Month: May 2011

Botswana 2011

We went to Botswana 22 – 27 April, 2011. We planned to camp on Kubu Island for two nights and at Khama Rhino Sanctuary for the other three nights. Our memmories from this trip will always involve a mightmarish border crossing, lots of sticky, salty mud, lots of peace and quiet, and good company.

These five posts contain some of our more memorable photos from the trip. View the full gallery from this trip here.

Day 1 – From Swartwater, not quite to Kubu Island

Day 2 – To Kubu Island

Day 3 – Kubu Island to Khama Rhino Sanctuary

Day 4 – Khama Rhino Sanctuary

Day 5 – Khama Rhino Sanctuary

Botswana, April 2011 – Day 5

View trip gallery

Tuesday dawned cool and clear, and we set off on an early game drive. The light was beautiful, and the sightings included some playful Zebra, Warthog, and a few more White Rhino.

After the game drive, Johan threw some macro extension tubes and a 1.4x teleconverter on his 500mm lens, effectively creating a 70mm macro lens. He put this monster to use photographing the huge number of butterflies around the camp site.

Building a camp-fire under the gazeboHe stopped only when the rain drove him back into the tent.

Since the rain hadn’t stopped by sundown, the last camp fire for the trip had to built under a gazebo, but that didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits!

On Wednesday morning, we reluctantly packed up, and hit the road back home.

Botswana, April 2011 – Day 4

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Our first morning at Khama was heavily overcast, so we had a little lie-in before going on our first game drive.  When we eventually got up, we discovered a mess of antelope tracks around Bennie’s bakkie, and obvious signs that they saw the salty mud on the bakkie as the perfect savoury treat, a.k.a. a salt-lick! (Note: the entire bakkie was covered in mud when we went to bed).

The clouds filtered the light beautifully, but unfortunately the sightings were poor, and the only photo opportunity was a small herd of Springbok at a water hole.

The afternoon drive was more successful: sightings included several Rhino – the main reason for the park’s existence.

Botswana, April 2011 – Day 3

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Sunday morning we were up before dawn to photograph the sunrise. The sky was almost perfectly clear, and the pan was full of people of every age with any kind of camera you can think of. The combination of soft, early morning light and the stunningly photogenic location was irresistible.

When the sun was up, most of the photographers headed back to the camp for coffee and breakfast and suddenly we had the pan to ourselves – just the two of us and the quiet, seemingly endless salt pan.

The silence was breathtaking.

At last, we had to turn our backs on the rugged beauty of the granite rocks and Baobab trees, and return to the camp site. It was time to pack up and head off to Khama.

The road back to civilisation was very different from the one that took us to Kubu. The sky was deep blue, with a few white clouds drifting lazily high above. There was a lot less water, and a lot more solid ground. The pans, however, were no less impressive.

Johan lost himself in the search for the “The Shot”.

But like all good things, the pans also had to come to an end. Eventually, we reached the tarred roads, took the bakkies out of 4X4, and pointed their noses in the direction of Khama Rhino Sanctuary. After a long day behind the wheel we pulled into our camp site at sunset, pitched camp under two stunning Baobab trees, and lit the camp fire.

Botswana, April 2011 – Day 2

View trip gallery

The day dawned over a herd of Nguni cattle grazing on the edge of a very soggy salt pan. Heavy clouds promised more rain.

Our makeshift camp-site at the gateNot long after waking up, we noticed a lone man walking from the direction of Kubu Island. He arrived at our make-shift camp site with muddy, bare feet, a bottle of water and a tale of trying to get through to Kubu Island on the “low road” in the middle of the night, but the wheel ruts were too deep and his V8 Landy ended up stuck on its belly. We gave him a cup of coffee, and agreed to tow him out.

There are two roads to Kubu Island from the main gate where we slept – the high road and the load road. The low road crosses straight over the Sowa pan, and can get you to Kubu in about 45 minutes. The hight road, on the other hand, goes around the pan and can take 2 hours or more. In wet weather the low road becomes almost undrivable. Since we had two trailers and an untried Mitsubishi Triton, we preferred not to risk getting stuck and took the hight road instead.

Arriving where the “high road” split off from the “low road”, we were met by a rather daunting sight: both roads were completely flooded!

Driving over the soggy pansBut we had come too far, and our hearts were set on Kubu Island, so we decided to push on. Shaun, the Landy driver, having been to Kubu Island a few times before, took the lead.

As the day progressed, the clouds started clearing, and the sun made a weak attempt at warming the wet landscape. The dreary weather made driving with open windows comfortable, but did not in any way diminish the impact of the vast salt pans.

Smoke break! The guys and their bakkies

We pitched camp on the edge of the Sowa pan, around the corner from the famous “Kubu Rocks” and set off, cameras in hand, to photograph the sunset.

Star-trails and moonlit baobabs

Shortly before midnight, Johan fetched me from the tent to experience “Kubu Island”. The stillness was almost tangible. Long after midnight, we were still enjoying the silence, and experimenting with some “star trail” photography.