How to solo self drive Botswana

After recording and posting my solo Botswana self drive itinerary on YouTube I thought it a good idea to post my notes on my website as well. Solo self driving Botswana is not as difficult as one might think, as long as you plan properly and remain within the bounds of your common sense. My solo Botswana self drive itinerary was a mixed bag of camping and lodges. I incurred many itinerary changes along the way due do to covid, but in the end I had a blast. Hopefully, this solo Botswana self drive itinerary does the same for you!

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

  1. My Botswana solo self drive adventure started here. I drove the 1000km from Cape Town in one day.
  2. Drove this in one day, slept at Kgalagadi lodge
  3. Borders from the park. South Africa (two rivers gate), Namibia (Mata Mata gate) & Botswana (Mabuasehube in the East & Kaa in the North)
  4. Note, a minimum one night stay is required if you are going to cross into another country
  5. One half (Nossob to the SW, operated by South Africa’s SAN parks) and everything else by Dept of Wildlife in Botswana
  6. Great for lion, leopard and cheetah sightings 

Crossing the Border

  1. Crossed at the Kopfontein/ Tlokweng border post, about 100km from Zeerust
  2. Only a few border posts are open
  3. Very easy procedure, you’ll need a PCR test <72hours, at both sides you’ll need to visit port health first.
  4. At the Botswana side you’ll need to do an additional rapid test at the cost of Bots govt and
  5. Pay for a road permit, about P150 for my 2000 Toyota Hilux
  6. In 3 visits I’ve never been asked for any additional vehicle documentation, if you from outside Africa and renting a vehicle please inform your rental agency you will be crossing a border and get the correct paperwork

The capital: Gaborone

  1. Quick one day stop over at Mokolodi backpackers
  2. To do some shopping, nothing major as there are good shops all over Botswana
  3. Refuelled. Botswana has the cheapest  fuel in the area, so arrive with empty tanks and leave with full ones. They have diesel and petrol (95 & 93).
  4. Purchased cellphone SIM card, P10 and needed my passport to register instore. P220 for 12Gb of data and lasted for 30 days
  5. Very good infrastructure in the capital, stayed at the Hilton on departure, there is a Covid testing facility about 200 meters away

Khama Rhino Sanctuary

  1. From there I moved onto the Khama rhino sanctuary, about 330km from the capital. Fuel is readily available along the way and the last decent shop is in Serowe
  2. It is a must do destination in Botswana. The sanctuary is operated by a community trust and bookings can be done directly on their website
  3. As the name suggests it is sanctuary for rhino’s and I saw 17 in 2 hours, incl a cute baby rhino
  4. The biggest tip I can give you is arrive early, then you have sufficient time to explore and only need to spend one night.
  5. Also see my dedicated post on the Khama Rhino sanctuary for more information

Camping in Khumaga, Makgadigadi pans

  1. Next up was camping at the Khumaga camp in the West of the Makgadigadi NP. Khumaga is 380km away, you can also from here go to Kubu via Lethlakane or the central Kalahari from Rakops.
  2. The last decent shops & banks are in Lethlakane and the last fuel in Rakops.
  3. The camp is right next to the boteti river so you’ll need to use a ferry when the river is in flood. It is operated by the Boteti river lodge, costs P150/vehicle and is a quick call away.
  4. The camp is operated by SKL camps
  5. The main attraction here are the large herds, especially zebra that are attracted by the water from the river. There is a beautiful road that allows you to drive all along the river.
  6. Also see my blog post on Camping at Khumaga for more info

South camp at Nxai Pan National Park

  1. My next stop was a few nights camping at the south camp of the Nxai pan national park which is literally just across the road the north of Khumaga
  2. Roughly 35km of sandy road gets you to the Phuduhudu gate, 10km of tar to the Nxai pan gate and another 35km to the south camp
  3. Alternatively, you can drive via the tar road by exiting at Khumaga village again
  4. Beautiful sites, large shade trees and elephant randomly walk through the site
  5. The site is operated by Xomae and they have a little shop with wifi close to the camp. They’ll even charge your laptop if you ask nicely.
  6. They only have one waterhole during the winter which makes for amazing animal sightings and a stop at Baines baobab is a must!
  7. Also see my blog post on The Nxai Pan National Park

The town of Nata

  1. Im including Nata as it strategically located on the road from Maun and then heading North is Kasane and South Francis town.
  2. The town is about 160km from the Nxai Pan gate and about half way there you’ll find the village of Gweta where they have fuel, shops and the Gweta Lodge. From Gweta you can during the dry season cross the Ntwetwe Pan and go onto Kubu island, about 90km and should take about 4-5hours.
  3. After gweta the road is very bad in certain section so beware of that.
  4. At Nata you have three main accommodation options, Nata lodge, camping at the bird sanctuary or Elephant sands which is enroute to Kasane. Missing out on Elephant Sands is a massive hole in my itinerary
  5. Nata has shops, petrol and banks

Kasane and the Chobe Safari Lodge

  1. Kazangula is about 300km north of Nata and where you cross into Zambia, it is a very easy one day trip, during normal times to Vic Falls and back.
  2. They have fuel, shops and banks here
  3. 10km from there is Kasane and the entrance to the Chobe National Park.
  4. Kasane like Kazangula has fuel, shops and banks.
  5. The highlight here is the Chobe river for boat trips, fishing, game/bird viewing and definitely choose accommodation facing the river. All of it west, so you’ll get beautiful sunsets every night. 
  6. I opted for the Chobe Safari Lodge, in a safari room but even their camp sites looked very good

The public camp site at Savuti

  1. The most asked question about Savute is how to get there from Kasane, and honestly it is quite easy
  2. From Kasane drive to Kachikau, it is a tar road. Pass through the village onto the dirt road. Carry on straight until you reach the t-junction, turn right and carry on on the very wide road until you reach a second t-junction, turn left and the Ghoha gate will be 7km away on your right. As easy as that… the road is sandy, but not impossible.
  3. From the gate Savuti camp is about 20km and is operated by SKL, link in the description below, for 3 nights. The sites are basic, hot water is available at the ablutions and there is a small but very expensive shop.
  4. I heard a lot of lions at night but was not able to see any. I did see elephant, buffalo and more of the regulars you would expect.
  5. The best game viewing, I spoke to fellow travellers, was towards the Rhino vlei and Jackal island in the south
  6. The camp is operated by SKL camps

Khwai village

  1. Khwai is a small village that is strategically situated between Savute and Moremi and very important to any person that is solo self driving Botswana
  2. From Savute head south towards the Mababe gate. Very soon you’ll reach a split in the road and need to decide whether you’ll take the sand ridge or marsh road. I opted for the sand ridge and road lived up to its name. This was probably the worst part of road I experienced inside any national park in Botswana, but is still very doable.
  3. After the gate it is only a few kms to the “main” road which takes you to khwai. Most of the camps are actually a few kms outside of the village. Facilities vary from place to place, so check before you.
  4. Regardless, this area is stunningly beautiful and I had a better game viewing experience than Savute.
  5. Important for the traveller, they have 2 small shops with the basics, Be mobile cell signal and unofficially they have fuel. I was told it is P500 for 25liters
  6. The North gate of Moremi is on the southern edge of Khwai village.  

Moremi Game Reserve

  1. There is no better way to enter a national park that the long wooden bridge that you drive over when entering Moremi at north gate
  2. Leading from the gate are 2 roads one that leads to Xakanaxa and the second directly to south gate.
  3. The Xakanaxa road initially passes nearby the Khwai river and causes a massive accumulation of wildlife. Along this road you’ll also find th the loop to the hippo pool which is a must stop if you have time. This is also the road that gets you to Third bridge.
  4. The biggest tip I can give you, because I experienced this myself is to make sure that the roads you will be using is accessible. I was there in the middle of the dry season and the bridge between Xakanaxa and third bridge was not accessible. Meaning I had to drive all the way down and around South gate to get to third bridge.
  5. As I was only staying one night, and it was after one at that time I abandoned the plan and headed to Maun
  6. The roads in Moremi are very good, except for the challenges posed by the water and what I saw already made the trip worth it.
  7. Third bridge camp is operated by Xomae

Maun: the tourist capital of Botswana

  1. From North gate South gate is about 30km and from south gate Maun is another 100km. I was very lucky to spot a mother leopard and two cubs a few kilometers outside of south gate.
  2. The tar road starts at the village of Shorobe and the 20km before that is very corrugated.
  3. Maun can be described as the tourist capital of Botswana. It is great entry point to the Okavango delta, there’s an array of tourist activities available and accommodation is on every street and corner. I stayed at Crocodile camp.
  4. Supermarkets, fuel, banks, offoad and camping stores, as well as mechanics and vehicle repair shops are readily available.
  5. Everything you might need as a tourist is available in Maun and you might be surprised by the size of it.

Tsodillo hills

  1. Next up was the Tsodilo hills about 400km NW of Maun. Take the road to Sehitwa and from there head North. The last fuel before the hills is in Gumare. From here you’ll also find the worst road in Botswna and Im not exaggerating.
  2. At the village of Ncamasere you’ll leave the main road and the last 50k is on a very good gravel road.
  3. The hills are amazing and if this is your type of thing is a must do. It is a UNESCO world heritage site and is littered with thousands of SAN rock paintings.
  4. Access is P50/day and the guided hike is P120/day.  Pay at the gate.

Central Kalahari Game Reserve

  1. I was on my way back and had two big stops left. From Maun the first would be Central Kalahari. It is about 200km to Rakops where the last fuel is and from there another 45km of dirt road to the eastern entry gate of Matswere.
  2. There are three other entry points, Tsau gate in the NW, Xade in the West and via Khutse game reserve in the South.
  3. There are several camping options and lodges which are managed by several different operators.
  4. I stayed at Deception, Piper and Sunday and did a lot of driving inside the reserve. The roads were pretty good during the dry season, but ive been told that this is not the case during the rainy season. See my video on the CKGR for more info.
  5. You are fully self-sufficient including all water. The sites have some shade, a bucket shower, non-flushing toilet and a place to make a fire.
  6. Highlight of the trip was when a leopard walked into my camp in broad daylight as Piper pan

Kubu Island

  1. My final stop was the very popular kubu island which I accessed from the town of Letlhlakane. As mentioned earlier this is a quite a big town, with large supermarkets, fuel, banks etc.
  2. Mmatshumo village is 45km from there. This is where the tar road ends and Kubu is another 45km from there. During the dry season the road there is very good and driving over the pans are spectacular.
  3. They have 14 sites, with a place to make a fire and that it is. They do have shared non-flushing toilets scattered through out the campsite.
  4. Sites are operated by the Gaing O community trust
  5. The island is quite small and easy to hike with a few hills which provide spectacular for views. Ive been told that the best time to visit is during the full moon.

Crossing the Ntwetwe pan: Kubu to Gweta

  1. My final activity for the trip was driving from Kubu to Gweta crossing the Ntwetwe pan.
  2. From Kubu head NW, there are many paths, no worries all of them lead to the Tswagong vet gate through which you’ll have to go. After the gate turn left and follow the road along the veterinary fence.
  3. The road eventually turns away, you pass Gumba vet gate and then onto the pan.
  4. Like I said earlier, spectacular.
  5. The final section of the 90km is passing through villages followed by some tricky navigation on the worst section of road before arriving at Gweta.
  6. Remember to check the condition of the Pan prior to taking on this route. You can run into

And that was my solo self drive Botswana trip. If you have any questions feel free to ask.

Nick fr Namibia

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