Botswana has many amazing campsites, especially in the Okavango Delta, and they can be jolly pricey to stay at too. Just occasionally you strike it lucky and come across a place that was merely meant to be a stop-over en route to somewhere great, and find that it too is an absolute gem. We found this when travelling from Savuti to Xakanaka. We decided to head for the Khwai Community Campsite, having heard that it was reasonably priced and a good place to stop between the two. And what a lovely spot it turned out to be. In fact a stay of more than one night was warranted.
The sandy track that we turned on to just outside Mababe Gate took us on a narrow and windy drive to the Khwai Community Campsite. Only once we turned off it onto the main road did we realize that it was a shortcut and we could have taken a much easier route. It was fun though negotiating the narrow track and dodging the bushes (when the thorn trees scratch your vehicle on both sides it’s known as a “Kalahari car wash”. We certainly had that! ) There didn’t appear to be any locals manning the campsite when we arrived, so we drove around and settled ourselves on campsite no. 3, right on the banks of the Khwai River. There were no amenities whatsoever, but that made it more special as it was quite wild.
A safari vehicle pulled up in the afternoon and informed us that there were lions on campsite no. 10 – gosh, that was exciting news! We hastily made our way a few hundred meters along the river and found a pride of nine lions enjoying an afternoon rest. Most of them were lying on their backs, feet in the air, trying to keep cool while they slept. This beautiful lioness showed only a glimmer of interest in us as we drove into the bush alongside her and waited for some movement from the other sleeping cats. Alas, it was not to happen – they all appeared to be settled for the rest of the day. It doesn’t matter how often you see lions, they are always a thrill to spot in the wild. They are such majestic animals – you just know that they rule the bush. It was quite exciting knowing that they were just a few campsites away from us.
The broken trees around the campsite bore testimony to the elephant activity in the area. This place is a conservancy, but is not part of the Moremi Game Reserve, so seeing wild animals is a real treat. We woke up to find that we had a visitor occupying the river just meters from our campsite – an enormous hippo wallowed in the shallow water and kept an eye on us as we ate our breakfast.
The birdlife along the river was amazing with Openbill storks, African jacanas and White-faced ducks feeding in the shallows.
In the campsite we were visited by this beautiful little Barred owlet, which, at the time, we identified as a Pearl-spotted owl. It was only when we got home and saw the photographs that we realized our mistake. This is something we have learned with our birding photography – it’s very easy to misidentify a bird in the field, so it’s good to have a photo to confirm what you actually saw.
It’s a veritable Garden of Eden there – well worth stopping off for a day or more, and by doing so you will not only enjoy the amazing wildlife, but you will also benefit the local community with your tourist dollars.