The water route

80% covered by desert, Botswana benefits from a near-miraculous system of irrigation. From its source in Angola, the Kwando river irrigates the north-east of the country, swelling the Linyanti and Chobe rivers before joining the waters of the Zambeze, which together attract an incredibly diverse range of wildlife.

To the west, the Kavango river disappears amidst the arid terrain of the Kalahari. It constitutes the second largest inland delta in the world and drains a network of rivers and canals towards the south, along which a rich array of wildlife can be found.

Following the route of the water will lead you into the heart of the wild and authentic natural beauty of the north of Botswana: from the Chobe river along the Savuti canal and the Boteti river to the lagoons of the Okavango.

Summary

Duration: between 14 and 21 days

Starting from: Kasane or Maun

Accomodation: Camping and/or Lodging

Difficulty level:

Rent a 4×4

Detailed itinerary

KASANE

The small town of Kasane has a location that is hard to beat, at the junction of 4 countries: Botswana itself, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is also at the entrance of Chobe National Park, one of the most beautiful in southern Africa.

Kasane is a great starting point for the water route. As well as an international airport with regular flights from Johannesburg in South Africa, the town has several supermarkets, cash machines, garages and petrol stations, which means you will have all the supplies and support you need before setting off.

Kasane is also a peaceful and delightful town, well worth relaxing in for a few days and making the most of the many activities on offer. These include the unmissable crossing over the Chobe river, which will give you an unforgettable first look at the wildlife of Botswana.

Accommodations

There are many ways of staying in Kasane and around. Many lodges, self-caterings, bushcamps and campsites are available.

Situated in north-east Botswana, Chobe National Park is made up of several different ecosystems which effectively divide the Reserve into 4 large regions.

The River Front, along the Chobe River, is characterized by abundant vegetation and each year attracts vast numbers of animals.
The Savuti Marsh area in the south-west of the park, is a fascinating vantage point from which to observe predators and the annual migration of zebras. The region of Linyanti in the north-west follows the river of the same name and attracts numerous mammals including the rare Lechwe and Sitatungas. The final, less well-known section is Nogatsaa in the south-east, which consists mainly of forests.

With such diversity, Chobe NP is a national park with a huge range of attractions to delight any visitor, whatever their interests. Moreover, near Kasane, the River Front is an excellent place to start driving in a 4 x 4, along sandy tracks which are rather deep, yet quite passable.

THE CHOBE RIVER FRONT

Whether by boat or 4×4, exploring the banks of the Chobe River is an amazing experience. It is along here that animals converge during the dry season; the sight of elephants and buffalos, closely followed by numerous predators, is just incredible. The river banks are also a great location for bird-lovers – and of course the sunsets are unforgettable.

Road conditions

Up to Serondola, roads are mainly sand tracks which can become thick sand in some places. After Serondola, the surface is generally hard but also rough.

Accommodations

Chobe River Front can be reached from Kasane, but if you want a true wilderness experience, we suggest you stay at Ihaha campsite, along the Chobe river (early reservation is essential during the peak season).

Supplies

Unavailable outside Kasane.

THE SAVUTI CHANEL

The region of Savuti is particularly well-known for its population of lions and hyenas but also for the remarkable history of its canal, which stayed dry for about 30 years before the waters once again filled it entirely.

What first appeared to be a complete mystery has recently been explained by tectonic activity which would have blocked the canal during the 1980s before finally opening it up again in 2010. The return of the water has completely changed the environment of this arid region. Today, Savuti has once again become a marsh, attracting many species of animals to its beautiful savannahs.

Road conditions

Most of the roads are made of sand tracks and clay tracks with some fords.

Always check the better between the “Savuti Marsh”, which is usually muddy during the wet season and “Sand Ridge Road” which is deeply sandy.

Accommodations

Savuti campsite is the only accommodation for self-drivers to visit this outstanding Chobe region (early reservation is essential during the peak season).

But it’s also an option to reach one of the lodges available in Savuti (Ghoha Hills, Savuti Safari Lodge, Savuti Elephant Camp, Savuti Tented Camp).

Supplies

Not available.

The Moremi Game Reserve is an important part of the Okavango Delta and is known as one of the most stunning wildlife habitats in Africa. It consists mainly of floodplains and a network of canals which enclose two strips of land: Chief’s Island and Mopane Tongue.

The ecosystem is unspoilt and Moremi is one of the richest and most varied in the African continent. The area is teeming with birds, and most African mammals can be seen here.

The reserve is a paradise for off-road drivers, as much for its wild character as for the challenging driving.

MOREMI AND THE KHWAI RIVER

The floodplains of Khwai are a magnificent sight and are the perfect opportunity to observe game, whether inside or outside the boundaries of the reserve. Predators are widespread along the river, as are numerous birds.

Road conditions

Sand track which can become loose sometimes. Whatever the season, fording can be very difficult especially if heavy floods have occurred during the year.

Accommodations

The Khwai campsite (North Gate) is a good option to visit this part of Moremi. But there are more options than inside the reserve, with places in the vicinity like Mgotho Camp, managed by Khwai Development trust.

Supplies

In the small village of Khwai, you can find basic food and drinks.

MOREMI XAKANAXA LAGOON

Located in one of the most beautiful areas of the Delta, the lagoon of Xakanaxa forms a patchwork of mopane woodland and flood plains, surrounded by deep rivers. Its numerous twists and turns are a real labyrinth where animals and birds abound. Antelopes in particular are very common and wild dogs can often be spotted on the vast plains in the vicinity of the campsite.

Road conditions

Mainly sand roads, sometimes deep, and clay tracks sometimes wet. Be prepare to cross fords and bridges in more or less good condition. Beware of flooded roads which could be impassable even during the dry season. Always ask rangers in the parks for advice.

Accommodations

Xakanaxa campsite is the only campsite for self-drivers (early reservation is essential during the peak season).

Supplies

Not available.

MOREMI THIRD BRIDGE

Situated not far from Xakanaxa, the area of Third Bridge alongside Mboma Island is without doubt the most famous in all of Moremi and the favourite location for many drivers. Famous for its extraordinary wildlife in the dry season, you will be in close proximity to the animals during the day in the vast surrounding plains, as well as at night in the campsite.

Road conditions

Mainly sand roads, sometimes deep, and clay tracks sometimes wet.
Be prepare to cross fords and bridges in more or less good condition. Beware of flooded roads which could be impassable even during the dry season. Always ask rangers in the parks for advice.

Accommodation

Along the Moanachira river, Third Bridge is the only campsite for Self-drivers (early reservation is essential during the peak season).

Supplies

Not available.

MOREMI SOUTH GATE

A new network of tracks has been created around South Gate to increase the appeal of this area of the park, one less often noticed by visitors. Numerous animals can now easily be seen here, in particular giraffes and leopards in the mopane woodland – one of their favoured habitats.

Road conditions

Deep sand tracks, especially after Second Bridge.

Accommodations

There is only one campsite within Moremi, at South Gate (Maqwe). Outside the reserve, camping for self-drivers will be available at Mankwe Mopani Campsite or at Kaziikini (Sankuyo Community Trust).

Supplies

Unavailable outside Maun.

MAUN

Located between the desert and the delta, Maun is the tourism capital of Botswana. Even if the town is important only for its numerous shops and commodities, it remains an unmissable stop-off point for drivers in transit who might be able to round off their exploration of the Okavango by plane, with a panoramic view over the delta below!

Road conditions

Sand tracks from South Gate to Buffalo Fence (32 km), gravel road from Buffalo Fence to Shorobe (22 km), tarred road from Shorobe to Maun (40 km).

Accommodations

As well as in Kasane, there are many accommodations available in Maun and in the vicinity, whether in lodge, self-catering, bushcamp or campsite.

Supplies

You will find cash machine, supermarkets, petrol stations and garage. This is an essential step before going further.

The Boteti River, along the west of the Makgadikgadi National Park, is filled by the floods of the Okavango and is a crucial source of water for the animals living in(or migrating to) this desert area, which used to be a huge prehistoric lake.

Like at Savuti, the Boteti River remained dry for many years, leaving nothing more than a few permanent water holes here and there. But since the waters returned in 2009, wildlife has once again flourished in this stunning area, and species more associated with a desert environment – such as oryx and springbok – can be seen here.

MAKGADIKGADI NP AND THE BOTETI RIVER

Situated along the river, Khumaga is the ideal starting point for exploring the banks of the Boteti to the north and also for getting to the south to see the first pans typical of this area of Botswana.

Road conditions

Up to the park entrance (Phuduhudu Gate), this is a 132 km tarred road. Then there are deep sand tracks for 33 km to reach Khumaga.

Accommodations

There are 2 campsites within the park. Ncuja Hills is the wilder one, while khumaga is more confortable and well located to explore Boteti riverfront.

Supplies

Not available outside Gweta, 45 km away from Park entrance.

NATA

The route of the water reaches even into this desert region of Botswana. Depending on the season and the year, Sowa Pan becomes a huge lake, attracting a giant colony of flamingos. The Nata Bird Sanctuary is, in its entirety, a paradise for bird-lovers. And for those who prefer more earth-bound wildlife, Elephant Sands is a great place to spend several hours up close with elephants and rhinos, as well as wild dogs.

Road conditions

From Kumaga, to get to the park exit (Phuduhudu Gate ) there are 33 km of quite deep sand tracks. Then, up to Nata, it’s a 132 km tared road.

Accommodations

Several accommodations are available in Nata whether in lodge, bushcamp or campsite.

Supplies

You will find cash machine, supermarkets, petrol stations and garage in Nata.

KASANE

This trip ends in Kasane.

Road conditions

The road from Nata to Kasane is tarred.

Accommodations

There are many ways of staying in Kasane and in the surrounding area. Many lodges, self-caterings, bushcamps and campsites are available.

Supplies

On the road to Kasane, Pandamatenga, a city at the border of Zimbabwe will allow you to get refreshment and food supplies, to refuel, to withdraw money and to repair your car.

VICTORIA FALLS

How else to finish your journey along the waters other than by the banks of the mythical Zambeze and by visiting the spectacular Victoria Falls! Forming the largest waterfall in the world, the Falls are in a part of the river 1.7km wide where the water plunges earthward from a height of close to 100m. The flow is greatly increased following the rainy season.

The clouds of water mist arising from it can be seen from more than 30km away. Forming a natural border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, they are most impressive on the Zimbabwean side but may also be visited from both countries.

LE PANHANDLE

For bird lovers and fishing enthusiasts or those who merely want to gaze in admiration at the Okavango itself, exploring the north-west of the Delta is a question of continuing beyond the well-worn routes, and this can be arranged from Maun.
The Panhandle is a branch of the Kavango River which stretches for 70km before the Delta forms. Its deep waters allow for near-miraculous fishing of pike and bream. Its abundant reeds, papyrus and waterlillies are a paradise for the many species of native and migratory birds.

Road conditions

It’s quite easy to reach Panhandle from Maun. The main road is tarred up to Shakawe then sandy tracks will allow you to get to the riverfront.

Accommodations

Campsites, houseboats and lodges are available at Sepopa, Seronga and Shawake.

Supplies

Sepopa and Seronga provide basic supplies. Shakawe has cash machine, supermarkets and petrol stations.

Some reasons to choose this route

A starting point in Kasane, letting you get familiar with the drive by 4×4 to Chobe.

North Botswana self drive itinerary encompasses the best locations for watching wildlife.

2 extended options for an unforgettable exploration of southern Africa!

Good to know!

  • There are no supplies between Maun and Kasane. You have to be fully self-sufficient, especially with drinking water, food and fuel.

  • Elephants may be nervous sometimes depending on the situation (small calves around, fear of predators, vehicles too close…). You should always keep your distance to let them walk freely. Turn off the engine and just wait. Once they have left, start your engine, wait a few minutes and keep going slowly on your way. Don’t forget that all animals have right of way over you!

  • The Moremi reserve has a high level of difficulty for 2 reasons: you can easily get lost in the numerous tracks which create a labyrinth, and the ground can be flooded or muddy in some places.

  • In Makgadikgadi, avoid the pans at all cost during the rainy season and exercise extreme caution at any other time of the year. Pans can be extremely dangerous when wet. Always ask rangers at the park entrance for advice. You may not come across anyone in this remote region for several days.

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