Sunday, 28 December 2014

The Caprivi Strip, June 2014. Chobe Under Canvas Chobe River Botswana.

I have been to the Caprivi Strip before, but didn’t realise we were on it! That was on my last visit to Botswana / Namibia when I stayed in the Houseboat. However, I wanted to drive the Caprivi Strip. So that is what this trip was about. The Caprivi Strip.
If you look at the map you will see why the Caprivi Region has a unique history.  In the late 1800's the strip of land was administered as part of the British protectorate of Bechuanaland (Botswana) until 1890 when Germany laid claim to the British administered island of Zanzibar, to which Britain objected. The dispute was settled by the Berlin Conference in 1890, when Queen Victoria waved her magic wand and acquired Zanzibar, and Germany settled for the territory which became known as the Caprivi Strip; named after  a German Chancellor.

The German motivation behind this swap, was to acquire a strip of land linking German South-West Africa…now Namibia to the Mighty Zambezi River, thus providing easy access from Namibia to the Indian Ocean. However the British colonization of Rhodesia stopped the Germans plans well upstream of Victoria Falls. During the First World War the Caprivi Strip again came under British rule and was governed as part of Bechuanaland, but it received little attention and became known as a lawless frontier.  It was also important during South Africa’s battle with Angola, again due to its strategic position.
The Caprivi is also the only region that shares its borders with 4 other countries – Angola, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
As I planned, I realised it may not take as long to drive the Caprivi Strip as I had imagined. I had thought it would take days, my research was almost convincing me that if you were not fishing you could do it in 1/2 a day!!! Would this be correct?
We flew as usual from Manchester via Dubai to Johannesburg. We got into JoBurgh late PM so had to stay overnight. The taxi took us out to Sandton and the Butchers Shop for a steak, red wine and a comfy bed.

The next morning it was a very early start back to JoBurgh airport to get an Air Botswana flight to Kasane, check in was 06.00. I had booked a direct flight from JNB to Kasane, located on the banks of the Chobe River. However at the airport the check in desk was closed, flights had been cancelled...I think as only 6 px were booked and the flight rerouted via Gaberone at the later time of 10.00. The flight from JNB to Gaberone was very short but you got a hot pasty.
At Gaberone we had get off the plane and get our bags, go through immigration and check in for the flight to Kasane.....on the plane we had just got off!! what a farce, the crew found it very amusing.The flight to Kasane was full, and we were fed again, this time we were served a hot snack and Biltong.
The new Sir Seretse Khama Airport, very posh, very new and I got told off for taking photos
Those who read this blog will know that I don't use travel agents, for this trip I used a travel agent for parts of it and other parts I booked my self.
I had found that most of the accommodation in Botswana can not be booked independently, you have to go through an agent. I wanted to stay at the Safari Lodge in Chobe National Park and was advised to use Expert Africa. They were fabulous! The agent I spoke to; Megan, informed me about Chobe under Canvas.
Chobe Under Canvas combines the advantages of a mobile camping safari with the luxuries of a semi-permanent tented camp. It is always based in the Chobe Riverfront area of the Chobe National Park, in keeping with the national park’s mobile-camping rules the camp is packed up every fifth day and moved to a new private camping site in the same area. It was a guide from this company who collected us from Kasane airport, we were late landing as there were Baboons on the new long runway, able to take large aircraft, direct from Europe! What a layover? Our guide was also late as there was a lion kill on the roadside on the main road to the airport....Welcome to Africa!
We were taken from the airport to lunch at a local hotel and then met other guests, the party was 8, and had our sundowner cruise on the Chobe river, that Gin & Tonic went down very well! It was wonderful, but just be warned if you had travelled from Europe or USA you may have found this a bit much. I was glad we spent the first night in JNB so we were not tired or jet lagged.
We then drove into Chobe National Park and our Tent, one of the 4 in the mobile campsite.

I use the words 'Tent' and 'Camp' very lightly. The Chobe Under Canvas camp has up to five spacious, walk-in tents taking a maximum of ten guests. The tents are fairly traditionally made Meru-style tents of green canvas with mesh windows and are furnished with very comfortable twin or double beds, a hanging rail, canvas wardrobe and luggage chest. Sisal matting covers the floor and bedside tables hold rechargeable lanterns. A rolled-up canvas doorway leads through to the en-suite bathroom, complete with flush toilet, shaving mirror, tin basin, water jug and complimentary soaps. A bucket shower hangs above a slatted wooden mat and is filled with warm water for a shower when you return from the day’s safari activities.All our meals and drinks were provided, as were our every need. There is no electricity, but this is not a problem as you have oil lamps / wind up lamps. It was June, and Africa in June is cold. The other guests really did not have the correct clothing, I had to lend one girl my spare fleeces as all she had was summer dresses! The hot water bottle in the beds at night were great.
We spent an exceptional 3 nights with 'Chobe under Canvas' and I highly recommend them. All to soon It was time to go back into Kasane and pick up our 4x4 Hilux with tent on top, booked through Bushlore. And drive the Caprivi Strip.