Travel experts have forecasted that for more and more people, road trips will be at the core of travel in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic because of curiosity, exposure to newness and wonder. The outlook was lived out by Staff Writer GOSEGO MOTSUMI who explored destinations in Ngamiland by road recently
At the invitation of the Hospitality and Tourism Association of Botswana (HATAB) for their annual conference in the tourism capital of Maun this year, local media professionals set off on a road trip to honour the invite.
The trip began at Avani Gaborone Resort and Casino where we were treated to a restful overnight stay in their cozy space. We were up at the crack of dawn for the adventurous road trip, which was the perfect way to experience the country’s landscape from the capital, Gaborone, to the resort town of Maun in the Ngamiland District.
The journey from Gaborone to Maun by road takes approximately 10 hours and it is an adventure that should not be missed. We embarked on the most popular route that takes you through the towns of Palapye and Serowe, and at approximately noon we made a pitstop by Makumutu Lodge and Campsite just outside the mining town of Orapa for a scrumptious lunch and a tour of their facility.
For its appealing aesthetics of wooden cabins and luxury tents, the space was amazingly affordable for travellers opting to spend a night or two on their way to Maun and other parts of the country.
As we continued on our journey, we passed through small villages in Boteti, each with its own unique character and charm. It was particularly hard to miss the famous Makgadikgadi Salt Pans with their breathtaking scenery of endless horizons and sense of isolation that is at once intimidating, inviting and awe-inspiring.
The media entourage did not miss the opportunity to take photos by the famous Leadwood (Motswere) trees, which are a few kilometres into Rakops near Mmadikola Village before we arrived in Maun, a bustling town that serves as the gateway to the Okavango Delta.
We were booked for a two-day stay at a safari-style camp called Thamo Telele (long neck) named after its youngest giraffe born in the private reserve. Set among a lush forest of old growth leadwood, bird plum and acacia trees, Thamo Telele is 20 minutes’ drive from Maun and the perfect hideaway for guests – an ideal place to start or end a Botswana safari. Set on a 250-hectare private reserve, Thamo Telele is a hot spot for bird lovers and home to 20 resident giraffes.
In the evening of the first night, as the night thickened, I became aware of a scratching, something outside my tent sniffing and scuffling, inquisitive rather than threatening. It was perhaps one of the resident animals found in the private reserve and in the morning, I was pleasantly woken up by nature-monkeys crashing in the nearby shrubs.
Prior to the official part of the journey, the HATAB Conference, the media entourage was scheduled for a day trip at Ker & Downey’s Okuti Camp and the fastest way to get there was through Chobe Holdings Limited’s Safari Air that delivered us to the camp in 20 minutes.
Okuti lies along the Maunachira River which flows through the Moremi Game Reserve’s Xakanaxa Lagoon, in the northern reaches of the Okavango Delta. We were welcomed by an elephant bull pawing the ground to get at the roots of the grass and we soon heard joyous ‘dikhwaere’ songs from the camp’s warm and friendly staff welcoming us to their five-star facility.
Okuti provides excellent game viewing on both land and water, but we were given a taste of the boat cruise over sundowners. It is during this boat cruise that I met a girl guide, Kedi, who boasts six years’ experience driving the safari boats in the male-dominated space.
After a long hot day filled with adventure and excursions, we had to hurry back to Maun before dark and prepare for the busy day ahead of covering the conference, which was hosted at Maun Lodge. The gist of the conference was to create an environment that supports the development of the tourism sector, calling for robust and frank discussions to map a way forward. The HATAB experience was wrapped up with a therapeutic sunset boat cruise at Chanoga, near Maun.
Overall, the road trip to Maun is an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. With its stunning landscapes, incredible wildlife and friendly people, Botswana is truly one of Africa’s most unforgettable destinations.