Makgadikgadi National Park

Makgadikgadi East

On April 4, we enter the national park from the east at the new Makolwane Gate. “Deep sand, only accessible with a robust off-road vehicle” is written in our travel guides. We have no idea whether a Mercedes Sprinter 4×4 is a “robust off-road vehicle” – probably not, as this generally refers to the Toyota Landcruiser. The friendly lady at the park gate says we just have to try it out, as it hasn’t rained for a while now. So we let the air out of our tires – not all of them, of course! At the rear we reduce the pressure by 50% from 4.6 to 2.4 bar, at the front by 30% from 3.3 to 2.3 bar. To prevent our radiator from becoming clogged with grass seed, we stretch the specially procured net in front of the radiator, otherwise there would be a risk of the engine overheating.

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It takes us about 2 hours to cover the 40 km to our first camp site – Tree Island. The dirt track, which leads through grass up to 1.5 m high, can only be driven on slowly, as the route is often not clearly visible due to the high grass. Now we are grateful that our vehicle is not wider and that we are not driving an off-road truck. Nevertheless, we get countless additional scratches from thorny bushes, which apparently feel most at home at the edge of the slope. Otherwise, the dirt road is firm sand that is easy to drive on.

Tree Island Camp Site

The detailed maps and the coordinates provided in the travel guides we use from “Reise-know-how” and Ilona Hupe are no longer up to date. However, an overview of the park with coordinates is handed out at the park entrance. Except for one (17), these coordinates are reliable. The Tracks4Africa map is also only partially correct. Nevertheless, the navigation system clearly shows us that we have reached our destination.

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We don’t see any of the “big herds” that are supposed to move through the park at this time of year. Only a small group of zebras pass us by, seemingly bored. We stay at the Tree Island Camp Site for three days. Due to the rain, our activities are limited and we fear muddy tracks for the onward journey to the west of the park. The Sprinter takes the 70 km with flying colors, even though we have to cross soft and deep sand dunes three times. Only once does it become critical. The sprinter barely makes it over the top of a deep sand dune and a bull elephant trumpets and sprints after us. Getting stuck here would be fatal. Fortunately, he lets go and we don’t get stuck.

At the Boteti River, which forms the western border of the park, we camp at Khumaga Camp on what we consider to be the most beautiful site No. 10.

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We are not heroes, not at all! The sand here is so deep that we’re already thinking of giving up and we don’t even dare to go down to the Boteti River, because who knows if we’ll ever get up there again?

That’s when we discover the South African couple our age and confess our fears to them. We are allowed to go exploring after them. That is reassuring. Gathering new courage, we head down the steepest of all descents to the river behind the South Africans (and later back up again), ride the incline with a queasy feeling and finally end up at the Hippo Pool, a large pool in the river where hippos live all year round. Here, too, we are unable to observe the large herds mentioned in the guidebooks. Nevertheless, we spend hours every day at the hippo pool watching the hippos. A whole herd of bull elephants surrounds us. They are obviously curious and keep looking over at us. We remain very calm – but not completely calm inside. What we experienced at the Hippo Pool and on the way here can only be incompletely described in pictures. A movie that conveys a little more atmosphere will follow later.

On the way to the Hippo Pool

Impalas and kudus

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Rich bird life on the Boteti River

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At the Hippo Pool

On several days we spend hours at the hippo pool watching the hippos, always hoping for a good picture.

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Hippos – Hippos

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All elephant bulls

More and more bull elephants are coming to the water from all directions. They are all around us. We are alone at the hippo pool. A feeling of respect, admiration, fascination and fear creeps over us. Just stay calm and don’t disturb the scenery. Now we can’t leave here, we have to stay until the elephants retreat.

And despite the anxious feelings that are also mixed in, we come back the next day. The spectacle is addictive – it satisfies our longing to experience nature.

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