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Giraffe - Phokoje Pan, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Giraffe, Phokoje Pan


Home -> Reviews & Tips -> Trip Reviews -> Nxai & CKGR 2007



In January 2007 we went on a safari to Nxai Pan National Park and Central Kalahari Game Reserve. Due to time constraints we could only manage a 4 day trip (2 nights in each place) resulting in a considerable amount of travelling, however, the trip proved very productive with over 120 birds and 26 mammals (incl Cheetah, Lion and Elephant) seen in just 4 days.

Tuesday 2nd January
Palapye - Nata - Nxai Pan
Left Palapye at 6:30am and arrived at Nata at 11:00. Had an early lunch at Nata Lodge before calling at Nata Wild Beasts for frozen meat which we had ordered the day before. We filled up the Jerry cans at Nata and then stopped again at Gweta, to top-up the fuel in the vehicle, before arriving at Nxai Pan around 3:30pm. We pitched the tents and had time for a quick evening drive with the highlight being an African Wild Cat, flushed unexpectedly from the grass when we stopped for a herd of Zebra! After returning to camp we were told that a male lion had been seen in the vicinity of the campsite but the night passed uneventfully.

Distance travelled: 600km











Wednesday 3rd January
Nxai Pan
Awoke at 6:00am and set off on an early game drive for 1hr 30mins before returning for breakfast. After another game drive we returned to camp for a braai with the meat from Wild Beasts in Nata - the T-bone steaks were good however the chicken was as tough as old boots! After lunch we enjoyed relaxing under the tall trees at the campsite before setting off for an afternoon drive. The roads at this time of year are very muddy in parts and need careful navigation to avoid getting bogged down in the deep ruts. Due to the good rains there were large herds of animals on the pans and we spent a while watching a huge herd of Zebra as well as Giraffe, Wildebeest, Gemsbok and even a lone Tsessebe! Blackbacked Jackal were frequently encountered on the Pan as well as a family of Bat-eared Foxes. The birdlife on the pan was good with plenty of larks, swallows, bee-eaters and raptors as well as a variety of waterbirds in some of the rain filled pans such as plovers, ducks and even an African Fish Eagle! After traversing most of the roads around the pan we returned to camp to pack the vehicle ready for the morning trip to the Central Kalahari.

Distance travelled: 50km




























Thursday 4th January
Nxai Pan - Khumaga - Rakops - Letiahau
We were woken at 6am by a lion roaring so we got into the vehicle as soon as we could to try and find it. The male eluded us but we did spot 4 lionesses across the pan though they were too far away to photograph. They had obviously killed in the night and looked ready to settle down for the day so we left them to return to camp to take the tents down. We left the campsite at 8:30am covering the 35km to the main road in just over 45mins. In order to save time we had decided to take the road to Khumaga, through Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, which took just over 1hr meaning we arrived at Khumaga gate just before 11am, after a short detour to the hippo pools along the Boteti River. From Khumaga it is 70km on tar to Rakops where we refueled and bought a few supplies at the general dealer before leaving for the CKGR just before 12am.
After 1hr 15mins we arrived at the impressive, new entrance gate at Matswere (45kms from Rakops). From there it is about 34km to Deception Valley which took us just over 1hr. We went to Kori campsite for a short break before continuing on to our campsite at Letiahau, 44km further on. The campsite is actually called Lebolobolo, which means Puff Adder, rather disconcerting!! There are two campsites here, pleasently situated among acacia trees a few km from the Letiahau waterhole, however neither of them have any facilities unlike most of the other campsites which have a basic bush toilet and shower. Once again we heard lions roaring in the distance but apart from the occasional springhare wandering through the campsite and the multitude of insects there were no other visitors to the campsite!

Distance travelled: 260km





























Friday 5th January
Letiahau - Tau Pan - Leopard Pan
We woke early and packed the vehicle in just 25mins resulting in us leaving the campsite shortly after 6:30am! A pair of African Wild Cats were seen on the pan as well as Blackbacked Jackals, still wet from the morning dew. We were amazed at how green everywhere was with the lush grass attracting large numbers of Gembsbok and Springbok which were regularly encountered throughout this section of the reserve. Raptors were also regularly seen as well as the more usual larks, coursers and korhaans - with the Black Korhaans keeping us amused with their noisy display flights!
Approximately 30km from Letiahau is Phokoje Pan which, as well as the usual Gemsbok and Springbok, had a herd of 11 Giraffe. From here you pass through the San Pans, where we saw a pair of Painted Snipe (!), and about 50km from Phokoje Pan you come to Tau Pan where we stopped for lunch. This beautiful pan with its pleasently situated campsite is well worth visiting - we were disappointed that we could only spend an hour here before moving on to our final destination. From Tau Pan the scenery changes as you take the road across numerous sand ridges (as shown) with game being particularly scarce on this road.
After 30km on this road we turned off towards Sunday Pan and on to Leopard Pan where we stayed the night. Leopard Pan was very green with good game viewing especially as there is a loop (rare in the CKGR!) round the pan. We saw a family of 7 Bateared Foxes on the pan before being surprised by an Elephant, which we didn't think would ever venture into the CKGR!!
The campsite at Leopard Pan has a bush shower and toilet which are well constructed and functional without being too obtrusive or civilised! Whitebrowed Sparrow-weavers had built their nests in the trees around the campsite and entertained us with their nest building antics. African Hoopoe, Lesser Grey Shrike, Marico Sunbird and Chestnut-vented Titbabbler were also seen here. In the evening the Elephant gave us a bit of a fright as it passed by not too far from the campsite but apart from the many insects and mice we were undisturbed in the campsite, once again hearing lion roaring as we went to bed.

Distance travelled: 145km




























Saturday 6th January
Leopard Pan - Deception Valley - Rakops - Palapye
After packing the vehicle we set off for Deception Valley for one last effort to maintain our record of seeing Cheetah every time we have been to the CKGR! Ground squirrels were plentiful on the pan as were birds with Montagu's Harrier and Caspian Plover being some of the more interesting ones to be seen. Just 30mins before leaving Deception we finally found what we had been looking for and our record was intact - 3 magnificent adult Cheetah! The biggest disappointment however was that they were quite a distance off the road and that a very irresponsible South African tourist (registration TSN 808 GP) had driven off road to within a few metres of the Cheetah. As if it wasn't enough that he had broken the rules, damaged the fragile pan vegetation and disturbed the resting Cheetah, he then proceeded to open the door to his vehicle and made as if to get out until realising that other tourists were observing his actions. It is to be hoped that the DWNP will crack down on such irresponsible individuals who give South African tourists a bad reputation in the National Parks of Botswana.
We left Deception at 9am and arrived in Letlhakane (154km from Rakops) at 2pm. After having a toasted sandwich in Granny's kitchen and filling up with petrol we then left for the final leg of our trip - back to Palapye - arriving just before 5pm.

Distance travelled: 495km


Bateleur Eagle, Nxai Pan National Park
African Wild Cat, Nxai Pan National Park
Leopard Tortoise, Nxai Pan National Park
Burchell's Zebra, Nxai Pan National Park
Giraffe, Nxai Pan National Park
South Camp, Nxai Pan National Park
Bat-eared Fox, Nxai Pan National Park
Steenbok, Nxai Pan National Park
CKGR Sign, Rakops
Road from Rakops to Matswere Gate
Matswere Gate, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Springbok, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Ground Squirrel, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Lebolobolo Campsite, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Gemsbok, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Black-backed Jackal, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Tau Pan, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Direct road from Tau Pan to Deception Valley, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Cheetah, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Irresponsible Tourists, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
Bat-eared Fox, Central Kalahari Game Reserve
African Hoopoe, Central Kalahari Game Reserve