Preparing to Self-Drive Kasane to Maun
For any adventurous wilderness enthusiast, self-driving through the Chobe and Moremi wilderness from Kasane to Maun should be on your bucket list. It takes careful preparation, but allows you to go explore some of the best wildlife areas in Africa on your own, and it is nothing short of incredible.
Anyone attempting this should be a confident 4×4 driver. In the wet season the roads are muddy, and in the dry season, you will have to charge through long patches of deep sand. Getting through some of these areas will take some skill, as well as some man power if you get bogged.
While you will not see a lot of people on the way, spend some time at the campsites at night asking others coming the opposite way about route conditions, as some tracks are much worse than others. Also, ensure you understand how driving in sand, and in low gear will increase your fuel consumption. It is an adventure you certainly want to prepare well for.
Timing Your Safari from Kasane to Maun
In terms of time of year, all I can say is that for our trip it was well above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) every day, so be prepared to deal with that if you go in October. Most experts seem to recommend visiting the region between April and October for the best wildlife sightings. The climate will get hotter and drier through this period, meaning increasingly concentrated wildlife, but also more uncomfortably baking hot days. For more information, check out Expert Africa’s description of the Climate in Botswana, and Tawana Self Drive’s super cool infographic on when to travel to Botswana.
Route Planning Your Safari from Kasane to Maun
The amount of time you have for this trip will be a major limiting factor. We choose six days/five nights, which is a good trip length as all your supplies fit nicely in the car. We entered from Sedudu Gate and drove across the Chobe Riverfront on day one to Savuti (a bit of a long haul). We stayed in Savuti for two nights, staking out the watering hole, and then spent one night in Khwai where we mainly drove along the Khwai River in both directions, as well as through Paradise Pools.
Our fourth night we stayed in Xakanaka so we could take a boat ride in the morning on the Okavango Delta, and then drove down to South Gate for our last night. On our final day we drove around the Black Pools area of South Gate and then continued on to Maun.
For the super adventurous, who want to really get a feeling for all the different ecosystems, I would recommend a 13-day trip, but note that it would have to be expertly organized to plan everything you needed, you would also have to be creative about figuring out how to carry enough petrol and water, and you would have to give up certain luxuries like firewood. Otherwise just do the trip twice, focusing on different areas each time.
My ideal thirteen-day itinerary would be:
- Spend the first two days exploring the Chobe Riverfront and camping at Ihaha Campsite, which is right on the river.
- Spend two nights exploring Linyanti, and staying at the campsite there.
- Drive down to Savuti and camp there for three nights exploring the marsh (or savannah if it is dry), and watering holes. You can exit Mababe Gate.
- Then drive down to Khwai Development Trust, and camp for three nights. Note that this is just outside Moremi Game Reserve, and the facilities are super basic (dig a hole), but prices are cheaper, you can night drive, and it is just as wild as the park.
- You can enter Moremi Game Reserve through North Gate. Then I would do two nights at Third Bridge. From here you can explore Dead Tree Island, and drive further out into the dried-out delta abyss, discover Paradise Pools or take a boat ride into the delta. Further, from Third Bridge you can also take a boat and camp on Gxhobega or Gcudikwa (1 & 2) islands (no facilities), which I would like to do for a night.
- The last night I would spend at South Gate (beware of mosquitos), so you can leisurely explore the Xini Lagoon and Black Pools areas before exiting to Maun.
Choosing Campsites in Chobe and Moremi
This will likely be the most frustrating part of your trip, so take a deep breath and plan as far ahead as possible. I am told some people actually plan a year ahead to ensure they get the campsites they want. The problems are that: 1) the campsites are limited in each location 2) different private operators manage different sites, so you have to coordinate your reservations 3) operators are all generally using severely outdated technology for bookings and payments, and staff of a wide range of competence.
So it is best to commit to some dates and campsites far in advance. You will then have to send emails/call each operator and ask if they have spaces open for your dates. It is probably easiest to call, because it is not uncommon to get an answer like, “no, we are booked”, to which you will just have to guess again at which dates they might have available.
Selecting campsites will mostly depend on availability, but should also be guided by which areas of the parks you would like to focus on most. The most difficult part about it is figuring out which company manages which site, and how to coordinate your reservations between them.
In Chobe National Park there are three campsites to choose from: The first is Ihaha which is on the Chobe Riverfront and run by Kwalate Safaris. Ihaha or Linyanti are the obvious choices for your first nights. Linyanti and Savuti are both run by SKL. I would call Savuti a “must see stop”, so I would try to plan a couple nights there before moving on. If you are okay with a long first day, it could certainly be your first stop as well.
You will leave Chobe National Park through the Mababe Gate, and will drive into the land owned by the Khwai Development Trust. Khwai is a very special place, and I would also consider it a “must see” location. Here I recommend staying outside the park in Magotho Campsite, which is operated by Khwai Development Trust. You will save some money, have a bit more freedom, but also will have no facilities.
If that is not appealing, you can enter Moremi Game Reserve through North Gate, and stay at the Khwai campsite there managed by SKL. The next stop should be in the delta. Xakanaka is the least expensive and is run by Kwalate Safaris, whereas Xomae Group runs the nearby Third Bridge Campsite, which is probably the nicest on the whole circuit. They also manage the island campsites which can be reach by boat from Third Bridge. Kwalate Safaris also manages the South Gate campsite on your way out to Maun.
Once you have your confirmations (payment will likely also be frustrating), you can relax. If you get to Kasane the day before you leave, you can buy or rent all the supplies you need there, and also go to Sedudu Gate to buy your park entrance fees. I recommend doing this the day before you enter the park, as there are often lines there in the morning, and you will want to get your game drive underway, right away.
Lastly, I recommend reserving a campsite at Senyati Safari Camp the night before you leave. It allows you to try out all your gear before you get into the bush, and it has a wonderful watering hole where you might have some of your best sightings of the trip.
Essential Gear for Kasane to Maun:
For the trip we geared up professionally with:
- Toyota Land Cruiser with a V8 engine, that gave us enough power to get through the deep sandy roads in the parks.
- We filled the 150-liter tank and brought 60 more liters of petrol in jerry cans. We drove 750 kilometers and got an average of 3.6 km/liter.
- A roof tent to keep us safe from wildlife, and expose ourselves a little more to the breezes at night.
- Recovery Gear: A high-lift jack, a bottle jack, sand ladders, full sized shovel, tow rope.
- Two full spare tyres with rims, and an air compressor.
- A satellite phone, and GPS system (note: We downloaded maps.me for free which worked great on our smartphones).
- A gas stove, charcoal (back-up cooking), firewood (safety and comfort at night). Note you can get more firewood in Khwai just before North Gate.
- A little luxury fridge to keep meat cold, and give us something cold to look forward to each day.
- Four liters of water/juice per person/per day, and enough to eat along the way.
- Normal camping and cooking gear.
- Potentially an air horn and/or pepper spray for wild animals if camping in a ground tent.
We used almost everything we took, including the shovel, sand ladders and high-lift jack when we got bogged, so prepare for this trip. We rented everything from Tawana Self-Drive including the vehicle, and all the gear was in great condition. Further, Vincent was super kind and helpful, explaining how to use all the tools we were not comfortable with. I highly recommend using them for all your rental needs.
Lastly, we found a couple other helpful resources. The BFG Getaway Guide Botswana has sections on Moremi and Chobe. They go into more details on road conditions, and even give tips on which is the best campsite at some of the locations, so it is definitely worth a read. Okavango Air Rescue provides affordable air evacuation coverage if you are seriously injured during the journey. Finally, Maun Self Drive 4×4 has a list of all accommodation in these areas if you want to splurge on a luxury lodge for some of your nights along the way.
Author’s Note: This article is part of a series of articles on Northern Botswana. You may also enjoy: