Interactive map

Click on any of the pins to get inspiration or information from the video or the blog. Our journey starts in Johannesburg via Gaborone, Kalahari, Maun and through Moremi, Khwai and Chobe. Then to Kasane, and back down the eastern edge via Nxai Pan, Kubu and Khama Rhino Sanctuary and then back to Johannesburg.

Welcome to Operation Hannibal. Named for a common pachydermal thread because Botswana is home to the largest population of elephants and our Carthaginian general Hannibal made Alpine history by marching them over the Alps to attack Rome over 2000 years ago. A thin thread, granted, especially as we’re conveniently overlooking the zebra, which is Botswana’s national animal.

But with over 150,000 (!) elephants in the country, chances were high that we would be encountering a few of them (and boy, did we). This three-week trip to discover the best of Botswana took us from south to north and west to east covering just about all of the country.

Why go to Botswana?

If you’ve been to Botswana before you’ll probably understand without even reading any further. Victoria and I were there about four years ago when we took a super quick tour of one week around the whole country. We enjoyed it so much that we are back for more!

We’ve slept with the elephants, been serenaded by hippos, found the middle of nowhere and it is in the Kalahari and it is called Xaxa. We’ve discovered the rich and complex culture of this land, floated on the mighty Chobe River. Drove the smoothest ‘road’ and it is on the salt flats, and battled the fierce heat for three weeks 🥵.

We made fire, kept ourselves fed and watered, and camped wild with spade and toilet paper. We enjoyed some Safari Lodge comfort, found a waterfall in Zimbabwe, became elephant whisperers as they walked right through camp, had fantastic sunsets, got stuck (only once), and drove some challenging tracks.

We discovered the joys of a good G&T and the simply perfect local beer, had many a campfire musing, and early mornings with spectacular sunrises. We’ve met some amazing, smiling, friendly people. We now know how many cows you need to get married, there is only one camp with grass in the whole country, and a fridge only stays cold for two nights.

There are cows and goats and elephants on (all) the roads, lions roaring all night, the vivid Milky Way, and loud birds in the morning. Lucky, lucky game sightings, absolute silence, cheeky baboons, thunderstorms that rattle the windows and so much more. But most of all camaraderie, laughs, and an openness and willingness to explore the unknown.

our mission

Our mission is a self-drive adventure to discover the best of Botswana. From the dry heat of the Kalahari, through the Okavango Delta to the Salt Pans of Makgadigadi.

Our journey starts in Johannesburg, at a vehicle depot in an industrial estate. It is here, at Bushlore 4×4 Rental that we collect our cars that will be home for the next three weeks. We have four vehicles between the seven of us – two Toyota Landcruiser campers and two Toyota Hilux pickups, one of which has been converted with a (what looks like a Bosluis 4 unit) camper unit on the back. And then there’s our fairly standard truck – sporting a roof tent and some cutlery.

gaborone here we come!

Due to the crazy schedule imposed by the airlines, specifically, KLM who choose to arrive at O.R. Tambo Airport at 10 pm(!), we were picked up by a shuttle at 9 am from our hotel the next morning. We managed to leave the Bushlore depot by noon, after the extended paperwork, payment, and demonstrations. Our destination is just south of Gaborone where we will spend our first night.

Skilpadshek border post

The easiest, and fastest way to do this is to take the N4 past Rustenburg and on towards Zeerust. Just don’t forget to take a couple hundred ZAR (Rand) with you in cash for the toll gates (they don’t accept foreign credit cards). Beyond that small town is the border post of Skilpadshek (Tortoise Gate). An ominous-sounding name that may spell an extended amount of time in crossing into Botswana! Nothing of the sort, when we find the South African side is despatched within two minutes.

Further on we need to disembark for the foot-and-mouth dip (step onto a soggy mat in your shoes) and then a small, temporary container is home to the Botswanan bureaucracy. This is all done by pen and paper, and both human and automotive proof of ownership need to be presented. You are also required to pay a nominal fee for allowing a vehicle to accompany you across the border.

This amounts to BWP (pula) 60.00 (approx. €4.00). A security check was easily despatched (they didn’t even check the car, perhaps aided by my unintentional distraction of the guard who was not amused by my failure to stop at exactly the right point).

And then you’re in! It was no more than half an hour, and in the background you could see an enormous building site, gearing up for a big expansion of the border facilities. As impressive as this looked we had to press on towards our goal for the evening, Mokolodi.

Mokolodi Game Reserve

The Mokolodi Game Reserve is a small game park just ten kilometres south of Gaborone. It looks very well run with a nice restaurant and reception area, a small tuck shop, a picnic area, and a vulture enclosure (with visiting hours). Our late arrival (just before 6 pm) precluded a meal in the restaurant since we had to decide to either have dinner (closing time was 8 pm) or set up camp in the daylight. We chose the latter since it was our first attempt at unfolding the tents.

Our campsite was a couple of kilometres away, through the bush, and was very large and spacious. There is a proper flush toilet, an open shower with a donkey boiler for heating, and a nice braai area. It is open to the elements and unfenced, so wildlife can roam freely.

Also, it seemed the local ‘tsotsi’ (scoundrels, petty thieves) could roam freely, so we had a ‘guard’ in our camp to discourage these pursuits. He slept in his own pickup just fifty metres away and was an early riser – he was gone when we poked our heads out of our tent. A rather strange reminder that we were not yet fully in the bushveld and Gaborone was only a couple of kilometres away.

It was a pleasant evening around the campfire and a perfect introduction to ‘semi-wild’ camping amongst the African wildlife. There are no large animals in this park, and a handful of lions and leopards, so it is a gentle introduction. It is also easily within reach of Johannesburg (if that is your starting point) although if we had arrived an hour earlier it would have been a better experience. Pondering this thought over coffee at the reception just had us shrug and say: go with the flow, roll with the moments! This is Africa after all…

Next, we head into the Kalahari

We hope this will inspire and galvanise you to visit this fascinating, beautiful country. Thanks for reading!