February 19th was my 36th birthday and it was definitely a memorable one. We started out in Francistown, Botswana where we were stocked up on supplies, made some camping reservations and took a shower – finally! Our destination for the day was a very, very remote part of Botswana called Kubu Island on Ntwetwe Pan which is part of the Kalahari. The drive was not fun, especially when you only have a tiny map and a compass to help navigate your way through miles and miles of flat, deceptively wet salt pans. We got very lucky and were escorted part of the way by some locals. Apparently, if we had not run into them and gone the way we had originally planned we would have been stuck for weeks with no one around to help us or even find us. That is how remote this area is. Finally after hours of driving we made it to the island. Kubu Island is actually a big mass of trees and rocks in the middle of the salt pans. It used to be surrounded by water 500+ years ago. Today it is a protected monument that is supposed to very popular. We were the only people there. Not even a ranger station or anything. Totally alone for miles and miles. It was kind of eerie, but also incredibly cool. The landscape has been described as lunar-like.
We cooked a nice steak dinner, had a few beers and then went to sleep under the cover of a centuries old Baobab tree. The tree was bigger from left to right than our truck and it feel petrified on the outside. The island was coverd with them.
The next day we headed to Nxai Pan National Park a few hours drive from Kubu Island. This drive was even worse than the day before. All I have to say is Thank Goodness we have a 4-wheeldrvie. We never would have made it otherwise. I happened to be driving when we pulled up to the 38km road into the park. We had been told that the road was sandy and hard to drive, but I had no idea. I was determined not to be the first one to get us stuck. 45 minutes later and a few close escapes from getting stuck in the deep sand, I peeled my hands from the steering wheel and got out at the ranger station shaking.
The drive was toally worth it! Nxai pan was incredible. We were, once again, the only people there. We had the entire park to ourselves. At this park one of was able to get on top of the car while the other drove. The view is so much better up top. We saw hundreds of zebra and giraffe and two lions the first night.
The next morning we woke up early and went out for another drive. We haven’t seen a leopard or cheetah yet and were really hoping that this we be the day. Unfortunately, no. But, we made a great spotting about 500 meters away from one of the watering holes. I thought I saw the outline of a lion so we drove around and right next to the road was a young male and female. This was way more scary than the lion we saw in Kruger because these animals are much more wild. Sounds funny, but Kruger is kind of like a zoo. The animals are so used to cars and people they barely pay any attention to you. The animals in Nxai Pan are very skittish and these lions weren’t to happy at first when we drove up. You can’t really tell from the picture, but they are only about 8 feet away from my window!
After watching the lions for about 30 minutes we left the park and headed up to Maun which is at the base of the Okavango Delta. This is the part of the trip that I have been waiting for. It should be quite different that what we have done so far. Maun is a good sized town where most people stop to restock and rest before heading on. We are here for one more day before we head out into the Delta area. As you can see from above, we have to do a lot of planning. We had a basic itinerary when we started out, but it changes daily as we find out what roads are safe and where there is good game viewing. We will probably be leaving the truck behind for a few days as we take a flight into the Delta to a nice lodge that can’t be reached by road. A little luxury is needed I think ;o)