Finally, I have managed to set aside some time to put together this trip report. My main purpose is to help fellow travelers who will visit Moremi and Chobe in the near future. I know that track conditions may change significantly from one day to the other, yet I hope that at least part of the information presented here will be helpful.Great report! If you want his Route viewed in Google Earth then drop me an email at: info[at]come-along.nl
I must start by stating clearly that I have very limited off-road experience and absolutely no formal training, so take my opinion with a grain of salt. Hong Kong, my home for the past 14 years, is not famous for its sandy tracks, water crossings and mud flats. Yet I am not a complete novice either. As a teacher I enjoy relatively long holidays and I tend to take advantage of these by organizing trips to some very remote areas, where jumping into a 4x4 is the only way forward. Southern Africa has been one of my family’s most frequent destinations, with five summers (late June to mid August) spent there in the past ten years, so there is some experience that at least partly can support my observations. On the first four occasions we rented fully equipped Landrovers and tried to visit every possible place from Richtersveld in the west to Mkuzi in the east and from Cape Agulhas in the south to Rundu in the north. Just to give a bit more credibility to my views, I include a Google Earth image that shows our previous tracks, many of which we had traveled repeatedly.
By the time we reached Maun on July 13 this year, we had been in Africa for almost four weeks but there is not much to report about this stretch of our trip on this forum. Less patient readers may even want to jump forward to the “Moremi” section, although I suspect that some of you will want to know a bit of background info as well, so here it goes.
The main purpose of our visit this year was soccer (football, if you like). The first two weeks we spent in a bed-and-breakfast near Hilton in KZN, driving around the area in the mornings and watching soccer games in the afternoons, either on TV or in Durban’s magnificent stadium (on these latter occasions we also constantly cursed everyone who invented, marketed, sold and used vuvuzelas as they completely ruined the soccer experience in the stadiums, but that’s a completely different topic). On July 27 we moved further north (with a stop for the Argentina-Mexico game in Soccer City) and rented a private house in the Hans Merensky Golf Resort, only minutes away from the Phalaborwa Gate of Kruger. Not surprisingly, most of our days were spent on game drives in the Kruger, but again, this is not really something to brag about on a 4x4 forum.
This year we decided to go more upmarket with the vehicle as well and rented a Discovery 4 (this might be a sign of my approaching midlife crisis, but I justified it mostly by constantly referring to the “last real family holiday” before our older son’s departure to start his college life at the University of Edinburgh; the wife has yet to see the credit card bill). It was a plain diesel SE edition, with no modifications and without any extra gear or gadgets. As a warm-up we drove it up to Sani Pass and other more interesting places in the Drakensberg, and in Kruger we also tried to stay on the more remote tracks. There were quite lucky with wildlife, with a couple of “private” lion and leopard encounters, which must be very rare nowadays in Kruger. Yet the most vivid memories are the less friendly run-ins with elephants; this year we found them a lot more aggressive and agitated than on previous occasions. It was either the smell of the Discovery 4 or some other unexplainable phenomenon, but we were regularly chased by angry teenagers, despite that fact that we always treated them with respect and gave them plenty of space.
Of course, we didn’t just go to Africa to hang around in cozy lodges, so we also included a Northern Botswana and Western Zimbabwe trip in our itinerary. On July 12, the morning after the soccer final, we hit the road and after an overnight stop in Serowe we arrived in Maun just before lunch. I may mention here that the “new” road between Serowe and Maun is fantastic if one wants to get from one of these towns to the other quickly.
In Maun we picked up our other vehicle from Self Drive Adventures, a fully equipped Landcruiser 70. It made a significant dent in our already depleted trip budget, but there was no way we would attempt Moremi and Chobe with the stock Discovery. Having considered various other options (hiring camping and recovery gear for this stretch -- requires too much space, hiring a trailer -- no idea how to tow one) we decided to play it safe and have another vehicle. The Landcruiser came with a rooftop tent, the usual recovery gear and camping equipment, but more importantly it also gave us a significantly higher sense of confidence and security. If anything happens with one vehicle, there is always the other one to help out.
We left Island Safari Lodge on July 14 after an early breakfast, did our shopping for the upcoming week in Maun's Spar, filled up the tanks and extra cans with diesel and were on the road around 10. We had two nights booked at South Gate Camp. Not the most popular place, I know, but we were quite happy with it. Just for the record, our original booking request was submitted in Aug 2009 and we applied for places in Third Bridge and Xakanaka camps and for a total of four nights, still we were given only two nights and at South Gate.
My younger son and I traveled in the Landcruiser, with the wife and the older son following in the Discovery. I must admit (apologies for being soft and spoiled) that at first it was a bit hard to change from the comforts of the Discovery to the somewhat Spartan environment of the Landcruiser, but I got used to it quite quickly. It was an excellent vehicle, in top shape and with lots of space for the two of us. Just outside of Maun we picked up a few bundles of firewood (7 Pulas each) and a large bag of oranges. The firewood we bought mainly to leave a bit of cash with the people who don’t directly benefit from the tourist dollars, and the oranges to give to the park staff at the gate. Both are usually appreciated.
Traffic between Shorobe and South Gate was surprisingly heavy, with several oncoming cars. We couldn’t really understand why so many people were leaving the park so early, but later we learnt that most of these had to be people making a detour before heading north to Chobe and trying to avoid the tricky sections north of Kwai. The road, perhaps as the result of increased traffic, was corrugated and this was especially evident in the Landcruiser. My wife was less bothered in the Discovery, which seemed to offer a much softer ride.
We had not been back on that road since 1999, and it was with some sense of relief that I observed that the conditions had not changed much. Perhaps the road was a bit wider than 11 years ago, but it still had the same feel of Africa … The entrance gate and the camp on the other hand had both been significantly upgraded. Our assigned site, #8, had been occupied by a large South African party of three vehicles with two trailers and a camper, so the camp staff told us to take site #9. It was also on the outer stretch of the camp, away from the less secluded central part, so we didn’t mind.
Sometime between 1999 and 2010 the old make-your-own-fire boiler had been replaced by several solar-powered shower blocks, thanks to a grant from the European Union. If I still lived in my native Hungary I could proudly claim that these were the results of my tax money, but fortunately I have less crippling tax obligations in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the hot showers, so thank you EU.
Before the shower, though, we set-up camp and did an afternoon game drive heading towards First Bridge. South Gate appears to have a bad reputation among travelers (boring, no game, far from the water, etc.). All I can say is that on the previous occasion we stayed there a large herd of elephant walked through our camp, surrounding our tent for a good half an hour, and this time it was the roars of a pride of lion that keep us awake for long stretches; they were finishing off the leftovers of a zebra about 200 meter away from camp (this latter we were told by one of the park staff … perhaps in return for the oranges).
This afternoon was also the time when we started asking about track conditions further west and north. Although I had read most of the posting on these forums, there was not much concrete info to rely on. Mostly everybody stated that the “water was up” but I didn’t find that particularly helpful, so it was with a bit of unease that I asked a party of six people coming in the opposite direction about the road. They told us that one of their vehicles (a Hilux double-cab from Bushlore) got seriously stuck in a large flooded section about 15 km from the camp (the northern stretches of Xini Lagoon) and it took the other vehicle (another Landcruiser 70, also rented from Self Drive Adventures) some time to drag it out. Needless to say, it further increased our anxiety, partly because our limited experience and partly because we didn’t know how the Discovery (and the wife) will function in that environment. At the same time we also agreed that these adventures are what keep bringing us back to Africa, so we were looking forward to the challenge. We also felt at that stage that our most reliable info was the map that came with the Landcruiser and which contained hand-written notes and drawings of new by-pass tracks. Later they turned out to be quite accurate.
This is perhaps the right time and place to mention that all these “local” drives we did with the Landcruiser. The Discovery was left behind in camp with camping chairs and other stuff locked up in it. The rationale behind choosing the Landcruiser was quite simple; it was the Landcruiser that came with all the recovery gear, long-range tank, etc. (more about fuel consumption later). We also considered taking both vehicles on these game drives for the sake of safety, but it was clear that there was sufficient traffic on the tracks and thus we didn’t worry about getting stuck and being left there to rot with no chance to get assistance. As a last resort, we also had the satellite phone that came with the Lancruiser, which we never had to use.
Back in camp a lone hyena visited us, coming much closer than appreciated (about 3 meters). Didn’t seem to have much fear of humans, or perhaps it was the smell of our stew (yes, goulash) that kept bringing it closer. At the end we had to resort to some extreme measures and threw a loose brick in its direction to chase it a bit further. Just around 7 o’clock the lions (mentioned earlier) stated roaring, and it sounded very (extremely very) close; this forced us (sorry, we are not too brave) to drive to the toilet before bedtime, which was a good 150 meters away. Along the track we passed our camp hyena (or perhaps another), but there was no sign of the lions. At that stage I was also wondering how people with rooftop tents already open handle this. Perhaps those in a more centrally located site can just walk to the shower block in the dark. On the way back my two boys and I actually walked back, with the wife driving directly behind us. Was it foolish?
The camp was about half full, with six of the ten (?) sites occupied. I wondered what happened with the other places. I still remember the misery we had to go through in 1999 to get a spot in this camp. Back than (we were told) all spots had been booked a year in advance by agents and tour companies for a few Pulas, who then tried to re-sell these spots for much more. Then we didn’t have a booking and we had no chance to pay the 120 dollars (yes, US$) that one of the travel companies in Maun tried to charge us for one night. It was after much asking around that one lodge receptionist advised us to drive to the gate and ask the park stuff whether they had a free site. Which they did (in fact only one other party stayed that night), and that’s how we managed to visit Moremi in 1999 and that's why I am always happy to bring fresh fruit and vegetables to the park staff. A lot is being said about privatizing the booking of camps and the subsequent price increases; my opinion is that if this move eliminates the misery that surrounds the booking process, I will be happy to pay the higher prices, assuming that they remain reasonable. But more about this when I get to the Zimbabwe section of this report. What’s evident is that even now the camps are reported “full” but once one gets there free sites are available.
Our first night was quite eventful. The boys slept in the back of the Discovery so they were somewhat more isolated from the sounds of the night. My wife and I in the rooftop tent on the other hand were woken up regularly by something. The lion roars came with surprising regularity, but the most exciting interruption to our sleep was the visit of our hyena. Some earlier campers had left an impala skull next to the fireplace and our hyena came back and started cracking the skull. It was an eerie sound that kept us sleepless for some time. We also heard the unmistakable noises of elephants, braking branches at the edge of our clearing. Having learnt from our earlier experiences, this time we stayed well clear of all trees and bushes, and in return the elephants kept clear of our vehicles.
The next day, July 15, was set aside for the “loop”, or the part of it that we could do. The plan was to drive, track conditions permitting, through the bridges (1st, 2nd, etc.) to Xakanaka and back to South Gate Camp. We started the day by asking park staff at the gate about the latest news and they advised us to make a detour around the large flooded region where apparently several vehicles had bogged down (including the party we spoke to the day before). It was relatively easy to find the spot where the track forked off, 14 km from the camp. Just for those who may want to use it in the future, the (decimal) coordinates of this point are S19.38761 and E23.53661. The park people had told us that this by-pass track was mainly used by trucks driving supplies to the lodges further in and that it was quite sandy and thus usually avoided by tourists.
Not far from this turn-off, on the main track, we saw a group of six vehicles. They were busy dragging out another Hilux (another Bushlore; poorly prepared tourists or Hilux problem?) who attempted the crossing but got stuck less than 10 meters from the edge of the water and were at that stage blocking the flooded road. There was not much extra we could offer, so we just continued on the bypass. This skirted the flooded area on our left, offering a magnificent scenery but not much wildlife encounters. It was obvious that this stretch of the track had indeed been used by larger tracks, leaving a wider “footprint”; if I kept one wheel in the track, the other had to fight the soft sand. I am happy to say that the Landcruiser performed magnificently. I also suspect that since then a sufficient number of smaller 4x4s have used this by-pass to eliminate the problem caused by the wider truck tracks.
A few km later we were back on the main track and soon it was First Bridge. The bridge was impassable but we had been given instructions to drive through the pool on its extreme left side. The previous evening we met another group of people in camp that had not been too lucky here and had to be towed out. It was a bunch of young American college kids, so they were not too worried about it, especially after they were safely back in camp. They had a Landcruiser 70 (interestingly also from Self Drive Adventures). It was not a particularly hard crossing, aside from a ditch about two thirds of the way through, about 80 cm deep. With good momentum and the wave in the front, there was substantial water on the hood (bonnet, in SA?), though.
The water crossing around Second Bridge was no problem, with a depth of no more than 30-40 cm, producing relatively boring pictures for the family photo album. What made this spot more interesting was the huge snake that we encountered on the other side, stretching directly across the track with another meter or so to spare on either side of the road. If I remember, I will post a picture of it; perhaps somebody will be able to identify the species.
We got to Third Bridge Camp around lunch time, where we inquired about the conditions of the track further ahead. The lady at the gate was very clear. She said that she had come through Fourth Bridge the night before but the water had risen since then. They had traveled in a LR Defender and she said she thought our Landcruiser was also good enough for the task but advised us to be very careful. It was at this stage that another Hilux pulled up and the driver inquired about the track around Fourth Bridge. It turned out that it was the Hilux that we had seen earlier that day stuck in the flooded area 14 km from South Gate. The people who had helped them out (five vehicles) decided to turn back but the Hilux managed to come through the flooded part. Apparently they had not known about the by-pass track.
We decided to give Fourth Bridge a try but turn back if it looked too risky. The Hilux and its people stopped in Third Bridge Camp to get a bite but promised to follow soon. The camp, by the way was completely deserted, aside from a camper that seemed to have broken down and looked abandoned. Third Bridge was passable that day, with about 20-30 cm water over the logs. A bit shaky and not too convincing, but it managed to hold us … and I suspect it has managed to hole many other vehicles since our visit. Still, it was scary.
Reaching Fourth Bridge we lost all our remaining confidence. There were two significant pools in front of the bridge, each about 20-25 meters across and surrounded by thick reed on either side that made any passage around the pools impossible. They looked muddy and certainly not too driver-friendly (especially not Hong Kong driver friendly). And even if we managed to cross these pools, there was the bridge whose condition we could not judge from this distance. We pretty much decided to turn back, although we kept telling ourselves that “if the Discovery were here …” but we all knew that it was just a lame excuse. At that stage the Hilux arrived, the one we met at Third Bridge and the one that had crossed the big flooded region of Xini Lagoon. As we started talking, the driver, with some shock on his face, exclaimed “hihetetlen, magyarok?”, which roughly means, “unbelievable, are you Hungarian?”. He was originally from Botswana but had moved to Austria and was now visiting (the usual World Cup story). He also had a Hungarian girlfriend and spoke surprisingly good Hungarian (with a Batswana accent). This obviously raised his credibility, and when he said we can do it we believed him. After the mandatory walk-across we decided to drive through the extreme right of each pool and turn onto the bridge at a near right angle. We were through the first pool when a vehicle appeared on the bridge, coming through with surprising speed and without stopping to check the pool that was between us and the bridge. The vehicle was an ancient Landcruiser, the type you can see in the 1960s Africa movies, with no windows, windshield or any other fancy stuff. The lone driver matched his vehicle, with a long gray beard and wearing an outfit that clearly said that he was an old Africa hand. A sign on his car proclaimed “filming vehicle, don’t follow”. The driver told us that there was a leopard just across the bridge and then drove on without much fuss, passing the pool exactly on the opposite side, not where we did.
The bridge itself didn’t generate much confidence, but at the end it let us pass safely. There was a new and impressive-looking bridge under construction nearby, although there were no workers present. Being midweek and the middle of the day, we wondered how the bridge would be finished with that approach to work. After some more discussion with the Hilux driver we learnt that they also had a booking for that night at South Gate but would try to talk their way into Xakanaka Camp. They encouraged us to do the same, but with the Discovery (and thus our children’s sleeping place) back at South Gate we had to decline their invitation.
The rest of the drive back to South Gate was quite uneventful, aside from a herd of unfriendly elephants near Xakanaka Airstrip. The GPS track log of this day is posted at the end of this report, although I don’t know how helpful readers will find it. In any case, take advantage of it if you can.
As the sun was setting back in camp, we were surprised that it was even less occupied than the night before, with only four sites take. The Hilux didn’t come back to South Gate, which suggests that they had managed to get a camp site in Xakanaka, which in turn seems to contradict statements made on these discussion forums about how impossible it has become to change booking from one camp to another.
South Gate to Savuti
After a similarly noisy night we woke up early and got ready for the drive to Savuti. The track log of this day is also posted for the common good, but some explanation may be helpful.
Following the success of the previous day (by which I mean of not getting stuck in any water crossing), we hit the road with an increased level of confidence. We had read all the posts about the track conditions on the stretch north of Kwai Village, but it was very limited and quite general. I had read about the “new by-pass road” and I was convinced that finding it would be no problem.
We were back in the earlier travel arrangement, with me driving the Landcruiser in front and my wife following with the Discovery. This day was to be the first real test for the Discovery, as up to that stage we had not really hit any challenging stretch. The straight road between South Gate and North Gate was being graded, which made the surface somewhat slippery but at least without serous corrugations. I kept looking into the mirror and checking how the Discovery was doing, and at the same time keeping my eyes open for the elephants that we could always hear in camp a minute or two after a car drove off in that direction. Aside from these, there was not much to see on the road until the last km or so before North Gate. There we stopped again, partly to inquire about track conditions ahead of us and partly to ask my wife about the behavior of her Discovery. She said that it was like driving on smooth pavement, with not even the slightest hint of struggle. She had set the “sand” mode on the dial, and the only indicator of more serious work was the instant fuel consumption figure on the display that hovered around 16-18 l/100 km doing 40 km/h in the deep sand, as opposed to the 8-9 l/100 km at 120 km/h on pavement. So everything looked promising, with our GPS showing an estimated arrival time in Savuti just after 12:30.
Encouraged by the impressively accurate advice we had received earlier from park staff, I also inquired at North Gate about the track to Savuti. There was only one person there who told us that if we had managed Fourth Bridge than we should have no problem to Savuti. He described two flooded regions (“skirt the first on the left and the second on the right, and then from there the new road is easy”). Sounded good, but unfortunately it was not meant to happen.
In Kwai Village we stopped for some drinks and more firewood (here 20 Pulas/bundle). There was the first water crossing immediately after the village, and not far beyond we found the second crossing, just as we had been advised at the gate. Little did we know then that by that time we were in the wrong place, following the “old” road and getting deeper and deeper into the flooded regions. We did some more small crossings and skirted some large flooded areas, but soon we hit a section that completely blocked our way. At one stage we were only 130 meters from the main track (as shown on the GPS), but there was a very muddy stretch between us and the road that we didn’t want to risk. Tried several other promising tracks but they all lead to dead-ends. Most alarmingly there was no oncoming traffic, which we interpreted as a sign that the crossing was not possible. After some significant time of driving up and down we had to admit that we had no option left but to turn back. It was only after our return home and reading through various forums that we learnt that we had followed the “old” road and that we had completely missed the “new by-pass”. The new road was not marked on our GPS, there was no signpost of any kind, and the gentleman at the gate unfortunately didn’t give us clear instructions about the turn-off. I am not whining or complaining, just want to make sure that other people traveling on this route don’t repeat our mistake. I am posting my track log, which can be combined with Pierre’s (who managed to come through where we gave up) and with Kalahari Safari’s (who has the track log of the by-pass road). These three offer different alternatives, allowing everybody to choose a route according to his/her experience and the vehicle’s abilities.
Aside from another scary encounter with elephants, which forced us to follow a different route back to North Gate, we drove back to South Gate and the main road, and turned north towards Mababe Village. After the village the GPS wanted to turn us north straight towards Mababe Gate but here there were clear road signs telling us to continue west first. There is an impressive steel bridge not far after the village which make crossing the Kwai River a breeze, followed soon by a clearly signposted turn-off towards Mababe Gate. This is a relatively easy drive, although with some sandy stretches. Just before Mababe Gate we were held up by a lazy elephant who decided to take his afternoon siesta on the track, completely blocking our way. There was not much we could do, especially after the earlier scary elephant experiences. We just had to wait. It was well after 4 pm by the time we reached the gate and for a while we toyed with the idea of asking the gate staff to allow us to spend the night near the gate. But they said that the track to Savuti was in good condition and easy to follow, and they thought that we would have no problem reaching the camp safely.
The general discussion about the route between Mababe Gate and Savuti mentions the sandridge road and the marsh road. Well, on the day of our visit there was no option. There is now a relatively new route that turns off to the left not far after the gate, which is neither the sandridge road nor the marsh road. It is sandy enough, cutting through the usual mopani environment, with slight ups and downs. It is extremely narrow, so we were scratching either the left or the right side of the vehicles. I had to keep switching gears depending on the depth of the sand and the steepness of the climb or descent of the track, while my wife followed me casually and without any difficulty with the “sand” mode selected on the dial. It was gradually getting darker and darker, which in turn forced us to drive slower and slower. The ETA on the GPS kept moving further and further back, and the last 10 km we had to drive in pitch black. It had its magic, yet it was very good to finally arrive in Savuti.
The camp had only six sites taken, which again was roughly 50% occupancy. The only reason why I found it annoying was that I wanted to book Savuti for two nights as early as Aug 2009 but we were told that it was fully booked. Obviously not. There was no one at the gate when we arrived so we just drove through. Once again, opinions are expressed on these forums that arriving late and setting up camp without booking is no longer possible; our experience suggests that if someone gets there after the gate personnel leave it is still possible to stay for the night. I understand though that it is not possible to make a general conclusion based on one example.
Savuti to Ihaha
The night was surprisingly uneventful, with no elephants visiting and no night cries of any sorts. It was only in the morning (this is now July 17) that we noticed that we had spent the night directly next to the rushing waters of the Savuti channel. The water was flowing at a surprising speed and it was about 30 meters across.
We were considering whether we should ask the park people to allow us another night, sort of changing the first night of our Ihaha booking to Savuti. What made us to decide against it was that the Chobe waterfront represented a new destination in our itinerary, a place that previously we never had the chance to visit, and hence we wanted to spend two nights there. In front of the fortress-looking ablution block of Savuti we met a German couple that we had seen in South Gate and I asked them which way they came. Obviously, my mind was still wondering about the passage that we had failed to find/make. We learnt that the Germans had been told at South Gate that only vehicles equipped with snorkels were allowed to pass through North Gate. This was obviously incorrect information; no one told us anything similar at South Gate, and we were allowed through North Gate without a snorkel. The point I want to make here is that information given is not always reliable, even if it comes from park personnel.
The crossing of the Savuti Channel was no problem. Although the water was about 40-50 cm deep and surprisingly fast-flowing, the fording just outside the gate was well posted with a foundation of large rocks. Driving between the poles through the water in low range second gear with the Landcruiser and in the “ruts” setting and low range with the Discovery was becoming a routine task. I also started developing the opinion that the conditions in Moremi and Savuti were not even inconveniencing the Discovery, as my wife seemed to be able to do everything in an easier, calmer and smoother way in her vehicle, despite her absolute and complete lack of off-road driving experience (literally zero minutes driven on earlier trips, aside from an occasional visit from camp site to ablution facilities). There is of course also the explanation that she is just a much better natural-born driver.
The first two hours or so north of Savuti included some serious sand driving, but nothing that should alarm anyone who had managed to gone that far. What made that stretch tricky were the relatively steep sections. We did see an older model Landcruiser whose trailer got bogged down at the foot of one of these climbs, but they were already being winched out by another party. Most of this route is well described on similar forums (including the road work carried out by the Chinese) so I don’t want to dedicate much space and time to it. In any case, the track log is posted for any interested traveler. My only additional note is that the T4A GPS map tried to send us on older roads with deeper sand and more overgrowth; it is better to follow the wider roads as they offer safer and easier passage.
Reaching the Chobe waterfront was a completely new experience. It was either the good part of the day or we were just simply lucky, but we were greeted by an abundance of wildlife that we had never experienced before. Without exaggeration, it felt like driving through the Singapore Safari Park (without the busloads of Chinese tourists, of course). We quickly reached the conclusion that not staying in Savuti (where we hardly spotted any wildlife ) was a good decision.
We set up camp, started another stew on slow fire and left for another most memorable game drive, this time on the eastern side of Ihaha. My vocabulary is not rich enough to describe the abundance and variety of wildlife that we were fortunate to observe so I don’t even try. It was certainly a most magnificent experience.
The camp is fantastic, running along the waterfront with the sites secluded from each other. Only three other parties camped further down (between sites 1 and 4). We were on #7, and it felt that we were the only people in the whole country. The only negative observation I can make is that the vegetation on the Chobe riverfront and further up on the gentle slopes seemed to be devastated. The bushes were mostly dead, the trees broken and there was no sign of young growth anywhere. Somewhat strangely the scenery brought back memories of an earlier visit to a region of Washington State that had been devastated by the eruption of the Mt. St. Helens volcano. There are clearly no active volcanoes in the Chobe area, but it was equally obvious that this part of Chobe is facing a huge problem caused by elephant overpopulation that will be hard to solve. I have never been one for the culling of elephant, but seeing the devastation caused (I assume) by the elephants gave me second thoughts.
We had the next day set aside for additional explorations of Ihaha. Earlier we thought that we may have to spend some time driving to Kasane and refueling our cars, but as it turned out we had plenty of diesel left. Perhaps this is also the right time to talk about fuel consumption. Unlike many other travelers, I didn’t record exact data, but what follows may still give some ideas to fellow travelers. We left Maun with two full tanks, which was about 100 liters of diesel in the Landcruiser and 80 liters in the Discovery. David at Self Drive Adventures told us that the Landcrusier was good for about 600 km on this route and terrain but we didn’t know much about the Discovery. On easier roads (combination of paved, gravel and compact sand) one tank was good for about 800 km, but it didn’t really tell us much about what fuel consumption we could anticipate in deep sand. To be on the safe side, we had three Jerry cans and a somewhat larger plastic can, giving us a total of 85 extra liters. This we kept feeding into the fuel tanks every morning, with about two thirds ending up in the Landcruiser and the remaining one third in the Discovery. The Landcruiser needed more, partly because it seemed to need more for the same distance, and partly because we used this vehicle to make the game drives around the camps. When we drove to Kasane on July 19 and filled up the tanks we found that in the two vehicles we had 65 liters combined left, so we used a total of approximately 200 liters between Maun and Kasane, roughly 70 liters in the Discovery and 130 liters in the Landcruiser. If you add to this that we made a huge detour (150+ km) by turning back from north of Kwai village and going around through Mababe, than it is obvious that with these vehicles and with our itinerary there was no need to worry about running out of diesel.
We spent our last night at Toro Safari Lodge, which has received much native comments in some discussion forums. I can’t offer much meaningful information as we chose to stay in their riverfront chalets, which were simple but clean and efficient. The food (only set menu) in the restaurant was barely edible, though, and very expensive. Not recommended. The sunset cruise on the other hand should not be missed.
It was also in Toro Safari Lodge that we returned our Landcruiser to a representative of Self Drive Adventures. I understand that there are (many) people who feel strongly about Landcruisers and Landrovers (just like the Nikon vs. Canon issue ... love one hate the other). I am in the somewhat fortunate position that I am not emotionally tied to either of these makes. I am not in a position to be able to afford to own, and even much less to justify owning, either a Landcruiser or a Landrover, and renting one does not develop the emotional connections that owners seem to have. On pervious Africa trips I had always rented Landrover Defenders, largely because of their “Africa image”, but in Australia I have always had Landcruiser 200 models. These latter ones, actually, I didn’t particularly enjoy as the rental companies in Australia tend to have poorly equipped stone-age versions with manual hubs, but this says more about Australia than the Landcruiser brand (if there is any Aussie out there reading these lines, please note that there is a lot to learn from the companies of Southern Africa). However, I did become very fond of this Landcruiser, even if it didn’t offer the comfort and ease of the Discovery. I certainly didn't feel any inferior to the Defender, albeit neither superior either.
The next ten days we spent in Zimbabwe. This part also deserves a report but I am afraid that it will have to wait. First I will try to cut together a short Moremi-Chobe video footage and paste it on YouTube, with the link added on this forum (hopefully sometime next week).
Source: 4x4community forum