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May 26, 2013 / samwilson60

Baobabs, salt pans and elephants

We’d promised ourselves we’d cut the daily driving distances post-delta so took note when all around us were talking about the nearby Planet Baobab. We do like a good baobab and it looked like it could be a useful stopover en route to the Makgadikgadi salt pans, so we braved it and it paid off. The place was a bit bling – the reception looked like that of a five-star hotel – but the camping pitches were lovely and the firewood both free and plentiful!

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From there we had an unexpectedly awesome drive into the salt pans. Having bypassed the heart of the Kalahari we were adamant about getting a real taste of the pans, but there had been some debate as to how and where. Kubu Island had been mentioned on various occasions and it looked magical but there was some confusion over how much it cost and whether or not you had to book in advance. We eventually decided to chance it and were blown away – by both the price tag and the setting.

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It’s a community-run campground with half a dozen long-drop toilets and nothing else. The location is second to none but with no running water we’d assumed there was a limit on how much they could charge. We were wrong and it was exorbitant but we’d had one of the best day’s driving since the Congos and, despite the abundance of wild camp spots we’d passed, it was getting on and we didn’t want to ruin the day by storming off in a huff. When the woman on duty offered to charge us the still exaggerated but significantly reduced local rate, we cut our losses and accepted just in time to set up camp and go off to find the gnarly baobabs for sunset. It was the best spot and best sunset we’d seen in the whole of Africa so far, and after the last nights in Botswana alone that’s saying something.

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Sunrise was as magical if not more so and the drive back to the main road completely different but just as enjoyable as the drive out. We soon decided it had been well worth the money and just hope the community puts it to good use.

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By the time we hit the tar again we were just west of Nata, our turnoff for the Zimbabwean border just a few hundred kilometres to the north. We stopped at another campsite that had been recommended to us and one as unique as all the rest. The not-so-imaginatively named Elephant Sands doubles as one of the most popular elephant waterholes in the area and despite the relative abundance of elephants over the last few weeks and months, we found the spot mesmerising.

There was a very low wall separating us from them and at times you could have easily (even accidentally) felt a tusk or trunk. We spent hours watching their to-ings and fro-ings and learning from the manager about the character and history of each individual.

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The manager also mentioned in passing that, while most of the other wildlife left the elephants to it, this waterhole was also popular with the local leopards and wild dogs. We’ve yet to see either in the wild and were so excited we stayed up with him and two others until well into the early hours in the hope of catching a glimpse. With hindsight we can say our chances were slim, the electricity having been switched off shorty after dark and with it all the lights. But we had a great time anyway and were very amused by the thought of any wild animals having snuck over with us so close and clearly so oblivious.

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One Comment

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  1. Peter Cullen / May 28 2013 8:54 am

    Some great images

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