Tuli to Central Kalahari – the drive across Botswana

We said farewell to Tuli and set off on our journey across Botswana to the Central Kalahari region for our safari at Dinaka. Not knowing what to expect for roads, traffic (ha!!), speed limits, etc we estimated about 10 to 12 hours of driving to get from one place to the other. So, we set off at 6:30am from Tuli and it took the full 12 hours to pull up to the lodge at Dinaka.  For the most part, the drive was pretty uneventful and I dare say a little boring.  We had been warned by people we have met along the way that large game animals just stroll into the roads or jump out in your path and going the speed limit may be difficult.  We were also duly warned about the donkeys. Very little of Botswana is fenced so the farm animals just graze along the side of the road. This mainly includes Brahmin type cattle, donkeys and goats with the occasional horse or dog mixed in.  By and large they stick to the grassy areas alongside the roads and peacefully graze and pay very little attention to the cars whizzing by.  However, some of them pay very little attention to where they are standing … Also with little to no regard for the cars going by – or coming directly at them.  This was why we left so early in the morning – driving after dark is a pretty ridiculous idea when trying to make good time to a destination.  Sometimes the cattle would decide to cross the road just as you are approaching them – in no apparent hurry whatsoever.   Our favorite though were the donkeys. The roads are mostly long and straight so you’d see for miles ahead. Since I was the driver, Cameron was the animal spotter. He would call out a dark figure way down in the road ahead and as we approached we thought sure it would scurry off the road knowing its fate if it was hit at 120kph. No, that was silly of us. The donkey would be staring down at his feet, er hoofs? Or the blacktop road? Who knows? Maybe it was asleep? Either way, he just stood blocking a full lane with zero interest in anything around him. Once we got used to that, the drive was fairly monotonous. The distant hills gave way to nothing but a dry flat pancake terrain with some of the biggest sky we’ve ever seen.  And that’s something since we live in Texas!

As we got to the turn-off to the lodge, we left the tarred road and onto a sand road.  That sand road soon turned into a sand track that we were on for 110 kilometers. That’s a loooooong way on a sand track.  Just off to our left was a fence that marked the end of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve and off to the right were privately owned ranches that were once cattle farms. As we passed 3 other lodges, we continued on the path to Dinaka. Just about there, we discovered large ‘puddles’ along the track that we had to drive through. This was my first 4×4 driving experience.  And I didn’t do too badly if I don’t say so myself! There were a couple of hairy moments when I thought I’d get us stuck but we never did. Once the water came up pretty high – to the bottom of the passenger door – while I was on the high side with the right tires on the grassy bank. Eek! All was well though.

Oh as an add on to the Bird Nerdery blog post, we saw a very unique looking bird on the side of the road and Cameron made me stop and back up so he could take its picture. Yep, he’s a real twitcher now – as bird watching folk are affectionately called here. I can only assume that has something to do with the twitchy nature of those trying to spot, identify and photograph every bird they pass.

After that we saw a large Gemsbok in the track ahead but he jumped away pretty quickly. That was our first Gemsbok though – also called an Oryx.

Just cruising along now… Trying to arrive before sunset and cameron spots dark figures ahead… Too large to be birds, too small to be antelope.  Just as he says ‘could that be a cat?’, we get close enough and see that it’s a leopard with two cubs!!!!! She scattered to the left of the road and one cub follows her and the other cub runs right. The little guy was stranded now and just watched us for a while as the mama and other cub waited on the the left side for him to follow. We got to watch these 3 leopards for about 10 minutes as we backed up and gave him plenty of room to rejoin his family.  He was timid at first and then walked behind the truck for a drink in a mud puddle and then toddled off to the rest of them.  We watched for a little longer and then they ducked under the fence and into the CKGR.  Such a cool moment.  We were pinching ourselves that 3 leopard just strolled out in front of us.  Not a bad way to be introduced to the Kalahari!

Shortly later we arrived at Dinaka where we were greeted by George and Kyle and then Dave, Melanie and Michaela. We had made it – 12 hours later almost exactly. George and Dave quickly informed us we had just missed a pride of lions that had taken a liking to the water hole right by the lodge. They had only just left about an hour ago after having been there all day. Oh well, we missed them but we hoped to see them later during our stay.

Dinaka is lovely… Rustic yet elegant and very comfortable. Truly peaceful and 100% Africa. Unfortunately I can’t get the photos to load at the moment but hope to post them as soon as possible.

Take care!

Author: Keri Chmelik

I love to explore the world with my favorite person... and I'll probably take a few pictures along the way.

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