Most of the lodges in the Okavango Delta are way back in the Delta. Most have or share their own landing fields. A flight from the small city of Maun to Pom Pom took about 30 minutes. By truck, assuming the delta was not flooded, this trip would have taken over four hours. The plane was well maintained and the pilot was excellent. Fortunately the weather was nice, and we didn't encounter any flying drama. There is not much space for luggage and some of the small planes restrict your luggage to small, duffel bags, and no wheels.
Before we landed a jeep was sent out to chase the warthogs off the runway.
In Botswana they have special traffic signs as warning for crossing elephants. When we saw these signs we were very keen to spot elephants.
We saw a lot of elephants in the countryside, but by conincidence not at the places where we saw these signs.
Ok. Yes I am stating the obvious. You have to drive on the left in Botswana. Botswana has a huge array of paved roads that are well maintained. If you have never driven on the left before, you need to be very careful. You will rarely meet a vehicle on the Trans-Kalahari Highway, but you do not want to meet it head on at high speed. Traffic in the Gaborone area can be very busy and intimidating on weekdays. Keep well left, drive – very – defensively and always look ahead. That’s so you can see the animals in the road.
Seat belt use in cars is mandatory by law in Botswana. The Tourist Board explains this as use of seat belts being proof of no-fault insurance. I am not sure of their logic, but you really should have a belt on at all times. The Police are almost never seen on the roads so the chances of a fine are virtually nil. The important thing is that you will have to apply the brakes sharply for things like wild animals, children, debris in the road and unmarked gates. Thay have a lot of Veterinary Disease control points with iron gates across the road. I hit one of these gates one evening and it did some serious damage to my car. I skidded over 200 feet before I hit it.
Please buckle up!
A lot of Botswana is desert, semi-desert or just deserted. There can be some seriously long distances between towns with shops. Also if you have a breakdown with a car, you could be out in the hot sun all day waiting. Its just a good idea to carry water with you. You will be surprised how quickly it goes. I recommend that you carry 20 litres with you. They sell big 10 litres bottles in most good grocery stores like Shoprite (pictured). I did end up using almost all my water in my travels even though I kept buying more.
Across Botswana you will come across Veterinary Disease Control Barriers while you are driving. They are all well marked so you can slow down – except near Nata in the North East. The control points are to manage the movement of livestock to prevent the spread of Foot & Mouth disease which can lead to the destruction of whole herds. Theses checkpoints are also at all border areas and you have to drive your car through disinfectant (pictured) and get out and wash your shoes as well. Slow down and just follow their directions and you will be away quickly.
It is cheaper to rent vehicles from local companies than the big international rental companies. If you do decide to do this (I did), please ask what provisions are made for breakdowns and accidents. Botswana has lots of haphazard wildlife who are quite easily big enough to destroy your vehicle. They will run in and across the road or just sit there staring at you. You should also carry a mobile telephone. Other wise – you may be there for a while!
Kazungula Ferry Border Post is open from 06:00 - 18:00 hours. For more information, visit http://www.botswana-tourism.gov.bw/entry_req/border_posts.html
What you won't read on the provided website is how to deal with the people at the border. See my Zambia page for a detailed description that will get you through the chaos intact and with most of your money. THIS IS ESSENTIAL if you are heading into Zambia from Botswana! So, I wanted to put a note on it here.
On the ferry, you have to park close together. Only the driver can be in the car. All passengers have to get out before the car gets on the ferry. Be careful parking behind or in front of trucks, as they may roll backward or forward before they start moving. Leave some space, and when you get ready to drive off, keep your hand ready on the horn.
The city of Mamuno is the closest city to the border with Namibia on this route, and is called the Trans Kalahari Border Post. It is open from 07:00 - 24:00 hours. Visit http://www.botswana-tourism.gov.bw/entry_req/border_posts.html for more information.
air and road communications between Botswana and neighbouring states are good . Most international flights are via johanesburg in south Africa, harare in Zimbabwe or Lusaka in Zambia.
There is a number of passenger transport companies in Botswana which offer services throughout the country. Some of them are Motlogelwa, JNG, Mahube and Seabelo Express. They offer daily routes from Gaborone to: Selebi-Phikwe, Palapye, Mahalapye, Serowe, Francistown, Ghanzi, Tshabong, Hukuntsi, Orapa, Lobatse, Maun, Kasane, Ramotswa, and other routes.
Hiring a vehicle, especially 4W-D, will allow you the freedom to explore some of Botswana's most beautiful wilderness areas. To hire a vehicle in Botswana, you must be in possession of a valid International Drivers license, or a home drivers license as long as the details are in English (one may use their home drivers license for a period of 6 months). There are a few rent-a-car companies in Botswana such as: AVIS (tel. 353-745), Budget rent-a-car (tel. 302-030), Imperial car rentals www.imperialcarrental.co.za (tel. 307-233)
The best way to get to Chobe National Park is via an excursion from your hotel in Victoria Falls. The park is about 2 hours from Vic Falls. To get to Vic Falls, we flew from London to Johannsburgh, South Africa and then to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. We then booked a van to take us from Zimbabwe to the Zambia side where we stayed on the Victoria Falls National Park at the Royal Livingstone. We were able to book transportation and the excursions through the Hotels.
Your game drives will be in heavy, HEAVY duty off-road vehicles. Don't try this at home! As we tore offroad to find a herd of water buffalo at Sandibe, Steve gave my hand a squeeze and said "This is FUN!"
You might notice the rifle on the dash -- our guide at Sandibe, Boyce is one of very few guides licensed to carry a firearm in Botswana. We felt totally safe in his charge, but it is a reminder that we really are just visiting the WILD African bush.
You cannot say that you visited the Okavango delta if you didn't experience it from the water side in the mokoro - the traditional means of transport in the Delta. Mokoro is a long dung out canoe-type boat. It used to be made of ebony or sausage tree known for its straight and long trunk. Since the mokoro lasts just five years and the trees take about 100 years to grow, nowadays the modern version of mokoro made of fibre glass is taking over. The crew consists of one man (or woman) equipped with a pole usually forked at the end. He propels the boat standing in the stern and punting it through the shallow waters. Two tourists and some limited luggage can be taken on one boat. The seats are usually made of matresses and the journey is quite comfortable unless it lasts too long. Most polers we met speak at least some English and they willingly tell you about flora and fauna you can spot on the way.
If you want to drive around and see the beauty of Botswana, get a very very early start. You should never drive at night. You can find the following in the road –day or night: Elephants, dogs, goats, people, ostriches, boars, mules, cows, giant moths, horses, metal gates and vultures. This is challenging in broad daylight. None of the things listed are considerate enough to wear anything reflective or have any lights with them. At night you also get giant moths (pictured) that will turn your car windscreen into a mass of dark goo that you have to scrape off in order to see out. I even saw a dead cow that had been hit by a large truck on a dark road the one time I found it necessary to drive in the dark.
It’s just not worth it.
What can I say? Unless you have to DON'T DO IT! And, try to get to accommodation before the sun goes down. It goes down very fast and then - good luck in the pitch dark trying to find your way... it is no fun especially when you are having to avoid the grey shapes that jump out at you - these can be people (possibly drunk), donkeys, goats, elpehants... The lights on other vehicles may not work properly, there are pot holes and one road through the bush can look extraordinarily like another road through the bush. There may not be signs and, if there are, they may not be at the right height your your headlights to beam on them.
We drove to accommodation just outide of Kasane one evening. Our journey had taken far longer than anticipated and, despite racing against the sun, it set and Botswana was cloaked in total darkness. At one point I thought we would never find our way. I had a torch and had to keep jumping out of the car to shine it on various signs, desperately trying to find one that made sense to me. Our 'map' of the area, which I am sure would have been a little dubious by daylight was nigh on impossible in the dark, plus it is not easy to read a map by torchlight!
Plot 21117, Corner Mobuto and Maratadiba, The Village - Private Bag 00324, Gaborone, Botswana
Good for: Families
P.O. Box 100, Maun, Botswana
Good for: Families
Chobe River, Kasane, Botswana
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Business
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