BLOG SERIES: A BOTSWANA CAMPING ADVENTURE (PART 5 OF 6)
Day by day highlights from our Botswana self-drive camping trip 2017: Dizhana Camp and Mokoro excursion in Khwai, Moremi. (27-28 July 2017)
Day 8: Savuti- Dizhana camp, Mababe, near Moremi Game Reserve
The drive out of Chobe National Park, from Savuti to Mababe gate, was 60kms of bumpiness. We did wave at a few elephant, giraffe and antelope but did not share that stretch with much else. Still, it’s all part of the journey and every kilometre took us into new Botswana bush territory for us to consume from our window views.
We arrived to paradise personified at Dizhana Camp, about 20 minutes’ drive on the alternate route from Mababe village. (The main route was still flooded from the heavy, unseasonal rains Botswana experienced a few months earlier.) Dizhana instantly stole our hearts and was labelled our favourite camp of our entire trip (perhaps shared tie with Ihaha).
The unexpected safari magic found at Dizhana Camp
Our site was number 5, an enormous, private and shaded stand with a full view over the marshy river (a tributary of the Okavango Delta). Each stand has its own en-suite ablutions in the form of a reeded, thatched outdoor shower hut, with hot water provided by a donkey-boiler system outside and a separate toilet hut with a flushing loo with a view. We enjoyed the best showers of our trip there and could have stayed forever.
The camp setting on the river is magical and the wildlife just came to us as we setup camp and relaxed there for the afternoon, taking it all in. The elephants came for a late lunch and drink just across the water from us as we watched from camper chairs. The birdlife was busy and a constant joy to follow.
The very friendly and passionate community staff (System and others) were the beating heart of that camp and we hope it thrives under their hard work. They were so attentive and helpful with advice on a Khwai based mokoro activity we had hoped to do but had not been able to find info on before leaving home. It’s because of their guidance that we enjoyed just such an experience the next day. Our comfort was their personal concern and the donkey burner fire was started by a staff member in the early morning and late afternoon, just to make sure we had the hottest showers possible- an extra service we didn’t expect.
We already want to plan a return visit there and stay for at least 5 nights so we can explore the Moremi area from it as our base.
That first afternoon we leisurely strolled around the camp and cautiously watched a bull elephant make himself at home within it. We braaied that night with hyena calls just beyond our sight, and later, from our tents we watched that hyena circle our camp and investigate our braai grid.
A wild night to remember
It was the most memorable night as we left the side flap of our tent open so we could see outside from our bed. It’s a night I still reminisce back to now as it really epitomised how we surrendered to being part of the wild Botswana environment there and were welcomed into it by the sights, sounds and feelings which consumed us as we just lapped it all up from our tent. This was why we were doing this trip. For moments and nights and days shared like this one. We star gazed, seeing more shooting stars and periodically shone the torch out when we heard a tell-tale sound of wildlife in the territory we were temporarily borrowing from them. The moon was full and glittered onto the water where we could clearly see the shapes of the noisy hippos guzzling down the water plans in that channel. Like vacuum cleaners of the swamps. The sound was incredible, mixed with their grunting and splashing. It was a truly magical night.
Note: We really did not have high expectations for Dizhana community camp and actually were not convinced that it would be open for visitors. Although we had a set booking, the camp, and other community camps in the areas, had been unreliably opening and closing erratically due to management disputes for many weeks prior to our tip. Unfortunately, this uncertain issue seems not to have been fully resolved yet after all as after our return we read reviews that the camp was battling with double booking issues and other management problems so please note that our experience shared here may not be the reality of what future campers may have – although we hope everyone can have as wonderful an experience as we did.
Another Note Mababe village was a semi-ghost- town when we drove though, so don’t plan to find supplies to purchase there. We did find firewood at one of the local honesty-box stands, but if you are staying at Dizhana, like we did, you won’t need to buy beforehand as the camp staff supply you with some.
Stay there too:
Website: None, but read up on the most recent 4×4 Community reviews on other travellers’ recent stays there to keep up to date with conditions.
Email: Contact Tara from Botswana Footprints for easy bookings at Dizhana or advice on how to book directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cost of camping: P220 per person per night
GPS co-ordinates: 19°14’22.83″ S, 23°56’49.82″ E
Day 9: Dizhana and a mokoro excursion in Khwai, Moremi
This day was made for laid back adventure. We woke to the bird sounds on the swampy river outside our tents and we knew the Okavango Delta was calling to us. Following the Dizhana staff member’s directions; we made our way back into Mababe village and out the other side towards Khwai. It was a 40km drive which brought us across elephants crossing the road, our first glimpse of the Okavango Delta and even a (carefully considered) and fun water crossing into the Khwai region.
The other party of very excitable divers (in their double-cabs) we met at that water’s edge made it through too, in a “cowboy” kind of style and egged on a nervous foreign couple with lots of strong advice on technique. We were glad they made it through too, more shaken by the cowboys than the water over their bonnet but all smiles in the end.
We found the beautifully managed KLLK Guesthouse in Khwai village (just a few km’s before the entrance to the Moremi Game Reserve). From the safari-chic styled lounge area, our mokoro excursion was easily arranged for us through Bushways while we waited. No pre-booking needed that day.
Mokoro boat ride bliss on the Okavango Delta
Our fabulous guides, Receptor and Active, collected us and we were soon at the mokoro launch site, tucked away in the bush ad on the Delta waters. We had that tranquil watery-wonderland to ourselves. This was our Okavango Delta experience and had been on my bucket-list for as long as I can remember.
The peace we found while gliding languidly through the waters is unlike anything I’ve felt before. Our skilled and balanced poler guides smoothly and liquidly urged our dugout canoes forward in the water while we comfortably melded into our setting from our seats.
Our excursion lasted for 3 hours and we explored the channels made by the hungry hippos that ate the “hippo grass” which grew in those swamps. “They had made excellent pathways for our gliding” I thought as I trickled my fingers in the cool water sliding past our boat. Although we didn’t spot any hippos we did share our morning with many gorgeous birds like the pied and malachite kingfishers, fish eagle, and “Jesus birds” (African Jacana’s) as they hopped from lily pad to lily pad. We met funny little frogs who clung to the reeds and learnt so much from the natural knowledge of our guides who both had such a pride and love for the natural Botswana landscape and its creatures.
They also showed us their creative skills by fashioning lily necklaces and funny Flinstone-like hats from the lily pads. We spotted shy waterbuck on the riverbanks and very wary male buffalo too. Which our guides showed respect to by lowering themselves from standing position to sitting while we were in his sights. He didn’t stick around to ask us about our day though.
We held on to that Delta tranquillity throughout our afternoon back at our Dizhana camp kingdom. We snoozed on our riverbank, chatted to the elephants from our shower with a view and felt completely part of that place as we enjoyed our last night in it.
Book a mokoro in Khwai too:
Cost of Mokoro excursion: P700 per person at the time, 3 hr mokoro ride
GPS co-ordinates: Meet at the KLLK Guest House in Khwai village: GPS: S 19º09.505’ E 023º45.662’