Monday, 30 May 2011

Botswana – Overland Trip report / Part 3 – April 2011

Rising with the dawn we waited on our guides who would shuttle us to the jetty for our scheduled two hour trip up the channel. Our intentions were to bird the phragmites and papyrus from the boat. As it turned out the best bird on the trip, a Striped Crake, was viewed from the back of the Land Cruiser en route to the jetty long before we set foot anywhere near a boat. Birding on the channel proved disappointing. Less than a handful made an appearance, nothing special. The boat itself was in a state of disrepair; seats were broken and the motor ancient, stalling an hour out. No amount of tinkering from our intrepid ‘rangers’ solicited much more than a cough. We were quite literally up the creek without a paddle. To our fearless khaki-clad duo’s complete surprise the motor sprang to life some 20 minutes later and we roared homeward-bound; our siesta rudely ended by the slap of reed and weed.

We spent the rest of the morning on the southern route driving slowly from pan to pan enjoying excellent views of Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron and Wattled Crane. Game was scarce to non-existent.
Overlanding out of season has its perks. A change of itinerary is always possible. 

3rd Bridge is a favourite. Even so, we agreed that the seasonal Savuti would offer more. Radio communication to Maun confirmed the changes and vehicles subsequently packed in anticipation of an early start.  A journey of some 230km lay ahead of us, mostly in either mud or sand.

We crossed 3rd Bridge a little after 5:30am without mishap. 4th Bridge creaked and groaned in the early dawn and was much more interesting. A little further on two Wild Dogs, one collared, trotted on the road. Two dogs on their own, seemed a little sad.

We reached the junction south a short time later. The road from Xakanaxa to North Gate was still flooded and therefore closed. To get to Savuti we would have to return to South Gate and then the main road north to Khwai which eventually proved much easier than anticipated. We breakfasted at the dysfunctional Maqwee [South Gate] camp in light drizzle. Thunderstorms would sweep through Moremi later that morning. With the difficulties of the mud behind us, getting to Khwai was easy and mostly uneventful. The last 60km to Savuti, however, dishes out it’s own blend of thick, soft sand. Even so, this time we did not deflate our tyres and travelled in relative comfort on the road’s thin, rain-hardened crust. The Marsh road was closed, as expected. Game on the alternative route proved scarce, as usual.  The monotony of the day was all but forgotten when we came across a coalition of four, very large, black-maned lions sunning in the post-storm warmth.

Some time later we arrived safely but a little tired at Savuti Camp. We were allocated No.5 away from the river and therefore not ideal. Nevertheless, the site was spotless, large and secluded; perfectly comfortable but for its view. An old bull elephant found our site just as enticing. Fortunately he checked-out just as we took residence, preferring the mid-afternoon shade in the site next door.

The day’s toil had taken its toll. Even so, we couldn’t resist a late afternoon drive and just as well. Pectoral Sandpiper at Harvey’s Pan! It’s only the 12th record ever for the region. Usually the rarities are not confiding. This particular bird, however, had no fear at all and was perfectly happy strutting its stuff in front of camera. Although I’ve seen them elsewhere in the sub-region, it’s an unforgettable Botswana highlight. Incidentally, birders are a peculiar bunch. The disgusted ‘ag man, it’s just a bird’ we lunatics hear too often from those considered ‘normal’ does not explain our sweaty palms and beaded brow when confronted by a ‘special’.

1 comment:

  1. Africa is a great place to undergo a trip along with a welfare cause with adventures places. Its richness of nature which Africa contains describe its beauty.
    Overland Africa