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18 April 2015 Day 7 Week 1 Tree Island Campsite Makgadikgadi National Park (MNP).

Botswana

Up early this morning as this was a day on the move. First of course made sure there were no lions lingering. We had first thought of exiting CKGR by a more obscure route via a minor gate in the north-west, Tsau Gate. I had never used this route before and to join up with the road to our next destination, the Makgadikgadi NP, we would need to make use of some obscure cutline routes which interested me. However I was not confident that we would have enough fuel to explore Makgadikgadi and our following destination Nxai Pan thoroughly. We thus exited via the same route as incoming, Matswere Gate and were lucky to find fuel at Rakops at the Shell fuel station that had let us down before. We are now carrying 80l in jerry cans and 185l in the long range fuel tanks which should be more than enough to allow full exploration of our next destinations before we reach Maun, the next fuel.

On the road to Matswere Gate we crossed paths with my very good “internet friends” the bubbly Tina (Spook) and her mustached, smiling husband Willem. They are following us at Passarge 2 campsite and we were able to pass on some info for them. We had left a note to beware of the tanpan ticks under the trees. I hope the lions give them hell and told them so! It is so nice to be able to put a face to a name (pseudonym). This section of the road had dried considerably but remains a pain in the butt, but I suppose it keeps the monkeys at bay.

Whilst we are a little disappointed by the lack of major predator sightings our experiences of the past in this reserve more than made up for this. In the greater scheme of our journey we could not justify more time in CKGR although I have no doubt it will have produced the goods given a little more time. We will be back!

CKGR THUMBS UP:
• Mud of a few weeks previously mostly dried up.
• The reserve was beautifully green
• The 2 carefully chosen campsites were beautiful.
• Finally meeting Spook.
CKGR THUMBS DOWN:
• Did not spend more time there.
• Trouble (ongoing) with mice/rats.
• Puffadder.
• Ticks.
• Minimal predator sightings.
• The poor condition of the road from the Rakops turnoff to Deception Valley.

We have somehow never visited MNP and the neighboring Nxai Pan before and are booked for 2 nights in each on our way north. MNP is seldom visited except for the easily accessible Khumaga Campsite just across the Boteti River from the main Rakops – Maun tarred road. The Boteti is an interesting river. It had been virtually dry until flow began again a number of years ago. It is fed from an overflow from the vast Okavango Swamp system and at certain times of the year attracts vast numbers of animals to its waters, usually the dry season. However the vast grasslands of the MNP, just west of the well-known Makgadikgadi Salt Pans at the right time when the grassland grazing is rich and there is water in the pans, attracts a migration of Zebra and also wildebeest (with attendant predators) which is only exceeded by that of the Serengeti system and the equal of the migration on Liuwa Plains in southwestern Zambia. For some time now I have been fishing for information as to when the animals would most likely be on the plains. Although our timing was going to be too late for the MNP migration, I was keen to have a look at the two sets of camps, namely Tree Island and Njuca Hills.

After filling up at Rakops and overcoming my indignation at their policy of adding P5 to each P100 when credit cards are used, we were on our way west. Tracks for Africa and good signposts soon found us in the village of Khumaga, just off the tar, and at the Khumaga ferry across the Boteti River and into the main entrance to MNP. The Boteti is scarcely 20-30m wide at present and I was sorely tempted to drive through when the ferryman mentioned the recently increased charge of P150 per trip (carries only a single vehicle and perhaps a trailer). Mr ferryman with his vested interest of course told me that it was too deep to safely drive across. When checking into the park I found out that recently quite a number of vehicles had safely forded the shrunken river. Apparently it is about upper thigh depth at present.

This park was entirely new territory for us and I was pleasantly surprised by the well organized lady at the Botswana Department of Wildlife and National Parks office, situated soon after crossing the river. She gave us a very detailed map of MNP and the Nxai Pan ecosystem and gave us her office telephone number and that of the gate we would be using to exit to access Nxai, just in case any trouble struck. I will post further details in the information section.

We had a lovely drive out onto the plains. We did not explore the riverside routes which we plan to explore tomorrow if we can manage to leave the really wonderful solitude of Tree Island campsite. At present there is nobody else out in these plains camps and I would guess the nearest people are 30-40km away as the kori bustard flies. One of the precepts of this journey is to get to out of the way places and this certainly qualifies.
I think I have finally got some of the local ecosystem worked out. There has been extensive research done on the animal migrations in the greater Makgadikgadi area. As the receptionist explained, come the rains both the grazing out on the plains and the presence of drinking water enable the herds to move onto the plains. This would usually be during December. Later they move more towards the salt pans and areas like Jacks Camp. When the pans dry up the animals move to water. At present she tells me, Nxai Pan still has water and the animal concentrations are high there. At present apparently there are not too many animals along the river, this will come a little later in the season as the water supply elsewhere in MNP and Nxai Pan dries up. Most of the roads on the plains are marked as suitable for wet season and it does indeed appear to be so. They are sandy with a firm surface with nary a sign of mud or ruts from the recently passed wet season. Further east approaching the salt pans they change to clay. Well another trip for the bucket list. It must be quite something to witness these grassy plains filled with the migratory herds.

We drove the full circuit out on the plains as we wanted to have a look at both the Tree Island and Njuca Hills campsites. This was really MAMBA, Miles And Miles of Bloody Africa. The closest to these flat grasslands I had seen was the Liuwa Plains in south-western Zambia, visited a couple of years ago with a group who have subsequently become good friends. I trust some of you will follow our travails and triumphs. The grass was green and long but there was not a drop of water to be found. The only animal we saw was a single gemsbok and those, as we know, are waterproof. So tonight it is Anne and Stan alone out on the plains with only the howls of the occasional jackal and the crickets to keep us company. Perhaps all this privacy will get to us!

Closer to the river we saw a few lone bull elephant, a herd of 5 greater kudu cows and a few herds of impala. We hope to have a closer look tomorrow. However my greater aim has been served and I will have to look into the feasibility of a wet season visit. The fire is aflame, the beers are cold and all is well!

PHOTOS.
1.The Boteti River.
2.The open plains and one lonely gemsbok.
3.The roads were not too bad at all.
4. The salt pan at Tree Island campsite.
5.Tree island campsite.
6.The stockade type ablutions.
7.The lonely sign.
8. Imagine seeing this full of zebra and wildebeest.

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Comments

Hi Stan & Anne, Greetings! Great reports, keep them coming. Interesting that you found the CKGR pans had greened up again. There must have been a bit more rain after we were there at the beginning of March, the mice were present at Passarge 2 as one of our guy ropes was chewed through on night.
Terry

Hi Terry, good to hear from you. I saw your CKGR report and yes it did rain after you had left.

Oh how I wish I could ride this slow donkey with you guys! What am I going to read when the donkey calls it a day! Great to hear of Black Pools in Moremi, will be there in September. Thanks for all the info!

Hi Linda, finally got coms again. Regards to Stuart and enjoy your trip.

Hello Stan, Thanks for sharing the with us your exciting adventure on Tree Island Campsite Makgadikgadi National Park. How I wish I can also go there. Maybe someday if I am not busy. I appreciate for all the information you shared with us about this beautiful Campsite. buy soundcloud plays

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