There are few places in the world where one can truly unwind and re-align the body’s balance.
For Myself, my brother Sean, and James (my best friend), the Okavango Delta has been a long time favourite. Every year (or two) we find ourselves sat in the one and only Toyota Hilux, boot fully loaded with gear and snacks (lots of snack, we love snacks!) headed North from Johannesburg toward the Botswana Border for an epic (+/-)14 day African Roadtrip (the duration up to you though)!
First Stop: Gaborone
The drive from Johannesburg to Gaborone, the capital fo Botswana is around 5 hours. Thereafter, the drive from Gaborone to the first stop in the Makgadigadi pans is around 8 hours, so its best to stop over in Gabs for a night then head on to planet Baobab well rested! There are a number of good hotels in Gabs so take your pick. We recommend Avani and Room 52, however, it’s only one night so the choice is yours!
P.s. Never drive up to the president’s gate in Gabs on Presidential drive – they will shoot your tires haha! Trust us!)
second Stop: The Makgadigadi Salt Pans – planet baobab
The drive from Gaborone to Gweta is long but seeing the transition from urban to wilderness and then desert is a sight to see! Once near Gweta one will find a lodge just off the N2 called Planet Baobab, which offers a wide range of activities. The rooms are nothing too luxurious but the staff are amazing and the overnight quad bike tour into the salt pans is an absolute must.
The guides are not only knowledgeable but possess that special African wisdom that is a privilege to be around while sitting at the evening’s campfire. The tour will begin at Camp Baobab, which, as its name suggests, is immersed in a field of beautiful baobabs of all shapes and sizes. The 40-minute drive to get the bikes in the small cattle-kraal in the middle of nowhere is not particularly accommodating for beer drinkers, but it is well worth the spillage.
After a very fun two hour drive through what looks like courage the cowardly dog’s neighborhood/ and through a vast expanse of white desert that is the salt pans, you will reach camp – A car and sleeping bags parked in the salt pans you ask? Damn straight, and it should be done no other way!
Head off to see the Meerkats up close and personal, and finally end with a few glasses of Johnny Walker black and head off to your feather mattress sleeping bag.Head off to see the Meerkats up close and personal, and finally end with a few glasses of Johnny Walker black and head off to your feather mattress sleeping bag. Thereafter the ride back to the Kraal is just as magical as the ride in and the sunrise in the pans is truly breathtaking.
third Stop: The Okavango Delta
After checking out of Planet Baobab its time to head on up to Maun (around 2hrs by car), just south of the Okavango Delta. There are two options you can choose from in order to get into the wildlife ridden section of the delta.
The four-hour boat ride on the 60 hp riverboat is pleasant as long as you’re not tired (sleeping upright is never fun, trust us we did it after James decided to bring no form of ID on our trip!). But if you’re well rested, which we weren’t, the boat trip is a great way to see how the landscape changes toward the center of this immensely large wetland.
The animals change from donkeys to goats, to Crocodiles, hippos, and Ellies. It’s quite a phenomenal transition and can’t be seen from on the 30-minute flight. Best Choice: Ride in and Fly out or visa-versa.
Best Choice: Ride in and Fly out or visa-versa.
The Delta is truly the closest place to Utopia anyone could ever imagine. The land is untouched and unfenced, and the contrast of Lala palms (like palm trees) against the sunset is the best food for the soul one can find. Many, if not all of the camps in the delta are situated on the water and game drives (to see the animals) is done by boat, allowing for close encounters with animals and the ultimate wildlife viewing experience.
Recommended stays are Moremi Crossing, Jacks Camp, and San Camp.
fourth Stop: The Chobe River
After enjoying the Delta for a few days head on up to the northern town of Kasane which takes around 7 hours! Kasane is situated next to the Chobe River, which acts as the border between Botswana, Namibia, and Zambia.
The Best Place to Stay? Hands Down, The Chobe Princess.
Situated on the Zambezi, Chobe and Caprivi strip is a fleet of houseboats of fairly similar size and stature. The boats accommodate 8-12 people in the perfect amount of luxury for Africa, and boast a full team of staff that will provide breakfast, lunch, and dinner and will also take you on your daily activities ranging from tiger-fishing to lion viewing walks.
The best thing about this region is that it requires almost no effort to see the many species of rare wildlife that inhabit this majestic land. Elephant roam the park much like cows roaming a countryside field, while Crocodile and Hippo can be seen almost everywhere if one looks closely enough. We even saw a leopard taking a poop last year, so there is literally no limit on what you can see!
It is recommended to do the trip in winter as the temperature is much more manageable and you will not be eaten by mosquitos. Malaria has been found in some parts of the Delta, however, this is usually not an issue in winter!
All in all this trip is one that will leave you longing for more and keep calling you back year after year. So if you’re looking for a real taste of life, this is the trip to book for your next summer vacation.
fifth stop: Victoria Falls (for those that haven’t yet had enough)
If you haven’t quite had enough of the African beauty that’s in excess supply be sure to head on up to the Victoria Falls which is situated on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia! The drive is only 3 and a bit hours from Kasane and is well worth it!
The Royal Livingstone, although expensive, is our most highly recommended stay. The hotel is beautiful and situated just above the falls making for amazing views and sunsets which is made even better by the many Zebra that inhabit the hotel’s lawns and pathways. There are a number of other options around the falls if you’re looking for something more reasonable!
While there be sure to go to the Devils Pool for an incredible experience on the falls. And the bungee jump and/or white water rafting also make form a great day!
sixth and final Stop: Baines Baobabs (For those doing the round trip)
For those legends that will be driving back down to Johannesburg and completing the round trip we definitely recommend stopping by the famous Baines Baobabs in Nxai Pan National Park! They are fucking glorious!! We made it just in time for sunlight with a crate of beers, and hearts full of happiness!
Give yourself plenty of time for this drive. Maps estimates around 7 hours from the falls, but once you enter the park the sand is thick and the road slow so it usually takes longer. Further, they stop letting people in nearer to sunset so make sure to get there early, these aren’t ideal roads to get lost on during the night. Trust us!
There are campsites in Nxai Pan National Park which are great if you have tents etc. Alternatively, Planet Baobab is a 2-hour drive from the park so if you make it to the park early you can always head there after sunset! Then the next day it’s the final stretch back to JHB and civilization (boooo)!
Yes, this road trip involves long days of driving, but when you’re driving through these unbelievably beautiful places it’s more than a pleasure to be sat in the car and enjoy the views! The trip should take around 2 weeks but can be done in less if need be. However, if you’re going to do it its best to take your time and really soak it in! Once you’re hooked you’ll never want to leave!
We hope you find this helpful and end up feeling just as rejuvenated as we always do!
Stay safe & enjoy people!
Scott, James & Sean,