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Info about National Parks
we did visit in
Botswana



Chobe NP and Savuti

From Kasane, a rough and stony road heads west past the Chobe National Park boundary notice and along the river road that, after only 3 kilometres, leads to the Kasane entrance gate. Here all persons are required to check in and pay the park fees. Almost immediately after passing through the gate tall shady trees and ubiquitous baboons welcome visitors to the park. Four-wheel dive vehicles are essential, especially if the intention is to travel extensively into the park - deep sand in some areas tests the skill of the driver and the capabilities of the vehicle. However, most rewarding game-viewing awaits. Chobe, which is the second largest national park in Botswana, covers 10 566 square kilometres. The park is divided into four main focal points comprising the Chobe River front with floodplain and teak forest, the Savuti Marsh in the west about 50 kilometres north of Mababe gate, the Linyanti Swamps in the north-west and the hot dry hinterland in between.

The original inhabitants of what is now the park were the San people, otherwise known in Botswana as the Basarwa. They were hunter-gatherers who lived by moving from one area to another in search of water, wild fruits and wild animals. The San were later joined by groups of the Basubiya people and later still, around 1911, by a group of Batawana led by Sekgoma. When the country was divided into various land tenure systems, late last century and early this century, the larger part of the area that is now the national park, was classified as crown land. In 1931, the idea of creating a national park in the area was first mooted, in order to protect the wildlife from extinction and to attract visitors. In 1932, an area of some 24 000 square kilometres in the Chobe district was declared a non-hunting area and the following year, the protected area was increased to 31 600 square kilometres. However, heavy tsetse fly infestations resulted in the whole area lapsing in 1934. In 1957, the idea of a national park was raised again when are area of about 21 000 square kilometres was proposed as a game reserve and eventually a reduced area was gazetted in 1960 as Chobe Game Reserve. Later, in 1967, the reserve was declared a national park - the first national park in Botswana. There was a large settlement, based on the timber industry, at Serondela, some remains of which can still be seen today. This settlement was gradually moved out and the Chobe National Park was finally empty of human occupation in 1975. In 1980 and again in 1987, the boundaries were altered, increasing the park to the present size.

A major feature of Chobe National Park is its elephant population. First of all, the Chobe elephant comprise part of what is probably the largest surviving continuous elephant population. This population covers most of northern Botswana plus north-western Zimbabwe and is currently estimated at around 100 000. This elephant population has built up steadily from a few thousand since the early 1900s and has escaped the massive illegal offtake that has decimated other populations in the 1970s and 1980s. The Chobe elephant are migratory, making seasonal movements of up to 200 kilometres from the Chobe and Linyanti rivers, where they concentrate in the dry season, to the pans in the south-east of the park, to which they disperse in the rains. The Kalahari elephant, including Chobe, has the distinction of being the largest in body size of all living elephants, though the ivory is brittle and you will not see many huge tuskers among these rangy monsters.

Public camping grounds are situated within Chobe at Serondela, Savute and Linyanti with toilet and shower facilities available. Some of these facilities have suffered the ravages of time and the unwanted attention of elephant, but a gradual upgrading process is being undertaken at present, including the re-siting of Serondela and complete rebuilding of Savuti. Provision of camping facilities in the Noghatsaa area are being planned. Each of these camping grounds has its own unique character and a visit to each is recommended - however, it is once again essentially a wilderness area and, as such, few services are available between Kasane and Maun. Because of this, it is wise to carry basic safety items such as water, food, fuel, torches, extra wheels, tools, jacks, pumps and so on.

A public camping ground is to be developed further along the river to the west at a place called Ihaha. This new camp will have modern ablution facilities, an attractive reception office and will be more remote in nature. The main reason for moving the public camping ground from Serondela to Ihaha is to relieve congestion of traffic on the eastern part of the Chobe river front. When Ihaha has been completed and opened, Serondela will be closed and redesigned to serve as a picnic facility.

Savuti has a camping ground that has been severely damaged by elephant at a time when water was not available for these unfortunate creatures. In the area, new artificial water points have been developed to cater for the needs of wildlife and in due course the facilities currently in place in the Savuti camping ground will be demolished and replaced with modern, well-protected ones. In the meantime, a temporary public camping ground has been provided. Lying 172 kilometres southwest of Kasane Gate, Savuti camping ground (and the temporary camping area) overlooks the Savuti River channel, which is currently dry. The river system is characterised by long periods of inactivity, interspersed with occasional periods of flow. The present dry period started around 1982, after a flow period that stated in the 1950s, with dry spells between 1964 and 1967 and again in 1973. Prior to that the channel had been dry since the late 1800s.

Linyanti has a small camping ground, 39 kilometres north-west of Savuti, among tall riverine trees overlooking the perennial Linyanti River. This is generally a quieter camp as it is off the main tourist circuit, but for those seeking a remote and peaceful environment, with spectacular dry season concentrations of elephant, Linyanti is the place to go. Access is rough and sandy and only reliable 4x4 vehicles should attempt this journey.

Apart from the Kasane entrance gate, there is the Sedudu gate near Kasane, which gives access to a public road that passes for 54 kilometres through the park to Ngoma gate. Ngoma is the entrance used by visitors from Namibia, with the border crossing nearby. The southern entrance to the park is the Mababe gate, along a route that connects with the Moremi Game Reserve. Mababe gate is some 56 kilometres south of Savuti and many visitors enter at Kasane, camp at Serondela, and then at Savuti, exit through Mababe and on through to Moremi - or the other way around. Apart from this circuit and the charming camp ground at Linyanti, another route within the park, which intrepid visitors take, is south from Sedudu for 68 kilometres to Noghatsaa and then across to Savuti, which is a further 140 kilometres. Road through this area are not clearly signed at this time, so visitors should carefully plan their route before setting out and it is advisable to inform park staff of intentions to visit the Noghatsaa area.

Game-viewing is at its best during the dry season, when the majority of natural pans have dried up, and it is wise to avoid the Chobe River front during the heavy rains from January to March. It is also wise to note that no fuel supplies are available within the park and visitors travelling between Kasane and Maun should ensure that they are self-contained for the entire journey. All drinking water should be boiled or chemically treated. Mosquitoes are prevalent throughout the park and visitors are strongly advised to take an anti-malarial prophylactic before, during and for four weeks after visiting the park, especially during the rainy season.

Chobe facilities at a glance:
  • Public camping grounds at Serondela: flush toilets, basins and showers, some with hot water - this site is to be replaced by a new camping ground at Ihaha shortly.
  • Linyanti: limited flush toilets and showers with hot water.
  • Savuti: Temporary camping ground, pit latrines, protected water standpipe - NO SHOWERS. This site to be replaced by a new camping ground shortly.
  • Noghatsaa: no facilities at present, but camping ground to be developed shortly.

NO petrol or diesel available in the park or anywhere between Kasane and Maun.
NO food supplies available in the park.

Okavango Delta

Each summer, floods pour down from the highlands of Angola into the Okavango River and flow on through a vast network of narrow waterways, lagoons and broad expanses of the Okavango Delta. The water courses through this huge, 10 000 square kilometres of flood plain and dissipates in the sands of the Kalahari.

Okavango is frequently called a swamp, but mostly its waters are beautifully clear and blue. Most of the Okavango waters are soaked up by the desert, or evaporate. In good years, a fraction may remain to flood Lake Ngami in the south and feed the Boteti River, which runs into Lake Xau in the west and eventually into the huge depression of the Makgadikgadi Pan.

The floods reach their peak in May, covering vast grass flats and making thousands of islands out of tree-covered ridges of land. Thick papyrus grows everywhere and, in the northern parts of the delta, chokes the waterways so that they are impenetrable except by canoes.
This wilderness is uninhabited, except for a few river Bushmen who roam there. They still work iron with primitive bellows, making knives, axes and spears. Their canoes, called mokoros, are hand-hewn from logs.

In the parts of the delta where there is perennial water there are large numbers of crocodiles, hippos and buffaloes. Animals like the sitatunga, lechwe and Chobe bushbuck, which have adapted themselves to the conditions of reed and water, live on the islands.

Moremi

Many travellers regard the Moremi Wildlife Reserve as the most spectacular and beautiful game park in Southern Africa. It covers more than 1000 square kilometres of grassy flood plains in the north-eastern corner of the Okavango Delta. Apart from savannah, the terrain includes winding waterways with banks of reeds, palm-covered islands, thick forest and lush, lily-covered lagoons where hippos bathe and sport.

With such a wide variety of vegetation comes an incredibly wide spectrum of wild life. Huge herds of impala and tsessebe are always in the area, while in the dry season large herds of buffalo, wildebeest and zebra flock into the park from the Kalahari in search of food and water. The rare sitatunga and lechwe antelope live in the papyrus banks of the waterways. Lions, cheetahs and packs of wild dogs hunt in the open grassland. The reserve is home to an immense number of birds.

Unlike most other game parks, Moremi allows visitors to approach game on foot. The park has been kept as natural as possible by the people who created it, the Tawana tribe. In 1961, worried about the increase in game hunting, the tribe, under the regent, Mrs. Pulane Moremi, widow of Chief Moremi III, established the reserve on their own land. It was the first time an African tribe had founded and administered a game park.

The project has been a profound success, attracting thousands of visitors every year.

Makgadikgadi & Nxai Salt Pans

Two big fossil lake beds flank the main road from Francistown to Maun - the Makgadikgadi Pan on the southern side and the Nxai Pan in the north.

Makgadikgadi is believed to be the largest salt pan in the world. When dry, which is most of the time, it is 6 500 square kilometres of glaring saline sand, white and absolutely flat. When the waters of the Okavango spill down the Boteti River after good summer rains, the whole area of the pan is flooded to a depth of a few centimetres, providing rich feeding for aquatic birds. Flamingoes and countless pelicans descend on Makgadikgadi.

Great herds of big game - wildebeest, zebra and springbok - water here and herds 10 000 strong can sometimes be seen on the plains besides the pan. In the pan itself, animals stand out in startling fashion on the white salt, their legs shimmering and elongated through mirage caused by heatwaves and glare.

Both pans have been designated national game reserves. At Makgadikgadi the main road run along the edge of the pan, which makes for easy viewing. At Nxai, a road has been built leading from the main road over a high sand ridge.

Nxai is a much smaller depression than Makgadikgadi. Down in the pan small clumps of trees dominate a sea of grass cropped short by the game. There are nearly always giraffe, springbok, bat-eared foxes and hartebeest in the area. In the rainy season migratory herds of gemsbok, wildebeest, buffalo, eland, zebra and elephant swell the numbers and as many as 5 000 head of game have been seen in the pan at one time. Near Nxai is another pan, Kgamakgama, where there are baobab trees and palms.

In recent years both Makgadikgadi and Nxai have begun to be mined for salt, soda ash, sodium sulphate and bromides.

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

An ideal place for tourists who love adventure.
The 52 800 sq.km Game Reserve consists of fossil valleys and short shrub savanna type vegetation. It forms part of the Kalahari ecosystem which supports a wide variety of African antelopes such as wildebeest, hartebeest, eland, springbok and kudu.
Game viewing will give you sites of giraffe, brown hyena, warthog, cheetah, wild dog, leopard, lion, blue wildebeest, eland, gemsbok, kudu, red hartebeest and springbok, is best between December and April, when the animals congregate in the pans and valleys.
Sleeping in the open without a tent is dangerous and tents should be fastened to prevent snakes, and scorpions from gaining entry. 
Foodstuffs should not be kept in the tent but in vehicles to avoid the unwanted attentions of lions and hyenas.
Visitors may walk in pan areas where visibility is good, but walking in areas of tall grass or thick bush is potentially dangerous and not encouraged. It is always wise to stay within easy reach of the vehicle. There are three entry points to the reserve, the one through Khutse in the south, then a western entrance through Xade, and also in the north-east through Matswere.

There are nine undeveloped public camping sites within the Central Kalahari. Matswere is the access point for designated but undeveloped campsites in the region of Deception Valley, Sunday Pan, Leopard Pan and Passage Valley.

The campsites at Piper Pan can be accessed from either Matswere or Xade. While these sites remain undeveloped with no toilets, visitors are requested to dig their own mini-latrine to ensure they leave no signs of being there. Firewood may be collected from wooded areas but not from tree islands. The ashes from campfires must he buried before vacating a campsite, combustible rubbish burnt and non-combustible carried back to the pit at the entrance gate.
Water for purposes other than drinking is available from the Wildlife Camp at Xade and at the Matswere entrance gate/tourist office. Also at Matswere, two rustic showers are being developed to give a facility for those who have not brought their own portable showers or who do not wish to cart water to their campsites for this purpose.
The Central Kalahari Game Reserve is within the Ghanzi District, and together with the Khutse Game Reserve they form the largest Game Reserve Complex in Botswana and the third largest in the world.

Abutting the southern boundary of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve is Khutse Game Reserve. Being closer to Gaborone than other parks or reserves, Khutse attracts many local visitors. Even with some of the way now tarred, the 250 km road journey form Gaborone is not an easy one, must be accomplished in four wheel drive vehicles and takes over four hours from the capital.
Like its larger northern neighbour, Khutse also is without facilities for the visitor who, as elsewhere in the Kalahari, must, therefore, be totally self contained. Some consider this a disadvantage but to most it is an element of attraction.

Khama Rhino Sanctuary

In 1989 a group of Serowe residents conceived the idea of a wildlife reserve near Serowe. Serwe Pan, then a cattle post, had been a traditional hunting area teeming with wildlife and the residents wished to re-establish it to its earlier splendour. In 1993 the Ngwato Land Board allocated the land around Serwe Pan to the Khama Rhino Sanctuary Trust.

The site was chosen due to its excellent habitat for rhinoceros, central location and proximity to a Botswana Defence Force (BDF) base, which provides the Sanctuary with 24hr protection. Covering approximately 4,300 hectares of Kalahari sandveld, the Sanctuary is centred around Serwe Pan - a large grass-covered depression with several natural water holes. Serwe Pan provides prime habitat for white rhinoceros and other grazing animals, whilst the denser vegetation in the southern area of the Sanctuary is favoured by browsing animals such as giraffe.

The Sanctuary is a community trust governed by a Board of Trustees who are elected from the local communities of Serowe, Paje and Mabeleapodi. The Vice President of Botswana, Lt .Gen.S.K.I. Khama, Paramount Chief of the Bamangwato, is Patron of the Trust.

The Sanctuary lies 25km north of historic Serowe on the Serowe-Orapa road. Serowe, one of the largest traditional villages in Africa, is the birthplace of Botswana's first President, the late Sir Seretse Khama. Paje and Mabeleapodi are two small picturesque villages within fifteen kilometres of the Sanctuary.

To date, 14 white rhino have been translocated into the Sanctuary. In February 1993, four rhinos were translocated from northern Botswana. This was accomplished by the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks with the help of the Natal Parks Board. The rhinos were placed in very large bomas which were built by volunteers from the local communities. One of these rhino had been seriously wounded by poachers bullets just prior to capture and died within a month of translocation. Another rhino died in October 1994 despite the best veterinary care. Another young bull was brought to the Sanctuary bomas in May 1994.

A 28km electric fence, sponsored by Debswana and De Beers, was completed in June 1995. All the rhinos were then released from their bomas to roam free within the Sanctuary. Later that month the North West Parks Board of South Africa donated and translocated five more white rhino to the Sanctuary. These were all released from the bomas shortly after their arrival. All the rhino settled well and soon began breeding.

More calves were born in the Sanctuary during 1997, although one has since died due to rough 'horning' by the dominant male. After friction developed between the two mature males it was decided to move the younger one out. He was exchanged for a young female from Kruger National Park in March 1998. While she was acclimatising in the bomas the dominant male became interested in her. He cornered her in the boma and killed her. 1999 saw five more rhinos at the Sanctuary. Three rhinos were translocated from Pilanesburg by the North West Parks Board in July. At the same time a male was translocated from the Sanctuary to Jwaneng in southern Botswana. Two babies were born here during the year. Two babies were born at the Sanctuary during 2000 (March and August) and two so far in 2001 (February and April), which brings the total number of white rhino in the Sanctuary to 18.

Confidence in the Trust and its achievements has been expressed by the Southern Africa Rhino Specialist Group who are keen to establish Khama Rhino Sanctuary as a breeding centre for the re-population of white rhino in Botswana. In addition, Botswana's Department of Wildlife and National Parks has also re-affirmed its commitment to re-introducing black rhino into the country and using the Khama Rhino Sanctuary for this purpose. The Ngwato Land Board recently allocated the Trust another piece of land (5000 hectares), of which the suitability for the reintroduction of black rhino is currently being assessed.

The Sanctuary is home to otherwildlife which have settled naturally or been translocated in: zebra, blue wildebeest, giraffe, eland, springbok, impala, gemsbok, kudu, steenbok, duiker, red hartebeest, leopard, ostrich, African wild cat, caracal, small spotted genet, black-backed jackal, bat-eared fox, brown hyena. Over 230 bird species have also been identified here including Abdim's stork and bearded woodpecker.
                                                       copyright: Paul Janssen