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mistybleu Ghanzi - A travel report by Amanda
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Ghanzi,  Botswana - flag Botswana
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mistybleu's travel reports

Taking the Trans-Kalahari Highway

  21 votes
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Much like Namibia, Botswana is arid in the South and central, almost entirely desert - the Kalahari Desert. In the north is the Delta, with lush green waterways and then eastwardly the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers form the border region. report of the month contest
Nov 2006

The local San People
The local San People
I noticed a visible different between Botswana and Namibia; and that was people and livestock. As we crossed the border we started to see villagers, cattle, donkeys, and sheep roaming along the highway. Sometimes the cows sat in the middle of the road and all the amount of blowing a horn wouldn't get them out of the road.

Independent since 1966 (formally a British protectorate) three of the world’s richest diamond mines were discovered here, this has made Botswana a quite rich nation, allowing them to pick and choose their future. Now 40, it is known as the African success story. Politically stable and with the foresight to invest in education, healthcare, high economic standards and without the racial issues that have plagued other countries has resulted in Botswana having the best economy (outside of South Africa) in sub-Saharan Africa.

The government has employed a strategy of low impact tourism. This is where they reduce the number of tourists entering the country by charging more, thereby making it more restrictive for the budget traveller. The economical way to travel through the country is to camp and there are many campsites, even some of the popular lodges have facilities.

Winter is the best time to go and that is between May to August when the days are warm and sunny; the nights can be cold (at times) but it’s quite pleasant. This is also the best time to see wildlife as the animals never wonder far from their water source. The summer last from October to April and the rains can make some of the roads impossible.

Basic Information

No visas are required for most European and US citizens. The local currency is the Pula, roughly equally £1=P8.63. There are banks dotted around all the main towns, but the bureau de change tends to offer better rates, a lot of them offering to match any quote given. Internet access (fast and inexpensive) is found in the main towns of Maun, Kasane, Ghanzi, Francistown and off course the capital Gaborone.

Favourite spots:
Racing Mokoros
Racing Mokoros
The Okavango Delta is quite a miracle. Desert all around and then the green marsh, rivers of the delta. Known as the only inland delta in the world it has an abundance of wildlife, even though they can be difficult to see. There are two main ways to experience the Delta:

1. Firstly charter a plane and take to the air. A light aircraft departs from Maun International nearly on the ½ hour, especially coming close to sunset. From up there you can see the beauty of the area, as well as the herds of animals.

2. Secondly board an authentic wooden mokoro (canoe) and get poled along to one of the islands and spend some time. It is a fantastic journey as the mokoro parts the reeds; not much animals can be seen here, but sometimes they will take you to a hippo pool; if you ask nicely. Most locals are afraid to go to the pools in mokoros as they call them pigs in a blanket - i.e. easy picking for the hippos.

What's really great:
Age brings wisdom
Age brings wisdom
The San People who were formally know as the bushmen are indigenous to Botswana (and Namibia) and have lived here for over 30,000 years. It was truly an incredible experience to get an understanding of what Africa was like so many years ago and how the people survived in these desert conditions when their very existence was based on the land.

It is said that the word San meant ‘wild people who can’t farm’, however historically they didn’t had a collective word for themselves. Now they call themselves Ncoakhoe meaning ‘red people’, but is seems San has stuck. They were nomadic people – primarily hunter gathers, moving to where the food and water could be found.

It is estimated that there are 55,000 San people left, with 60% of them living in Botswana and many examples of their cave drawing can be found dotted around.

Sadly nowadays, their existence is similar to the aboriginals and can be found in 'squalid alcohol plagued settlements' or on farm or cattle posts.

Aerial Okavango Delta
Aerial Okavango Delta
The main areas that should be discovered when visiting Botswana are:

Kalahari Desert – the vast area receives too much water to be regarded as a 'classic' arid zone. However desert areas exist and are inhabited by the San people.

Okavango Delta – The Okavango River rises in Angola and empties in the Kalahari Desert and produces a wonderful delta where birds and animals enjoy abundance.

Chobe National Park – provides an ideal opportunity to do some bird watching as it encompasses the Chobe River (personally not as great as Etosha NP in Namibia) but there are a myriad of animals to be seen.

Makagadikgadi & Nxai Pans National Park – These cover over 80,000 sq km and the landscape is like no other. The pans sizzle in the heat of the day creating mirages.

Kgalakgadi Trans-Frontier Park – the Mabuasehube-Gemsbok NP and South Africa ‘s Kalahari-Gemsbok NP have combined to form a wilderness of over 28,00sq km. Mixing red dunes and salt pans.

The camp site
The camp site
Going back to basics – by erecting tents, sleeping outside, enjoying walks discovering plants and animals of the area, or listening to the sounds of the campfire flickering, that’s the beauty of camping.

We stayed in the Trail Blazer Camp, which is 8 kilometres outside Ghanzi and offers an introduction to the San People. They provide morning walks or evening shows as well as an opportunity to chat with them.

The camp was very easy to find, as signs were along the highway. In the camp they had permanent huts which we were able to upgrade to, but were told that they tend to have fleas, this made the choice so easy. We chose to sleep in our tents.

The area is prone to scorpions so we had to erect a trap to deter them from getting under our tents. It either worked or we were being wound up.

Local entertainment
Local entertainment
In the Okavango Delta you have to make you own entertainment. No TV, radio, or ipods just the sound of silence for most of the time. Sitting around the campfire telling stories or playing games is what makes the evening special.

Not content with that we encouraged our polers to sing us some songs. We had to start it off first and entertained them with a beautiful rendition of ‘God save our Queen’. One of the New Zealanders done a superb Haka and then they entertained us with some folk songs.

The Quarry
The Quarry
In the bush you have to make do with what you find for entertainment; behind the camp in Ghanzi was a farm that have horse; I’m sure if time permitted they would have allowed us to ride.

We also came across a disused quarry, excavated when part of the Trans-Kalahari Highway was built, but now it provides a brilliant rest bite. After some unusual rainfall it filled with water and is now an ideal place to swim (if you're brave) and it's very refreshing, if not a little cold.

Not really much to see, as the area is still under construction, developing the grounds, putting in a bar and changing facilities etc but this is destined to be a really nice spot.

Sitatonga Campsite and Crocodile Farm
Sitatonga Campsite and Crocodile Farm
Nightlife is very limited when you're on Safari in Africa; what with the early mornings, going to bed early is kind of inevitable.

We stayed in Camp Sitatonga just outside Maun (Maun is considered the tourist capital of Botswana and gateway to the Delta). It had good facilities including a swimming pool and volley ball court (which we made use of). The bar area is also cool as this was the first place we stayed that they played music late into the night.

We didn’t see too many restaurants however at camp, the owner, a Kiwi organised a barbeque for us and it was very tasty yet basic; chicken, potato and fresh bread. I suppose we were lucky they didn’t serve any croc, as there was a crocodile farm right behind the campsite; mind you they do say croc tastes like chicken but just a little more salty.

Other recommendations:
Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park was exciting; they have four of the big five (excluding leopards). It is located along the Chobe River and it is quite remarkably as it doesn't have any fences so the animals truly roam freely.

The park is the second largest in Botswana and covers just over 10,500 sq km, and was first set aside in 1931 but more recently 1957. The park boasts of having the largest continuous population of elephants some 120 thousand, that still migrate seasonally.

There are two brilliant ways to experience Chobe. Firstly a sunset river game cruise; where you get to see the animals along the river bank drinking and eating; includes hippos, buffalos and crocodiles elephants.

Then there is the sunrise game drive through the park; seeing all the animals wake up and start their process of finding food again as the morning sunshines on their faces is simply wonderful.

Published on Saturday December 9th, 2006

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Wed, Mar 21 2007 - 11:32 PM rating by sajjanka

very very nice

Wed, Feb 21 2007 - 03:39 PM rating by travler

After reading this report I understand why it was the report of the month.

Sun, Dec 24 2006 - 08:12 PM rating by isaacmolina

As somebody else said in the comments below, sure, this report has all the attributes and virtues to become the Report of the Month of December 2006! Congratulations in advance!

Sun, Dec 17 2006 - 01:26 PM rating by davidx

Misty, I don't know how you can keep up to your own standards with yet another report - but you do!

Thu, Dec 14 2006 - 07:48 AM rating by st.vincent

A top report Amanda, very interesting, loads of useful information and some great photos. I enjoyed reading it.

Tue, Dec 12 2006 - 06:23 AM rating by frenchfrog

This report matches your album really well, I did not know that the country restricted the number of tourists as the way than Bhutan's policy. Great report, great information, great report!

Tue, Dec 12 2006 - 04:48 AM rating by downundergal

Hi Amanda, Wow!
You have packed so much info into this report and shown such sensitivity for the region and it's people as a whole - well done.
I would be interested to know is this one of the "better"places that you would recommend to see wildlife ie with 4 of the big 5 available?

Sun, Dec 10 2006 - 09:17 AM rating by horourke

This is a report full of the sound and silence of Botswana. Good insight into the economy and development strategy of the country. positive, sensitive and an invitation to learn more.

Sun, Dec 10 2006 - 05:52 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Sure, a serious candidate to become RoM in december! So well writen. Thaks.

Sun, Dec 10 2006 - 05:30 AM rating by rangutan

Excellent! Shows, there are still "wild" areas on this globe. [Trivia: by studying genes, it was recently discovered that Aborigines decend directly from the San people via India, worlds more than 10000km apart!]

Sun, Dec 10 2006 - 05:19 AM rating by marianne

This makes perect reading. I especially like all the useful information I would like to know before going on such a trip. You answered all my questions. I wished I could rate this report 6*+.

Sun, Dec 10 2006 - 12:06 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

nice to read about this part of the world ,stange and interesting,well written and excellent report

Sat, Dec 09 2006 - 08:47 PM rating by eirekay

Amanda, this is a marvelous report! I would choose the tent as well! The difference as you cross the border is interesting ~ I would not have expected that. Great Read!

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