We departed mid-afternoon from Hyena Pan, based on advice that the North Gate campsite was about an hour away. It was – but we had to cross two small rivers to get there! We passed through the Khwai village, whose residents benefit directly from profits made from lodge/campsite leases in the Khwai Private Reserve and stopped at the main “shopping centre” for some rusks.
At “check in”, the lady advised us that elephant, lion and hippo were known to walk across the campsite, whilst monkeys and hyenas could be expected every day. Then, we had a sign a document waiving the campsite operator’s responsibility over our safety.
Pro tip #1: None of Botswana’s national park campsites are fenced. Be aware of your surroundings always, keep noise levels down and don’t go to the bathroom alone at night!
Our campsite was a short walk to the neat, tidy and clean ablution block – which had good showers – and it backed onto the Khwai River. Late that afternoon, a big bull elephant strolled past our parked vehicle nonchalantly and a spotted hyena dropped by around 8PM sniffing around the fire pit for food. It detected two vegetarians and slunk off, disgusted.
Pro tip #2: Keep all food securely locked inside your vehicle – not in your tent. Animals have been known to tear through canvas for a feed. We even encountered birds – Burchell’s Starlings and babblers – bold enough to land on your hand while you’re eating, hoping for an easy meal.
Interestingly, a drive around Moremi Game Reserve didn’t uncover as much as we hoped. But perhaps we were “safari-ed out”, having done almost 20 game drives by this stage of our journey. We saw heaps of hippos, elephant, impala, zebra, giraffe and lion but what we really wanted were African wild dogs – and disappointingly, we didn’t see any! The birdlife in the region was however, spectacular.
A spurfowl happily sitting in the cool, wet sand beneath our tap.
Pro tip #3: Disregard our game drive experience. The Moremi Game Reserve is outstanding – this is probably one of the best places in Africa to see African wild dog, leopard and even rhino. We were definitely suffering from a bit of safari fatigue by the time we got to this destination, having seen most of the animals on offer before we arrived. VISIT!
North Gate campsite is also the kind of place where animals visit a whole lot – you don’t even need to drive out to see them. While we were having a quiet cuppa on our second afternoon, several elephants sauntered past and a couple of impala crashed through the bushes. At night, hippos sounded like they were right outside our tent.
The following day, a troop of monkeys dropped down from the shady tree canopy and attacked our neighbours – stealing bags of bread and burger buns. Fun and games. Then it was time for us to go back to Maun.