer Heads Herons, ibises and
different storks. Especially the Saddle Storks are
In the more open areas, we see Warthogs and a few Blue
Wildebeests. Then a single Secretary Bird walks around,
hunting for snakes and lizards.
The shadow under a bush almost hides a couple of Cow
Antelopes. We copy the great idea, and make a stop under
some huge Sausage Trees for a lunch break. Here are all
the Big Five along with other fierce animals, but
considering the campsite is not fenced either - who
cares. Actually, they advise us to drive to the toilets
at night from the tent. Elephants have clearly been to
the picnic site, but we only see insects and some
Back on safari, we meet a large group of giraffes on
both sides of the road. Ox-pickers are all over them,
and seems to annoy them. On the way to Hippo Pools, we
pas a small pond with around 50 hippos in. The road
passes close to the pond, and we proceed with care. A
few of the biggest hippos show their mouth - which is
intimidating, even from a car, but soon after, they
relaxes. A few crocodiles swims around, catching fish.
A single one come walking from behind the bushes, but I
doubt it been relieving it self there. We see a lot of
yearning and also a bit of fighting. Then they all start
looking at us, and we sneak off. The next pond is
covered with egrets and ibises by some unknown reason.
Further down the shore, some Crossed Billed Storks are
The termite hills in the area, are huge. Some are more
than five metres tall, and very wide. Make sense,
looking at the thunderstorm black clouds, gathering with
in minutes, just to disappear again. A few Élans run
across the road, leaving the tiny calf back, and we
drive off fast.
The elephants seem to keep their safe distance from the
road, but we spot them, way out is the savannah. Same
goes for the Buffalos. Hornbills, on the other hand
seem to favour the roadsides along with the Blue
Starlings. Just behind the first row of bushes, I see
what look like Nyalas, but can't be sure.
We reach the main road, which should
lead us up to the other camp tomorrow. We were told, the
other road was flooded, and this one might be difficult
due to water on the road. On the other hand, the Mokoro
canoes we planned to sail with within the delta are not
operated due to too little water: In short: The roads
are flooded, the creeks dry. I thing improvements
can be done!
This road sure has some issues! Huge pools make up 30%
of the distance. I try to build some energy up in the
car, and it works for the first pools. Then one is way
deeper, and the engine gets flooded. It sets out in the
middle of the pool, and won't start. I jump out to
investigate the engine-room, but besides from the moist,
I find no errors. I had expected it by a petrol car, but
not a diesel.
While I stand there, knee-deep in muddy water, some
hippos are heard real close. Then some rather deep
growling. I like these sounds - just not now! It turns
out to be the sound of a passing group of Baboons, and that
means; no other predators are around. I get the engine -
or actually; the bloody electronics dried, and the
engine fired up again.
Plan B for crossing ponds are 4x4 and low gears. It
works fine, although the water reach over the bottom of
the car, and the bottom of the pools are slippery. First
real problem occurs, when one pool on the road is
occupied by a hippo! It turns
to be a polite giant, and it leaves peacefully. A
squirrel on the other hand, remain right next to the
road when we photograph it, and
Back at camp, we drive to the
designated site QR6 - which seems a bit difficult to
find. It is a huge area, and only one other car is found
here. It turns out to be at our spot. We find another
one, and make a relaxing break within the car.
Then I start on the photos and diary while Gry reads.
Some cute squirrels jump around, and despite they
seem fearless, they don't seem to be used to be fed. I
sit outside the car and work, and the number of animal
voices are fantastic. Baboons, hippos, fighting
squirrels and other unidentified sounds.
I go for a walk around the campsite while Gry recharges.
I see Impalas and the footprints of elephants and
zebras. Then I find a small and rather nervous snake. It
get to hide in a bush, and don't disturb it. The baboons are
raiding the campsite, but only the natural stuff.
When we open the tent, a distinct mouldy and nearly
fermented odour meets us. The cover was NOT waterproof
after all. I try to dry the mattress a bit before bedtime,
and Gry prefer to sleep on the back seat. It is still
smelly and moist when I head for the tent, and I place
it on a nearby bush. I wake up around three, when the
first drops hit the tent, and rescue the madras. A moist
madras sure beats a towel and a fleece jacket in
From here, we head deep into the
Okavango Delta in Diary 2.