Khutse Game Reserve in the Kalahari Desert was this past weekend’s destination. This was some serious African camping.
We definitely rode in style this weekend. A nice 8-seater Land Rover picked us up early Saturday morning. The seats were comfortable and included seat belts, we had excellent elevated views of our surroundings, and air circulated nicely with the windows open. But the coolest feature was that there was a small ladder at the back of the 4×4 that we could climb up for game viewing.
After an 8am pick up Saturday morning, we arrived at the entrance around 1:00pm. The first half of the drive was on “tarred” road. We drove through many robots (which actually weren’t operational yet as the road was new) heading north out of Gabs, and after an hour or so we passed through a large village called Molepolole. Street vendors, supermarkets, petrol stations, and various random stores characterized the main area of the town. The next notable village we came to was Letlhakeng which is where we stopped for petrol before continuing on. At this point, the tar ended and we found ourselves driving on a dirt road. This second half of the trip was very dusty and noisy as we bumped and shoke along this extremely long road. We passed numerous cows, some random and some being herded, several goats, and some donkeys pulling carts of supplies.
We slept in a large canvas tent. This was practical protection against possible visitors to our campsite at night. Our beds consisted of a mattress on top of a stretcher-like bed. They even supplied sheets, a comforter, a blanket and pillow. This was perhaps the most comfortable sleep I have ever had camping. So no, I did not hear the lions roaring at 4am…I was sound asleep!
Our kitchen was equipped with tables, a table cloth, chairs, a kettle and even an apron!
We really were in the wild. It was similar to being in Banff National Park, yes there is an entrance gate, but the park is immense and rugged (and minus the tourist strip of shops and restaurants like in Banff). It was nice to be away from roads, cars and fencing as was the case with the other game reserves. We were in the Kalahari Desert and beside the one other occupied campsite, we were all alone with our guide. And this is peak season! The long golden grasses, the brown salt pans, and the sandy trails were beautiful. And of course we saw yet another red-orange sunset. It was amazing to experience true african nature!
We were pleasantly surprised by the healthy food offered by Africa Insight. At times North American food here is rather greasy so we weren’t sure what to expect. There was fruit, yogurt, sandwiches, quiche and chicken curry on rice. We enjoyed tea and coffee by the campfire both in the evening and in the morning. This was definitely not the type of camping food we were used to.
Leonard was one of the nicest Motswana I have met yet. As many Batswana, he was very friendly, polite and well dressed. He really wanted us to enjoy the experience and learn a lot about the wildness and way of life in his country. Leonard was quiet at times, but then full of information when we asked him questions, and when describing various animals and birds. His favourite sayings were “Aie” when something minor went wrong and “Yup” instead of yes. He was an excellent driver, which seems to be a rarity here. What I was most impressed with was all the schooling he went through to become a guide: after finishing Form 5 (last year of high school which is equivalent to Grade 12) he completed a diploma in tourism (2 years), and then earned a degree in tourism (3 years). Both study periods included some practicum work in various parts in Botswana and he also did some additional training at Mokolodi Nature Reserve. We really appreciated his expertise and company in the wild.