We were off to our next destination – Namibia! Before leaving Maun we decided to stop in town and get some supplies; the next 2 nights would be spent just on the other side of the border and there didn’t appear to be many shops around. We went first to a butcher shop and had picked out some meat for the next 4-5 nights, but when we were cashing out we noticed a warning for transporting meat out of the country. We asked the cashier and she informed us that we would be passing through several vet checkpoints and uncooked meat would be confiscated – an effort to control foot and mouth disease. We sadly put our steaks and chicken back and continued to the Spar to get other supplies for the coming days. [As an aside, we weren’t searched at any of the vet checkpoints, nor at the border. After reading several forums on Trip Advisor it seems that it is extremely rare to get stopped, so if we were doing this over again we would take the risk]. We also filled up on fuel and filled our 30L canister; it wasn’t clear from searching the web whether we would pass a gas station before making it to Namibia. There were actually 2-3 along the way so we would have been just fine.
The drive up to the Mohembo border was long and for the most part the roads were perfectly fine apart from a few sections with the most intense potholes I’ve ever seen. Literally some of them were as wide as the road itself! One particularly bad stretch went on for nearly 50kms!
We decided to break up the drive by visiting Tsodilo Hills, which several people online had noted as a ‘must see’. On Google Maps, it appeared this was going to add 5 hours to our total travel time (2.5 hours each way) but in reality it was about 30 mins on a bumpy, unsealed road which is clearly marked. We arrived at the gate and paid our entry fee of 100 BWP. The guard told us he wasn’t sure how wet/muddy the main path was and we said we would try our luck and if we couldn’t make it to the museum we would simply turn back. We did make it (though at one point we were momentarily stuck in the mud, which James pushed us out of while I drove) and walked around the museum a bit. The big attraction there is actually the cave paintings, which you can only see on a guided tour. Unfortunately, we were short on time and wanted to make it to camp well before sunset so after walking around the museum we headed to the main gate. If like us you don’t have time to do any of the walking trails, I would still turn off and take some pictures of the mountains, rising out of otherwise entirely flat plains. We stopped on our way back to the main road for a quick drone flight and to get some shots which was really all we were after.
The border crossing was easy as could be. We had read the day before that to bring a South African rental car into the country we needed a ‘ZA’ sticker, which we did not have. We searched high and low around Maun – but to no avail. When we passed through the border it turned out not to be a problem (potentially because we have SA plates, while some rental cars just have generic ones – but more likely because this is Africa and sometimes rules matter and sometimes they don’t). You enter Namibia directly into Bwabwata National Park and we saw elephants along the side of the road right away – pretty cool!
It was a quick 30 minute drive to Ngepi Camp where we were staying for the next two nights. Our campsite was great – it was large, had a water tap and campfire area and overlooked the river where you could hear hippos splashing around below (luckily we were protected by a fence). If you read anything about Ngepi Camp, you will see people raving about the abulations and I have to admit they were pretty cool! Shower heads in the middle of trees, large baths overlooking the river and some pretty funny toilets as well. It’s a bit of a quirky spot, and was one of my favourites on our trip so far.
Since we had no meat to speak of, we were going veggie for the next few days! We tried our hand at a vegetarian curry with chickpeas and (considering it was our first time making a curry) it was a pretty good! We slept like babies that night.
The next morning we woke early to go on a game drive before it was too hot. We arrived to the gate of Bwabwata NP and didn’t see anyone so proceeded to drive through, choosing a 20 km circular route. We saw heaps of antelope, elephants and giraffes – not bad for a free game drive! Only after we were back at the camp did we read in Lonely Planet the park fee is 40 NAD per person and you should only do the circular route drive if you have a 4×4 – oops! We spent the afternoon trip planning and catching up on emails before having one of my favourite meals – grilled cheese and tomato soup!
We packed up camp the next morning, with me taking one more soak in the tub before our departure, and headed to Onguma Lodge; the next few nights would be spent at Etosha National Park. Onguma is right outside the park gates and the campsites are well appointed with covered cooking areas (with sinks), private toilets and showers and a campfire area – pretty deluxe! We’d managed to stop in the only town en route to grab some streaks so dinner that night was sorted. The next day we ventured into Etosha, planning to spend most of the day there. We paid for our 2-day permit and picked up a map, asking one of the guides which way we should head. He suggested Fisher’s Pan so we hopped in our car and headed that way. There were almost no other cars on the road and we immediately came across antelope, wildebeest and onyx – which we hadn’t seen before.
We also came across an adorable herd of elephants including a few very small babies!
We got back to the main road and whenever possible, tried to veer off to the secondary roads thinking that we would see more, but it wasn’t the case. On both days, we saw much more on the main road! Including some female lions on our first day.
On our way back to camp in the afternoon, we decided to try one more secondary road and went down toward the Okerfontein waterhole. Now, I should say that it had been raining all night the night before, so all of the roads were muddy and full of large puddles. Our car was already completely filthy, but we were otherwise unscathed. As we drove on this road however, we hit a rock while going through a puddle and got a flat tire. We hadn’t seen any wildlife on this road, but I was still feeling a little nervous that we would have to change a tire in the middle of a national park! Apart from James being completely covered in mud, it was all straightforward and safe – we didn’t see any wildlife at all and had several people stop on their way past to ask if they could lend a hand. We were just grateful our rental car came with an extra tire as opposed to a donut; there’s no way that would have survived the park!
It was an eventful afternoon and we decided to head back to camp and reward ourselves with a good dinner and glass of wine before retiring for the evening.
The next morning we packed up the car and headed back in through the Von Linderquist gate – this time we would be driving through the park and exiting Andersson gate to go to Toshari Lodge. The day was sunny and clear, unlike the previous one, and the roads were much drier! We stuck mostly to the main road and not long after entering the park saw a rhino! We were both really excited about that one, particularly since there were no other cars around to cue us that something was there (as had happened with the lions the day before). We watched the rhino for as long as we could before he (or she) disappeared into the bush.
We had more luck later on the main road as we saw a male lion; we were feeling pretty happy with our self-drive safari!
We left the park through Andersson gate in the afternoon arrived to Toshari Lodge to set up camp, which was also complete with a private bathroom, cooking area/sink, campfire area and hose which we used to get as much mud as possible off our car. It still looked filthy even after a good spray, but we figured it wasn’t going to be clean for most of our journey. Toshari Lodge had a common pool area so we spent the late afternoon hanging around the pool and enjoying the free internet – a real plus when you’re camping in Africa!
We would begin our journey south the next day, but until then we were keen to finish Season 2 of Fargo which we’d been watching over the last week! (I know, we’re way behind. We haven’t even been able to watch Stranger Things yet!)
Until next time,