BOTSWANA: June 2021 Cull Hunt With Koch Safaris & Road Trip

M McDindi

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Got back “home” from the “June” group trip mid evening on Jun 23. Decided to put the “trip report” here as a separate thread to maybe make it easier for members to find/review certain information. I also tried to group the info into topic/subject areas to make it easier to look back to for reference too.

Hunters: Turned out to just be three of us – myself, Anila and David. Bob, who originally was going to make the trip decided to move to the Aug trip due to some Covid associated business issues.

Dates: Departed June 2. Arrived at Saas Post mid-afternoon of the 3rd. Anila and I hunted from the 4th to the 10th and then “road-tripped” from 11th to 20th. David hunted until the 14th.

Travel: All three of us flew Qatar Air (QA). David flew from Houston directly on QA and Anila and I took Jet Blue to Boston and connected with QA there. David checked luggage and rifles all the way thru to Gabbs. “Technically”, because Jet Blue is a full “code share” and has a baggage handling agreement with QA, we could have checked all the way thru to Gabbs from Tampa also. I just didn’t feel comfortable doing so, so we just checked everything to Boston, claimed it all and rechecked in directly with QA. The primary reason I chose to do this is the QA firearm transit notification/permit thru Doha requirement. I wasn’t sure the Jet Blue folks would be fully familiar with the process and we would still have to check-in with the QA desk in Boston anyway.

QA/Doha Rifle/Ammo Documentation and Notification: This was our first trip with QA. However, I had two trips booked with them in 2020 that were CNX’d due to Covid. I has lots of emails back and forth with them saved from last year and just had to re-affirm the same requirements were in place. They are:

You need to pre-notify QA via phone and email that you intend to travel with firearms and ammo.

The phone call is just to make sure they enter your intention into your reservation(s). You should also call and notify any other connecting carriers by phone too. Not to feasible with SA Airlink or Air Botswana, but you can send both of them emails.

The email you send to QA needs to contain written intention/request to carry firearms, transit Doha, the dates (going over and coming back) and copies of:

Your Passport

Your 4457(s)

Invitation Letter from your PH/Outfitter

Copy of your reservation confirmation

You need to do this for EACH traveler on your reservation who is traveling with firearms

You need to send the email to these TWO email addresses:

Qatar Airways Special Services: specialservices@us.qatarairways.com

Doha Airport Police/Security: pfcdoh@qatarairways.com.qa

Note – Technically, in emails I have from QA Customer Service state that pre-notification is not ‘technically required”. You can just produce the same documents above to the QA check-in agent. The agent then makes copies, along with some other forms, and forward to Doha. Big HOWEVER, they said that there is NO GAURENTEE the transit permit in Doha will be complete/approved before your flight lands – Qatari holiday, reduced manning, mistake etc. so you could get jammed up in Doha. BOTTOM LINE is: Pre-notify at LEAST TWO WEEKS BEFORE YOUR INITIAL TRANSIT.

My personal “rule of thumb” is I never have less than a 4-hour layover between connecting flights whenever there is a change of carrier or aircraft or at any major international terminal. This is born from 28-yers of international travel with the military and 68 countries, both with and without weapons. A delayed departure for WX or mechanical issue with the aircraft, slow baggage transfers due to personnel, union strikes or mechanical failures etc. You miss an international connection and your entire trip is pretty much screwed up from that point forward ESPECIALLY if you’re traveling on “split tickets (different legs on different tickets) If you miss the connection, the entire next leg on the other ticket is cancelled. This extra layover time ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT IF TRAVELING WITH FIREARMS.

Firearms require special handling and hand receipting as they transit thru “the system”. Extra documents for carriage on each aircraft that have to signed by the A/C Commander and handled by special security personnel within the various terminals etc. All this takes extra time.

I’m glad we had the extra time in Boston. We were the first in the QA check-in queue line. I had ALL the QA documents pre-filled in and just needed to sign them in front of the agent. It STILL took nearly two hours for them to check us in. Part of this was due to the QA agents not being familiar with their own process/requirements. I don’t blame them in any way whatsoever when you take into consideration it’s been nearly 18- months since most travel with firearms has been done and I’m pretty sure a terminal like Boston maybe only handled a dozen or fewer firearms every year even before the Covid lockdowns.

The agents were kind, friendly and apologetic and we just had to be patient while they sorted out the process. In the end everything was fine and we still had time to grab a drink and relax before boarding the flight. Our firearms and luggage with AMMO PACKED IN LOCKED BOX IN CHECKED LUGGAGE was checked all the way to Gabbs.

Covid Testing: The “current” requirement for international travel is you MUST present a hard copy of a negative RT-PCR test at the time of check-in. The actual “sample” must have been taken “with-in 72 hrs of your flight out of the US and also your flight back to the US. We used a private lab in Tampa that came to our home and took the swabs the day before we flew out. They guaranteed “same day” results. Was a bit pricy, $300 ea., but if either of us came up positive it would have given us time to CNX our flts and get a full refund or credit voucher. I’ll be using the same service for the upcoming Aug trip too.

We had to present the test results when we checked in with Jet Blue and with QA in Boston, at the QA gate in Doha, going thru the transit corridor passport check at Jberg, at the SA Airlink desk in the transit area when we got our SA Airlink boarding passes and at arrival in Gabbs. We also, had to take a RAPID PCR test before we cleared Bots Immigration. Test was free and only took 15-20 min.

After that, it was pretty much the normal straight forward, clear immigration, collect luggage and rifle cases and go thru Customs. Gerhard was just outside in the arrival hall and I just told the Customs agent I needed to go to the doors and collect up our rifle permits, showed the agents and we were out the door.

Covid Testing for the return flt was pretty easy. Because Anila and I did the self-drive road trip after the hunting, we had scheduled a “down day” in Gabbs with Gerhard, Maggie and the kids. We went to a private clinic in Gabbs the morning before our flight home. We got there early in the morning just after they opened, got “swabbed” - $85 US each. Drove around the city a little killing time for the test results to come back. Had breakfast at Wimpy’s in one of the shopping malls and had hard copy results four hours later. IF we had not gone to Gabbs a day earlier, there is a testing site about 90 min from Saas Post that Gerhard takes you to. You go there the morning before you fly out, are back to Saas Post before lunch and have the results by the end of the day. You still have time for an afternoon hunt. The results are emailed to Maggie & Gerhard’s and they print out the hard copy for you. Same price.

Coming back, we were asked for the test results when we checked in with SA Airlink in Gabbs, at the QA check-in desk in JNB and the QA gate check-in at Doha. That was it. Nobody at JFK asked for it. No mention of “self-quarantine” when you got home. Nothing.

We did have a bit of an issue coming back when we checked in with SA Airlink. The desk agent required us to take the locked ammo box out of our checked luggage and he would only check the rifles to JNB. We’d have to claim the rifles and ammo in JNB and recheck them with QA. I told him that was NOT required because the SA Airlink flt to JNB was an “international flight” connecting directly to another “international flight” right back out of JNB and according to QA, the “primary carrier” the ammo case was supposed to be in the checked luggage and that was exactly how everything arrived. He wouldn’t hear of it, so we just did it “his way”. He did check our regular luggage all the way back to Tampa. I’ve gone thru JNB enough in the past to be ready for the “unexpected” and had already pre-filled out SAPS 520’s for each of us, just in case AND we had a 6hr layover so time wasn’t an issue.

We arrived in JNB, cleared immigration and went to the SAPS office. There was a SAP Sargent there. I explained the situation to him and he too was puzzled why SA Airlink didn’t check it all thru. He went in the back and a few minutes later, he came back with both rifle cases and the ammo box. BUT, instead of doing the SAPS 520, he just called an airport security team and they filled out entries in a log book and had us sign and then they transported the rifle cases and ammo box to the QA check-in desk. Even the QA agent was confused to why SA Airlink did this. She again was very helpful, completed all the QA and Doha paperwork, put the routing tags on the cases but, then told me she’d have to charge me the extra bag fee for the ammo case. I figured no problem until I saw the credit card tape – 3600 Rand ($253 US). WTF. I was jammed. I thought about just abandoning/surrendering the ammo and case to the SAPS but it is technically illegal to leave live ammo behind. I know “everybody does it” but that is in the bush with your PH and NOT with a couple of a SAPS Officers right behind you. So, I just sucked it up and paid. I did ask to speak with the head QA Supervisor and he did pop up at the gate before we boarded. I explained the situation to him and that I hoped since he was the direct QA rep there in JNB he could get this sorted out with SA Airlink for future. The next day after we were home, sent an email to QA Special Services with explaining the above and copies of the airline reservation, baggage claim tickets, receipt, pic of the ammo case and asked them to please consider processing a refund to me and collecting the fee from SA Airlink. I also explained to them that had this happened to someone with a short connection they would have missed their QA flt and the ripple effect would be serious for the traveler and would probably make them never fly with QA again. I did get an acknowledgement from QA they had forwarded my email the senior QA management – we’ll see if anything comes of it.

Kevin and I are flying QA to Botswana again on 1 Aug. We’re flying in to Gabbs from JNB on SA Airlink and back out on Air Botswana. We’ll see what happens. IF we’re required to take the ammo out of checked luggage again, and claim rifles/ammo at JNB, then I’ll just claim it all in JNB and when I check in again with QA, I’ll put the ammo box back in the checked bag.

QA Flights: This was the first time we’ve flown QA. I was impressed. Food was better than you’d expect from airline food. Service was excellent. While the “nose bags” were “required”, the cabin staff was VERY lenient about wearing it. The BOS to DOH leg was maybe 15% full, so everyone was able to move to an empty row, lift the seat arms and at least stretch out and sleep better than just being confined to the reclining seats. The DOH to JNB flight was about the same. Coming back the JNB to DOH flt was the same but the DOH to JFK flt was nearly full. They (QA) did leave every other seat empty on purpose for Covid.

O. R Tambo Airport in Jberg was a ghost town! We did arrive around 6am but ALL the lounges like Bidvest and Qatar Air’s were closed with signs on the doors they were closed indefinitely. The only place to get anything to eat was a little coffee kiosk at the ground level departure gates. Coming back, we landed a little after 8 am and by the time we got the above-mentioned rifle/ammo bit sorted out, we were in the main international “B” concourse and the gift shops were open but none of the restaurants. The entire terminal was nearly empty. Very strange feeling.

Rifles/Ammo: Anila and I used what I call our “rescue rifles”, a pair of Husqvarna HVA’s in 30-06’s I picked up in pawnshops for $250-$275 ea. Both are topped with mid 80’s Zeiss 6x32 compact scopes. I picked these up a few years earlier at a local gunshow for $300 ea and had sitting in the safe.

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Ammo was hand loads of IMR4895 and latest generation (black box) of 180 gr Speer Grand Slams. Loads chrono’d at a moderate 2575-2600 fps was the most accurate “common” load we could share between both rifles. I’ve talked about the GS here before. This trip we took dozens of impalas, blue w/b and zebra out to 250yds and only recovered ONE bullet. It was from a w/b I had initially shot broadside at round 200m and was a little high and back and just double punched both lungs. On the tracking/follow up, we jumped it at about 40m and as it was running away, I hit it in the left hip to anchor it. The bullet broke the upper leg bone and was recovered in the chest cavity when it was butchered.

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The reason I’m talking about the rifles, scopes and ammo is simply to show that you DON’T need high end, multi-thousand-dollar custom rifles and thousand-dollar optics and $2-4 a piece bullets to hunt PG. Save your money for more animals.

The “Hunting Area”: Anila and I just hunted for 6-days and then did self-drive road tour around Bots for 10-days (more on that later). David, stayed for either 5-6 days more hunting. He’d been to Africa and Saas Post several times and was comfortable traveling on his own. Actually, this was a serious culling/meat hunt. Gerhard had a contract for 3+ metric tons of impala, w/b and zebra game meat with a butchery due at the end of the first 6-days we were there.

We did very little hunting/shooting on Gerhard’s place, Saas Post. He had two neighboring farms to the N of Saas Post that needed a LOT of game removed. They both wanted all the w/b we could shoot gone. Seems there is a raspatory disease that w/b carry that can be transmitted to domestic cattle. The two farms had lost over a hundred head (combined) of cattle to this disease in the previous year. Guessing 90% of the shooting was from the trucks – again this was serious culling for meat and disease control and not for sport. Secondly, Gerhard had booked an elephant hunt up it CT 27 that overlapped our PG hunt dates a little. Again, we knew this going in and since getting the three ele he had bought on quota was seriously important and the fact that all three of us were just culling anyway, it wasn’t a problem for us. (Gerhard did get the elephant by the way (65#+) He got elephant #1 (70#+) a few weeks before we got there and elephant #3 (65#+), a couple of days after Anila and I flew out.

The fist farm to the N of Saas Post is called Darnaway Farm (about 5000+ hectares). It is currently owned by the Riggs/Nell family. It was part of the original Royal Land grant that established the “Tuli Block”. The Riggs/Nell family actually bought the farm from descendants of original Stuart (think Mary, Queen of Scots) family nearly 75 yrs ago. The Riggs family actually worked for one of the Stuart sons who had a mansion on the property a few kilometers away. The old mansion was abandoned in the mid 50’s. It must have been magnificent in its heydays. Formal gardens and you can still see the outline of the old dirt/grass landing strip. I can still envision old Ford Tri-motors taking off and landing there. Kevin Nell was our PH when on the farm.

Another farm N of Darnaway of about 5000+ hectares, is owned by Vim Biemond and is called Bassinghall Farm. This farm has an interesting history. Vim’s family was originally from Holland. Vim’s father left Holland just after WWII when he was in his early 20’s and ended up in Botswana. Acquired the farm and started raising tulips in the river bottoms and shipping them back to Holland. He built a small concrete dam across the Limpopo River (still standing to this day) and put three big WW II single cylinder ship diesel engines with centripetal water pumps in and was doing flood irrigation. He expanded from tulips to cotton, grain sorghum and peanuts and beef. At its peak, he had 500+ workers. Sadly, Wim’s father was killed in a car accident when Wim was 2-yo. He mother (now 93) was able to hang on to the farm until Wim was old enough to take over. Wim is a serious “Renaissance Man”. He’s in in mid-50’s and has a PHD in Archaeology and is only one of 3 in Botswana recognized by the govt. He’s frequently hired by the govt and companies to sort out archaeological sites either before or found during construction projects. He also has a Masters in Astronomy in addition to running the farm and doing a little PH’ing on the side. His hunting stories in the evening were hilarious and had us all literally crying with laughter. He has numerous archaeological sites on his property and could date hand tools and pottery going back 500 to 100K years ago. Showed us tiny glass beads that came from Venice Italy and the middle east going back 1K years that he’d uncovered from ancient villages all along the Limpopo River valley. His “farming” now, consists of cattle, peanuts and he’s started an orange grove with about 600 trees so far that are about 1.5m tall and produced his first crop this year of some very good oranges (clementine x murcott nartjies) for the local market.

I’m putting the above in here because I take the word “safari” literally. It’s not just “hunting”. It’s a “journey” or “expedition” and Anila and I like to learn as much as we can about places we travel to.

The “Hunting”: As I already mentioned, this was not really “hunting” in the classical “spot and stalk” fashion. 90% of all shots were just taken from the back of the bakkie along the two-track trails crisscrossing the properties. All three of us knew this was how it was going to be as none of us were interested in “trophies” and purposely requested cull only hunting. Because this was a cull hunt, I didn’t take any pics of the animals taken. This is just my personal choice – photo ops were offered but I declined. Anila did take another very nice impala ram on Kevin’s place. It was “trophy” class and we asked him before the shot if he was SURE he wanted that as a cull and he said “take it”.

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That part of Bots had exceptionally good rains this year. The grass in most places was nearly waist high. It made spotting game a bit more challenging. Some areas were eaten down more than others and a certain species of acacia along the river bottom were dropping seed pods and those areas held a LOT of Limpopo bushbuck, impala and kudu.

I honestly didn’t keep track of the number of head Anila and I took over the 6-days. I will say, I took 100rds total, of ammo over and came back with about 30. We flat missed a few, most were one shot and done and a couple took 2-3 shots. I’m guessing we took maybe 35-40 head total between the two of us. Anila had the last shot, on the last afternoon of the last day and took two impala with one shot. They were both ewes at about 200m, broadside and she didn’t/couldn’t see the second one standing exactly behind the one in front. At the shot, two impala did cartwheels and ran maybe 30m. All three of us initially had no idea what had happened. The bullet passed completely thru the heart of both and exited both. We still had maybe 60min of legal hunting time left but decided to end it on a high note.

The Road Trip:

Anila and I had wanted to travel around and explore Bots a bit the way we’ve traveled all over Namibia. Gerhard & Maggie put together a very nice 10-day, self-drive, “great circle” tour of Bots for us and organized a vehicle and a Garmin GPS with the Tracks for Africa Map for Botswana loaded as well. Every year that I know I’m going to be driving in a foreign country I go to AAA and get an international driver’s license and leave my US one at home. This way IF I do something stupid, the local police can’t take my US lic., but they can still take my passport. Just in case of that, I carry my little mini-passport card in a different place so if the original is lost, stolen or confiscated the mini makes it much easier to get a temp replacement at a US embassy. Like Namibia, they drive on the “wrong side of the road”. Takes a little getting used to, mostly when making turns and remembering to get in the proper lane and remembering at stops you look to your right first for oncoming traffic.

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Day 1 – We left Saas Post about 9am and drove S on the A1 back to Gaborone, then W and NW. on the A2 towards Molepolole, Letlakeng and over-nighted in Kang.

The roads were all pretty good two-lane black top. Lots of road side vendors selling various “street foods”, candies, fruits & veggies and general “stuff”. A big surprise was the lack of any game animals seen along the road between the towns. Lots of cows, donkeys, goats, sheep but NOTHING else.

In Kang, we stayed at the Kalahari Rest Lodge: http://www.kangultralodge.com/kalahari-rest.html Nice place but we were the ONLY guests. The Covid lockdowns have absolutely killed tourism in Bots. This time of year, is supposed to be the peak tourism season but they are pretty much non-existent Nationwide. They had one person at “Reception” who doubled as the waiter, a cook and a security guard. That was it. Dinner menu was limited to either a Botswana grass fed steak or chicken schnitzel. We both opted for the steaks. We asked for a couple of gin & tonics and the poor guy had no clue. So, I took him up to the bar and showed him how to make one. They did have a fresh bottle of Bombay Sapphire and I made us a couple of “generous” sundowners!! The steaks were actually VERY good. Well-seasoned, perfect medium rare and the “chips” were hand cut, skin-on, real potatoes and double fried like they do in Belgium – most excellent. The room was nice but you could tell the entire property was in a general state of decline. Not surprising – with no income, there’s no way to do even minor up-keep/maintenance. Before Covid this place would be most excellent.

Day 2/3 - The destination was Ghanzi (pronounced Hantce). We stayed for two nights at the Palm Afrique https://palmafriquelodge.com/ Again, great place and the owners Bertie and Sonya were a LOT of fun. Only guests they had were ourselves and a guy from the UK, Maurice, who could not get home to the UK due to the Covid restrictions. He’d spent the past 18-months bouncing back and forth between Bots and Namibia when his tourist visa would expire in each. He was in the process of getting the Covid shots from a local private clinic so he could go home. I asked Bertie how he was able to stay open with such low tourist activity. Why not just close up until tourism comes back? He said they really didn’t have any choice. If they just closed it up and walked away, within a few weeks everything would be stolen and he meant EVERYTHING. Not just furniture but, doors and door frames, windows and window frames. The floor tiles would be pried up. Nothing would be left except the shells of the buildings. He figured they would lose less by just staying “open” and keep a few workers on staff. Heard this same reason at every place we stayed where the property owners were actually on site.

The primary goal while in Ghanzi, was to meet up with Jaco Visser of Nkwe Safaris https://www.nkwesafarisbotswana.com/ and see his property and facilities first hand. Unfortunately, Jaco was off in the north hunting but, his lead PH, Ampie and his girlfriend pitched up the next morning as planned and took us on the grand tour.

Jaco’s primary hunting property is owned by his cousin and is about 5000 hectares and has some seriously good kudu. He runs a more classical “tented” camp that is situated on the bank of a permanent and very large waterhole. They are just finishing up a 2br chalet with a central living room at one end of the tented area. No DG on the property other than an occasional leopard. The photos on his website are exactly what the camp and facilities look like in person. Jaco also hunts a number of other neighboring properties and has access to several DG concessions.

The second night there, Bertie and Sonja invited a couple of their friends over for dinner. Turns out one of them had PH’ed a time or two for the two Trump boys. Asked if he could tell a couple of “hunting stories” on them but, he declined other than to say they, “were a good bit of fun” and hoped they’d come hunting again.

Dinner that night was terrific. Bertie and Sonya had recently hired a very nice young cook/chief and he prepared fresh Okavango brim (Talapia). They were gutted, scaled and crosshatched, head on, wonderfully seasoned and deep fried. They were the size of the platter. We’re from Florida and used to good and fresh seafood and these were done exceptionally well!!!

Day 4/5– Just a light breakfast and on the road to Maun. We stayed at the Thamalakane River Lodge http://www.thamalakanelodge.com/. Beautiful place! Again, we were only one of maybe 3-4 other couples staying there. Arrived mid afternoon, checked in and we just decided to have a lazy afternoon on the patio overlooking the river and enjoying a couple really good G&T’s. They did have their full menu available and Anila chose the steak and I did the sauteed chicken livers – seriously good!!

Original plan was, we were going to self-drive to and around the Moremi Game Reserve https://www.moremi.com/information-moremi.php. However, before dinner, we talked to one of the guides who does the hired tours and found out the entrance was a 2.5 hr drive from the lodge and even though we had a 4x4 van, he was worried the ground clearance might be a problem. So, over dinner and some more G&T’s. we decided to just sleep late and have a lazy morning.

Next morning, we had just ordered breakfast, when a gentleman came by and asked how our stay was and was everything in order etc. Turns out he was the owner of the lodge, Cornel. Told him everything was great and all his staff was most excellent and our change of plans about driving the game park. He said there was another couple he was taking an afternoon ride up the Thamalakane river and would we like to join them – yes. We all met at noon at the patio and in the boat we go. We didn’t see too much until we actually entered the formal Okavango NP. Within another half dozen kilometers up the river it was elephants everywhere!! For the most part they just ignored the boat as it passed along them feeding in the shallows a few dozen meters away. One old bull decided we were a bit close and did a little bluff charge. He stopped on the bank maybe 5m from the boat.

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It was a terrific afternoon! The other couple was from RSA and lots of fun. Got back to the lodge a bit after dark. We would absolutely stay here again.

The next morning, we decided to catch an early morning “scenic flight” over the delta with MackAir https://www.mackair.co.bw/scenic/. The terrific lady who worked the reception desk, made our reservation and we had to be there by 7:30 am. We were only 15 min drive to the a/p. Again, just one other couple was on the flight. Had to go thru the main Maun Terminal and security etc. and as we walked out the back doors, there was a row of a dozen a/c - Cessna Grand Caravans, GA-8 Airvans. We kept walking past and at the far end was a little Cessna 210 Centurion. Anila looked at me and said, “no way”! She’d never been in a small plane before and needless to say…..less then excited about it. She did get in, with.... trepidation and survived it. Was only a one-hour flt and it was OK but not nearly as good as the boat ride the previous day.

Back to the lodge about 10:30, quick pack, settled the bill and on the road to Nata and stayed at Elephant Sands Bush Lodge. https://www.elephantsands.com/ As you can see in the pics on their site, these are a series of elevated tent chalets around a permanent artificial water hole with a bar/dining area on the opposite side of the waterhole. The chalets were comfortable and OK. Again, only a couple of others staying there. The elephants started coming into drink about 4pm and just wandered thru and between the chalets and back out again. The elephants started coming in to drink about 4pm and were pretty much done by 9pm and no “morning” activity. Only a couple of warthogs came, one jackal and a bat eared fox. Interesting and all but the WX was cold that night and no heat in the tents. Hot water was via a solar set-up and the hot water ran out ½ way thru the second shower (me). One outlet to charge phones etc.

Again, as part of the cost cutting to just to keep the doors open, the only internet access was if you stood at the reception area. Not really a “complaint”, they are all trying desperately to stay open and we could pop email and check WhatsApp messages for a couple of minutes so….. all in all, it was an OK experience but not sure I would completely recommend it again especially for the price.

Dinner was good but a set menu – brazed ox tails or curried chicken stew, saffron rice, pap (pap is like grits, only finer ground and very thick) and creamed spinach and salad served buffet style. Full breakfast was offered but we just did a little coffee and toast and back on the road to Kasane.

Day 6/7 – The drive from Nata to Kasane was pretty good. LOTS of game and LOTS of elephant. The road was a bit slow going as it had lots of large and deep pot holes to be very careful about hitting. One thing that made it difficult is a pile of flattened elephant dung had the same coloring as the base material in a pot hole. So, sometimes you couldn’t tell the difference until you were right on top of them. Road was narrow and a lot of truck traffic. Kasane is a major supply/cargo transshipping point between Namibia, Angola, Zambia and Zimbabwe and only one main road in/out.

About 2/3 of the way between Nata and Kasane is an area/town called Pandmalenga. On the map of Bots I put a link to earlier above, you can see the color change from a light tan to a darker tan. This area is referred to as “the bread basket of Botswana”. You cross thru a series of electrafied high fences and kind of cattle crossing grates across the road. The land opens up in crop land as far as you can see from horizon to horizon. Primary crops are grain sorghum (milo), potatoes, peanuts, mase (corm), sunflowers and some cotton. With irrigation, they can grow something nearly year around. Even with the high electrified and supposedly “elephant proof” fence around this entire area, the farmers still figure in a 10% crop loss ratio.

Just outside of Kasane, we were booked into the Chobe Senyati Safari Camp. https://senyatisafaricampbotswana.com . This was a “self-catering” place – meaning no dinning room or breakfast. They did have a bar that overlooks the waterhole in the pictures. The “chalet” was nice, clean but. was showing its age. The “kitchen” amounted to a hot plate, a little toaster oven, a small microwave and a small frig/freezer. Their main “attraction” was an artificial water hole less then 50m from the main building and 75m from our room. They had an elevated deck/bar and then a “bunker” that was less then 10m from the waterhole. They turned the water pump on every afternoon about 4pm and the elephant would start showing up shortly after. The water hole was lighted but the animals pretty much stopped coming in buy 9pm or so.

We got there just before noon, got settled into the chalet and headed back into Kasane to explore a little and pick up a few little simple things for dinner and breakfast for two days. Kasane is a pretty happing town. Lots and lots of little street vendors and some large parking lots set up kind of like flea markets.

One thing that always amazes me about grocery shopping in Africa is, they have EVERYTHING we have in the US – usually not the same brand names but the same products, same fresh fruit and vegetables. Same meats with the addition of being able to buy various game meats and get this – the food costs about 1/3 of what we pay in the US! Just one example – a 5 kilo (11 lbs) bag of navel oranges was 39.00 Pula (about $3.70 US). The one thing I always use for a comparison is what a 750ltr bottle of Jack Daniels costs in the various countries I travel to. In one of the Safaland stores in Kasane Botswana, that bottle of JD was about $17.00 US. Anyway…….

That evening, we just sat on the porch of the chalet and had a little wine, cheese, fruit, fresh bread and some cold cuts and watched the elephant parade. Very cold again that night but at least the room had a heater (mini-split) and gas fired water heater!

Next morning Gerhard had arranged for us an early pick-up (6:30am) for a guided game drive thru the Chobe NP. This was something I seriously wanted to do. I’ve read a lot about the overpopulation of elephant in Botswana and especially so up in the N. and specifically Chobe. The short story is they are all true. Lots of elephant but not a lot of forage for them to eat. Even the grasses that were growing in the marshy areas farther S in Maun in the Okavango were pretty much non-existent in the parts of Chobe we saw. Other than a boat load of elephant, we did see a few buffalo, a few hippo, a few impala and a pair of male lions and a separate pair of females but that was pretty much it. We got back to the chalet a little after 1pm and we decided to head into town and look around a bit.

One thing I wanted to do was put a new set of front tires on the van we were using. It had a serious pull to the left from the first day and the left tire had a slow leak and by the time we got to Kasane, the outside half of the tread was pretty gone. Since we were getting the use of the van for “free” the least I could do was put a set of front tires on and get an alignment. It took a couple of stops in some tire shops to find the same size tire as was on the van, but found a place on the third stop. When I first pulled up to “Tire World” I though I was just wasting time, but they had the size I needed and the same brand that was on the back. Outside they had a little airlift and just used the old “4-way” tire iron to take them off. Inside they had two state of the art pneumatic tire changers, and new computer spin balancers and had both tires done in 20-min. They had me pull around the side to the alignment rack and it was again a state of the art 3D four-wheel laser unit. 15 min later they were done. Total for the two tires, mounted and balanced - $159 US. Cost of the alignment - $15 US. Typical Chinese tires but the tread wear rating was 500, and traction and Temp were both A.

After that we went to a shopping mall across the street and had “Nando’s” peri-peri chicken for a late lunch (damn good stuff that). Nando’s is a chain type thing with restaurants all over southern Africa. You can even find their sauces/spices in the US. From there, Anila wanted to do a little souvenir shopping and then back to Senyati for the afternoon elephant parade.

Day 8: A bit of a lazy morning getting packed and on the road. Only thing we needed to do was drive back to Nata and it was only a couple of hours back-tracking on the same road. This time in Nata, we stayed at Nata Lodge http://www.natalodge.net . This place was in the middle of a bird sanctuary on the edge of the Makgadikgadi Salt Pans. While neither of us are into “birding”, the room was nice and quiet and large. But, again, there was just one other couple booked in. Dinner was limited to two entree's – BBQ spare ribs with “chips” (French fries) or chicken schnitzel with chips. We ordered one of each and shared. Both were VERY GOOD and more than we could eat. Of course, we had to have a couple of G&T’s to wash it all down with.

We turned in a bit early as the next day was a bit of a long drive as we had to make it back to Saas Post that next afternoon. The night was cold but, heat in the room. Outside shower but again, gas fired water heater.

Day 9: Up fairly early and the “full breakfast” at the lodge restaurant. Decided to load up a little as we didn’t plan on stopping to eat until we got back to Gerhard & Maggie’s around mid-afternoon. The drive was pretty uneventful and the roadside animals were back to just cows, donkeys, goats and sheep. We did pass thru Francistown and that was a NICE modern city. I think it is older than Gaborone. Just from what we saw driving thru and making a fuel stop. I wouldn’t mind spending a couple of days there exploring it a bit.

Then back down the A1 past Palapy and from what we could see from the road, a nice modern city. The town was having a rough go of it with Covid and entry into the town was not allowed. Then by Mahalapye for our final fuel stop before getting back to Sass Post mid-afternoon as planned.

Day 10: The original “plan” was for all of us to go to Gaborone for the day get a couple of hotel rooms. We’d get our required RT-PCR tests early that morning. There is a private clinic there that does the tests and has the results back in 4hrs and only costs $85 US. However, things had a last minute change.

Gerhard had one elephant left on quota up in CT 27. The guy who took elephant #2 up there a few weeks earlier while we were all culling, had a friend doing a PG hunt over in RSA somewhere in the Limpopo area. The friend, convinced his friend to contact Gerhard and get elephant #3 ASAP. They had worked out a deal that the PH in RSA would deliver the client to a cross boarder check-point that was close to CT 27 and Gerhard would meet them at 6am the next morning (same morning we were flying out). He basically had 3-days to get this guy elephant #3 and get the client back across the boarder to RSA the fourth day. So…..change of plans.

After we got the Covid test results, Anila and I checked into our hotel close to the airport and Gerhard, Maggie and the kids beat feet back to Saas Post so Gerhard to finalize getting the trackers out and started and the govt game scouts organized for the next day AND, get his kit together and be able leave out for the boarder check-point by about 2am the next morning.

The hotel was very nice and we organized transport to the airport the next morning. Other than the SA Airlink rifle and ammo case situation already mentioned above, for Africa, the return home wasn’t bad – other than just long.

Closing Thoughts/Comments:

The road trip was one of those I call, “one and done”. Was a good trip but, unlike Namiba, there is very little scenic diversity. The lack of game along the roadsides like we’d see in Namibia was explained that those areas were govt lands – not national parks. As such, they are pretty much poached out of game. While Maun and Kasane where nice and the main jumping off point for sight-seeing in the Okavango and other NP’s, IF I was going to add some sight-seeing onto the end of a hunt, I think I’d just fly from Gabbs to one or the other. Probably, Kasane as you can then organize transportation to Victoria Falls, about an hour away and stay there for a couple of days. From Vic Falls, you can walk across the Zambezi River bridge just S. of the falls and cross the border into Zambia and spend a few hours in Livingston. Between Kasane and Vic Falls, you could split 7-days.

We did NOT take our rifles on the road trip – just stashed them with Gerhard & Maggie. Legally, we could have taken them with us BUT, would have to worry with storing them with various lodges while we were out and about and definitely could NOT go into a NP with them in the back of the van. There are places in Gabbs that can be sorted out for storing rifles for a few days as well.

For Botswana, I would highly recommend that you take rifles with more “common” calibers – 7x57/275 Rigby, 308, 30/06, 9.3, 375 etc. While the newer compact and short mag’s are all the rage, IF your ammo either doesn’t make it or is delayed or you run short, it is MUCH easier to find the “old standbys” in the FEW gun shops in Bots or your PH calling around to see who might have a few extra rounds about. Bots firearms laws, have a 100rd per year limit on ammo purchase per citizen rifle permit holder and do NOT allow the sale of reloading supplies. IF you have a working and registered “game farm” you have to apply for a special exemption to purchase more than the 100rd limit.

Self travel around Bots is very safe. The people are very friendly. The official language is English. The most common “native” language is “Tswana”. Most people speak at least both of these and Afrikaans.

Fuel stations are only found in towns and it seems they are just about every 300k apart. Just to be safe, I filled up when the tank was around the ½ full. Only two grades of fuel – 93 or 95 Octane, and diesel. Converted price was about $3.50 to $3.85 or so per gallon.

Just for safety while on the road trip, I did get a local SIMM card for my cell phone – about $20 US with certain amount of outgoing calls, limited amount of data and limited outgoing txt messages. We both have AT&T and they offered 30-day International deal that added some data, text and calling for Bots for $70. Anila put that on her phone. They both did come in a little handy to organize tours etc. but, the coverage was limited to basically just near cities/towns. Coverage was the same for both phones. In Namibia, you have coverage along just about every black top road.

No need to carry a lot of cash. All the lodges stores, restaurants, fuel stations took credit cards. Just make sure you notify your CC provider BEFORE you go so they don’t turn your card off. Exchange rate is about P10.5 (Pula) per USD and is pretty stable. Most places will take USD at a 10:1 exchange rate if you don’t want to use a CC.

So…. That pretty much wraps up the June trip. I’ve had a good bit of things to get caught up on after being gone for 3 ½ weeks. Now, it’s time to start finalizing the packing and paperwork for this Augusts’ trip. Flying out on 1 Aug.
 
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Firebird

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Thank you for the write up-some very interesting stuff in there-would love to hunt in Botswana someday
 

M McDindi

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No worries Firebird. I'll be putting together another trip next year. More likely like the one coming up this Aug. WX temps are a bit more comfortable and the forage (grasses/bushes) will have been eaten down a good bit making spotting/stalking better. Hunting dates will be centered over the dark of the moon phase.

Pencil it in on your calendar for next year.:P Elmer Fudd:
 

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NTH wrote on Rick HOlbert's profile.
Nice “meeting” you Rick. I made my first trip to S. Africa this year through Kuche Safaris. We had an incredible time. What outfitter do you use? Neal
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