One of the Greatest Wilderness Areas in Africa
Kasane is where four remote African countries meet. Zambia to the north, Zimbabwe to the east, Namibia to the west, and Botswana in the south. It also sits on the northern edge of one of the greatest tracks of wilderness still left in Africa. Kasane is the only town in this wild northern area of Botswana, which extends several hundred kilometers south to Maun, is flanked to the east by the famous Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe, and by the Okavango River Delta itself to the west.
The wilderness begins just a few kilometers south of Kasane in Chobe National Park, which has a number of world famous sectors like Linyanti, the Chobe Riverfront, and Savuti. This quilt of wilderness hotspots continues, connecting to the Moremi Game Reserve where you can visit Khwai and the Okavango River Delta for equally phenomenal wildlife experiences.
Self-Driving Kasane to Maun
One of its greatest characteristics of this region is that it is accessible to an adventurous traveler, who can navigate a 4×4 through deep sand and mud. While there are campsites along the way, there is basically nothing else, so you must plan enough, food, water, petrol, firewood and tools to take care of yourself for your entire journey.
We decided we would take a six-day/five-night journey through this wilderness from Kasane to Maun. We settled on an itinerary where we would drive along the Chobe Riverfront the first day, camp in Savuti for two nights, then in Khwai for a night.
After that we would camp in Xakanaka, so we could take a river boat into the Okavango Delta. Finally, we explored the remaining lagoons in the dry delta from Dead Tree Island all the way to Black Pools, and camped our last night at South Gate.
Safari Highlights for Chobe National Park
We went in mid-October, which is the driest and hottest time of the year, with temperatures soaring to 43 degrees Celsius (109 Fahrenheit) during the trip, baking the hot sands of the delta, and crowding wildlife around the few remaining water sources in this wilderness kiln.
On the Chobe Riverfront we followed a leopard patrolling its territory, and watched a pack of painted dogs lie in wait on the river banks. We had a Martial eagle swoop-up a striped mongoose, and fly right over the hood of our car. We waited in the bushes, watching endless herds of massive elephants tromp down to the river banks.
In Savuti we witnessed lions devour a recently killed buffalo, and scuffle with elephants over dominance of the last remaining water hole in the region. We got bogged in the deep sand dunes on the west side of Sable Hill two hours before sunset. Sweating, bleeding and defeated we were ready to face a night stranded on our own, when we were rescued by a National Geographic videographer an hour after darkness. We tracked a jackal through the grass that had robbed a hyena den of one of its cubs, and found big male Kudu resting in the little pieces of shade around the desiccated marsh.
Safari Highlights for Moremi Game Reserve
Every day we would pass a few other people on the roads, but otherwise we felt like we had the parks all to ourselves. We loved being out on our own (except of course when we were stuck in the sand). However, the people we met in the campsites were also super friendly. Everyone just seems so stoked to be out there, keeping the outdoor vibe alive with passing thumbs up on the road.
Crossing into Moremi National Park, we spent the first night at Khwai. Driving along the Mababe River was spectacular. We watched enormous elephants wading into the river to feed, hippos dueling, kudu sparing, and saw both the elusive sable and the roan antelope. However, the wildest part was the campsite.
At dusk we had three elephants lumber into our campsite and send us fleeing back into the car. Two hyenas stalked circles around our car all night, and managed to eat the better part of one of my flip flops before I scared them off. Then at first light, vervet monkeys and baboons descended upon us from the trees. Nothing makes you feel more like you are in the wild than a series of standoffs with the local inhabitants.
Driving deep into the Okavango Delta, we took a morning boat cruise out to the islands from Xakanaka, observing African darters hunt, and following crocodiles patrolling the lilies. We navigated the mazes of roads out to Dead Tree Island, and then continued driving off the map, deep into the dry flood plains of the delta. We found lions staking out a drying lagoon, waiting for dusk to set in, and exchanged curious glances with an eagle-owl by the South Gate of the Park.
Reflecting on Life in the Botswana Wilderness
Overall, the trip was grueling with long days in the car, where anything you need is scorching hot and covered in choking layers of dust. Being self-sufficient for your vital supplies, relying on GPS for navigation, battling through deep sandy roads, and co-existing with wildlife at night means every moment is an adventure, and that is both tiresome, and invigorating.
For those confident in their abilities to navigate through harsh conditions such as these, for those that seek adventure, and love the wildlife that lives deep in the African bush, driving through the wilderness from Kasane to Maun will be the experience of a lifetime. Even having spent the preceding seven months driving through the wilderness from Ethiopia to Botswana, this wild camping expedition was one of the most memorable experiences of the trip.
Author’s Note: This article is part of a series of articles on Northern Botswana. You may also enjoy: