Planning for self-drive safari in Chobe & Moremi
If you are looking for pure wilderness then self drive safari in Botswana can be a very rewarding experience. I visited the Chobe and Moremi reserves in the Okavango Delta – for details on my visit see this post – but there are a lot more National Parks & Game Reserves to explore such as the barren Central Kalahari Game Reserve which is next on my list.
Please note, such uncharted wilderness comes with a price – you need to be prepared!
How to get there & around
There are several gates to the reserves, if you are coming from Kasane then you’ll approach Chobe National Park first. The road approaching Chobe is first a smooth concrete highway which then turns into, well, horrible sand. You need to be a confident driver to cruise these parks and in my opinion, a 4×4 is an absolute must.
You could also come from the south (for example, Maun) and in that case you will enter Moremi first and go to Chobe after.
Anyhow, you’ll need a good map. Cellphone reception is inexistent in the parks. Mobile data & wifi is pretty uncommon in northern Botswana so you’ll need to go back to basics.
You can rent a GPS with you 4×4, the best option as it includes navigation. What I did was download the Tracks4Africa Botswana map in my phone and use it with GPS. This works well. I found the map to be – although not perfect – quite accurate. The good thing as well is that it has interest points, such as campsites, attractions, fuel and loads more, which are available offline. The points have a description and GPS coordinates. They did come useful at many points during the trip.
Last, do carry a paper map just in case. I didn’t need it but you never know!
When to go and for how long
We went in April, and it’s said that the best time to go for wildlife watching is April to October. The weather was perfect, it was quite hot during the day but not unbearable, and got chillier at night but not too cold. We stayed for 3 days and 2 nights, one in Chobe and one in Moremi. Three days is a lot less than recommended, but my partner and I are the energetic type who prefer to squeeze in as much as possible even if it means driving most of the day. We also didn’t mind the driving as it’s really all you are there for!
If I had to recommend a time to go I would say at least 5 days. To be honest, the longer the better, as the chances to see animals hunting on prey or any other awesome wildlife episode will increase.
What you need
4×4: Although we did some people in 4x2s, guess what – they kept getting stuck! And I can tell you, getting stuck is not fun at all. We rented our 4×4 in Hertz Kasane and it was pretty awesome, but apparently Hertz is going to stop renting them in Kasane, so here’s an alternative. If you are coming from Maun you can use this rental instead.
Food & drink: You need to take all the food, drink and water for the days you’ll be there. You should bring 4 liters of water per person per day. Our 4×4 had a proper fridge, which most do, so keeping food chilled shouldn’t be an issue.
Extra fuel: There are no gas stations in Moremi or Chobe, which means you need to bring enough fuel for your whole safari. So bring extra fuel tanks. Some 4×4 have long range fuel tanks which house up to 140 liters which depending on your schedule may be enough. Fuel is sold in Khwai village in Moremi by the locals in their homes. However, they not always have it and it’s expensive.
Satellite phone: As I mentioned there is no signal. A satellite phone seemed like an exaggeration to me but after this happened I will never do self safari again in my life without being able to call for help. It’s also better to travel in at least two vehicles. Because this isn’t always possible, bring a satellite phone!
A dose of respect: Respect wildlife. Don’t get to close or do crazy things just for a picture. Don’t take unnecessary risks.
- A 4×4 preferably with two 4×4 modes, the second one being low speed full strength. It will come really useful in the sand.
- Enough fuel. Our 4×4 had a long range tank with 140 liters which was enough for our trip. You can bring extra cans if needed
- A roof tent to keep you safe from wildlife together with all tent gear (sleeping bags, mattress)
- Recovery tools: high-lift jack, sand ladders, full sized shovel and a tow rope
- Two full spare tires and an air compressor
- A satellite phone, GPS system or equivalent (already explained above)
- A gas stove, our 4×4 had one built in
- A fridge, our 4×4 had one built in, together with food for every meal. Just reiterating – you won’t be able to buy anything
- Four liters of water per person/per day
- First aid kit
- Head torch or lantern
- Any other camping gear you would normally bring
Where to stay
There are several campsites which you can chose from. You do need to pay and book in advance, and unfortunately they are not cheap nor customer friendly but that’s what happens when it is the only option you have. You need to book really in advance – I began booking more than 3 months before and I still didn’t get my first choice.
We stayed at Savuti in Chobe for one night and booked the second night in Third Bridge but were actually relocated to a campsite outside Moremi called Kaziikini. We actually slept one night in the wild due to an unlucky accident.
Ihaha Campsite: owned by Kwalate Safaris. Website here. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Xakanaxa Campsite & South Gate Campsite: owned by Kwalate Safaris. Website here. Email: email@example.com
Third Bridge Campsite and Gcodikwe 1 Island Camp: owned by Xomae Group. Website here. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
North Gate Campsite: owned by SKL Camps. Website here. Email: email@example.com
Park fees are payable in the gates so don’t worry about that in advance. Fees are valid from whenever you pay them to the next day at 11AM. Staff at the park gates are pretty useless when it comes to tips or help, so remember that you are on your own.
It’s worth it!
Don’t let the requirements scare you, just make sure you are prepared. This trip will make memories that you will never forget. If you are looking for absolute wilderness then this is the place.
Last you might also want to check out this Botswana Country Guide the lovely guys behind from Beard and Curly prepared as well.