Some of our best family moments are from our various overlanding trips to our neighboring countries Botswana and Namibia. It stems from the fact that for a couple of weeks, you spend a lot of time with your family, more than say on a holiday to the coast or a normal camping resort. This is because there are usually no internet access or mobile phone signals in the remote places we like to visit, and none of the usual resort activities and facilities. If this is the case, then how is it possible that these holidays delivered our most cherished family memories? Purely because we are spending quality time together and because we are forced to engage with each other, instead of staring at our devices all day long. This being said, being in such close proximity to your loved ones, can lead to all sorts of clashes which can largely be avoided by careful planning and foresight.
Planning an overland trip can be a very daunting task if you’re attempting it for the first time. There is so much information that you need to gather and a ton of issues that you need to consider, but with some reading and fact gathering it’s fairly easy to plan the overland holiday of your dreams. Seeing as we mostly need to go on our holidays during the South African school holidays, we need to plan in advance and book our camping spots ahead of time. The school holidays are a very popular time of the year for overlander’s to visit Botswana and Namibia and I don’t like the idea of arriving at a place without bookings. Sure, when you’re part of the lucky few that can go on holiday whenever it suits you then it’s a different story but for now I’ll tell you more about my planning process, which includes bookings of camp sites. You should also brush up on your knowledge of the overlander’s code, which I have written about before. Remember, we’re guests in these parks and we should treat nature and the animals with the respect they deserve….
The first decisions you have to make is where you want to go to, and when you would like to visit. Part of the investigations that you need to do is read more about the weather conditions during your chosen holiday dates, in the area you would like to visit. Summer temperatures in our Northern neighboring countries can be very extreme, and this I can tell you from firsthand experience. During our trip to Northern Botswana in December 2015 we had daytime temps of up to 49 degrees C. It was extremely uncomfortable and I think if you’re not used to high summertime temps, you will have an extremely hard time adjusting. Many of the wilderness camps do not have swimming pools available and you have to make other plans to keep cool. Winter daytime temps is lot more moderate but it can get bitterly cold at night. Hence why the most popular time of the year for overlanding holidays is during March – May, and from August – October. Our next holiday will be in the July school holidays as we need a lot more time to complete the route that I have planned out, and December will be just too hot to handle.
VISITING BOTSWANA’S NATIONAL PARKS
Popular trips into Botswana include visits to the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, Moremi Game Reserve, Chobe National Park and the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park. Most of these parks have got luxury accommodation available but we’re not interested in those. We like to go camping so the first thing we try and find out, is there camping spots available, and how do we book them? Botswana is very focused on their tourism industry and as such, they’ve outsourced the bookings and maintenance of quite a few of their camping sites inside the national parks, with the idea that this will generate constant income for them and bring empowerment and upliftment to their communities. Unfortunately quite a few of these operators are not keeping up their part of the bargain and stories of unkempt camp sites, double bookings or poor management are going around on the overlanding forums. The key is to double check your bookings and to make triple sure that you have your correct paperwork and permits in hand when you start off on your journey.
There are a few ways that you can book camping spots in the Botswana national parks. I’ve written all about it in my recent post Camping Hacks | How to Book Campsites in Botswana
Anyhow, a holiday to the parks I have mentioned earlier, means that you have to be self-sufficient when it comes to electricity, fuel and water. Some of the camp sites have ablution blocks where you’ll find hot water and toilets but these are very much dependent on solar powered geysers and pumps, and one visit from a grumpy elephant can upset these facilities in the blink of an eye. Part of your advance planning will be how to transport extra fuel and water, and where to get electricity from. A generator is a very big no-no when you’re doing an overlanding trip. It’s very noisy and the sound will travel very far in the quiet night skies, and you’ll be disturbing not only your neighbors but you’ll scare off the wildlife surrounding your camp site. The best solution is to install extra batteries, which can be charged either with your vehicle’s charge or via solar panels. These power solutions make it possible for you stay in the bush for longer days at a time, as you can take fridges with you to keep your food and drinks cool.
Fuel can be transported in loose standing jerry cans or you can install a long range fuel tank in your vehicle (the more expensive option). You need to calculate your vehicle’s fuel consumption and add at least a third or a quarter to that, to take into account driving in sand or mud. You will then get an idea what your fuel range will be before you need to fill up again. The best advice I can give you, is to fill up whenever you can. Fuel supply can be very sporadic in Botswana and you might find that when you get to your destination, they don’t have any fuel available, so rather be safe than sorry.
This is a very basic starting point to get your holiday planning going. There are a lot of other things to take into consideration and I’ll be writing about those a bit more in the future. I hope this post will help you in getting started on the overlanding holiday of a lifetime….