Botswana June 2023: Part 3 San Camp

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Tuesday 6 June 2023 – Duba Plains to San Camp: Roger

The coffee and hot chocolate arrived at 0700 as breakfast was at 0830 prior to our flight south to San camp.

During breakfast I had a good yarn to Todd and Sandy, who were visiting from Los Angeles. The others all took off to see a large bull elephant, which was visiting camp, even stretching up on his hind legs right outside the front entrance to reach some high leaves. Suddenly I got a tap on the shoulder from Katrina “we are leaving in two minutes.”

Out the front we checked our bags were there and after a couple of pictures with Motz and Owner, our fantastic guides, we boarded the vehicle for the short drive to the airstrip.

Mike, the manager, and others were there to say goodbye as we boarded the 60 minute Caravan flight to San Camp in the Kalahari Desert southeast of here. After about 30 minutes we had left the wetlands of the Delta behind. The vast scrubby lands of the desert were spread out 9500 feet below as we held our 130 degree southeast bearing. As we started descending we crossed the once lakes but now salt flats of the desert. As we head further south the vegetation thins out to almost nothing in places. Landing at the local strip shared by a number of camps we gathered in a tent before boarding the trusty Toyotas.

Along the 30 minute drive we spotted a white backed vulture perched high in a palm tree. Apparently elephants brought these trees from East Africa where they swallowed the seeds whole along with the other 300kg of their daily fodder and distributed the seeds westwards on their travels. I had often seen these trees, especially in the delta,  but had not worked out why they were in often in straight lines. The elephant, as a herd, usually walk in a straight line distributing seeds as they go. Along the dusty road to camp we also spotted wildebeest, ostriches, zebra and black-backed jackal.

Arriving at the mess tent we enjoyed a nice lunch and a chat to some other guests visiting from near  Oakland in the USA. After lunch we were showed to our tents and advised what went where and how to operate things.

At 1530 we gathered at the high tea tent for coffee, tea and biscuits. Just after 1600 we mounted the trusty Toyotas and headed south just past Jacks Camp, spotting lots of wildebeest, zebra and jackals along the way. Stopping on the track alongside 10 quad bikes, we were given instructions on how to operate them before heading south across the dry lake bed. Before dark we stopped and after some jumping pics in the sunset the guides stuck a pack 100m plus away in the flat desert. We were one by one blindfolded with our kikois and then sent to walk to the target. It was highly amusing as everyone went off either to the left or right, some almost coming back to the start point. A good indication as to how easy it is to get lost in the desert.

As the sun dipped below the skyline we headed further south stopping to look at the brilliant night sky. After that we stopped by a fire for a drink before being led through the night to a dining table. The cooks delivered our meal from a fire a hundred odd meters away. As the night was cooling down, one of the guides got hot coals from the fire and placed some under each chair – very effective! A tasty tomato soup was followed by lamb shanks with mashed potatoes and some vegetables. One of our US guests, Geoff, had a birthday; a large cake was produced and shared around all of us.

The kitchen was set up about 100m from out table with a very tasty three course meal being cooked over open fires in drums the cooks silhouetted in the fire.

Next we were led off into the night again and found a number of beds spaced out across the sand which is where we spent the night. This is something that doesn’t always happen due to weather conditions.

Wednesday 7 June – San Camp: Sylvia

We woke this morning with the red glow of the sunrise. Despite being out under the stars all night it was incredibly toasty in our beds with thick blankets, canvas wraps and hot water bottles. I think most of us had to ditch the hot water bottles and I kept my arms out of the blankets most of the night although it cooled down a lot in the very early morning. The nearly full moon was incredibly bright and I didn’t sleep overly well but it was a great experience nonetheless to sleep out in the middle of this vast salt pan. Just a little weird to have all the beds somewhat spaced out but in a row.

The guides came and put hot water in large copper jugs by the canvas basins near our beds so we could wash up before heading over to the fire for coffee and a mufffin before heading back on the quad bikes towards camp. Eventually we got back to where we had started from last night. The whole thing was very well done. We never drove too long to get uncomfortable, the stops were fun and they maintained a good element of surprise. Definitely a unique opportunity.

We climbed back into the land cruisers and headed off. Just around the corner we came across two young adult lions, a male and a female, gnawing on a wildebeest carcass in a small salt pan. There were over a dozen black-backed jackals hanging around waiting for their turn to have a go. Then we spotted their older sister stalking some wildebeest in the distance. The young male started to drag the carcass up out of the pan and the younger female headed in the direction of the older lioness. She came bounding over and treated us to a great display of family affection, jumping and pouncing on each one. Eventually they settled back down and we headed off to meet the bushmen.

Roger and I had walked with the bushmen when we had stayed at Jack’s Camp in 2015 and several of the group we were with this morning were the same. We followed them through some low scrub as they chatted away in their clicky language, often talking over the top of each other as they spoke, miming out as they explained about the different medicinal uses of some of the plants. Even before it was translated we were picking up the clues about the one for headaches or the one for diarrhoea. They demonstrated how they hunt porcupine and then pointed out a scorpion hole and proceeded to dig out the scorpion. Just as he had done 8 years ago, one of the bushmen picked up the scorpion and put it in his mouth “to clean it and calm it down”, so he could show us all the different parts of the scorpion, before digging a small hole to put it back in. They then proceeded to very quickly make a small fire with a couple of sticks and some zebra dung before leading us back to the vehicles.

We headed back to camp for a late brunch and a good long siesta. It is great to sit in the breeze by the pool – even dipping your feet in for a while helps to cool things down a bit. Katrina and Beka ran back and forwards across the salt pan with wildebeest roaming behind them. Roger took the long way back to the tent, also crossing the salt pan once.

We met for high tea at 4pm. Here they have a wonderful room filled with Persian rugs and lots of cushions and we take tea with our shoes off, sitting on the cushions or the floor. The carrot cake today was particularly memorable. I hate to think how much weight I have gained on this trip.

We set off about 4:30, headed for the brown hyena den, and spotted a couple of bat-eared foxes not far from camp. We arrived at the den and within about 5 minutes we saw the two pups coming out for the night.  They are incredibly cute with their sharply pointed ears and thick woolly brown coats – very different from the spotted hyena I have seen before. Apparently the pups stay here at the den while the rest of the clan is spread in different dens around the place. They scavenge overnight and bring back food for the pups in the early morning. There were a few bones around he edge of the den that the pups gnawed on from time to time.

After another magnificent sunset we headed back to camp, spotlighting as we went. With the short grass here it is a great location for spotting nocturnal animals. We saw scrub hare, spring hare (like a cross between a squirrel and a kangaroo), porcupine, african wild cat, more bat-eared foxes, and steenbok, then came across the most magnificent dark-maned male lion.

Back at camp we enjoyed another delicious evening meal and then all headed back to our tents for an early night. Beka and Katrina had a surprise visitor in their tent, a small spotted genet made its way onto Beka’s bed not long after she got in resulting in the odd scream and lots of giggles as they worked to shoo it out.

Thursday 8 June – San Camp: Roger/Sylvia

There was great excitement at breakfast this morning when Beka and Katrina turned up sharing their story. They shared the hilarious video footage of the two of them trying to scare the genet out of the bathroom.

Breakfast over, we headed west onto a road that divides the concession from the 74,000 square kilometre Makgadikgadi National Park. Sitting on top of the vehicle we observed a lot of bird activity until after about 3 kms we arrived at the rather grand entrance to the national park. A bit like a border station it once housed guards but is now unmanned.

Apart from the odd springbok wildebeest, ostrich a few birds and ground squirrels there wasn’t much activity until we reached a waterhole where an oryx stood facing us on the other side of the waterhole. There were also a couple of white backed vultures wandering around, eventually getting airborne with what looked like a rather cumbersome flight method. This waterhole, like others in the area, has a solar-powered pump, pumping water in to keep animals here in the dry season.

From there we headed to another, larger waterhole where a large mob of wildebeest, the odd jackal, a huge herd of springbok and a flock of ostrich were hanging out.

Heading back out through the park entrance we were able to climb back on to the top of the vehicle for the drive back to camp where we enjoyed a nice lunch and another siesta. Beau flew his drone over the camp, giving us a good appreciation of just how vast this area is.

After another high tea we headed out to visit the meerkats. The team here have worked to habituate a colony of meerkats in the area. They remain completely wild but have become accustomed to having us humans walk among them, and even like to use us from time to time to get a better view – the taller the better. They are incredibly cute creatures, scurrying about and digging frantically for beetles and the like. There were a few younger ones who constantly made little whimpering noises begging for food.

One jumped up on Katrina first. Once one was up high it was on sentry duty so the others could feed. We transferred the meerkat from one head to another, the one with the meerkat needing to make themselves shorter than the one next to them so the meerkat would climb higher.

After a good time with the meerkats we headed back to the vehicles to drive to camp for dinner, stopping to admire a group of four lions, stalking a wildebeest unsuccessfully.


After dinner four of us (Sylvia, Katrina, Beau and Victoria) headed out for a night drive while the others preferred to get an early night.  We spotted lots of spring hares and bat-eared foxes but otherwise was a pretty quiet night and starting to cool down by the time we returned to camp about 10:30pm, our aardvark search as unsuccessful as the lion’s hunting attempt earlier.


5 thoughts on “Botswana June 2023: Part 3 San Camp

  1. Luke Crawford says:

    Those pictures are just amazing. Looks like a fantastic time!

  2. Ross Endicott-Davies says:

    Great post Roger. Beautiful photos of the wildlife and the group sharing your adventure. The bushmen are an amazing people, living off the land. Safe travels.

  3. Alister Johnston says:

    ONCE again great stories and photography Thank you

  4. Rosie says:

    Another fantastic lot of escapades! Thank you. The genet episode sounds like a lot of fun. Would love to see that video!
    Sleeping in the desert, hot coals under your seats, and running across the salt pan – what great experiences.

  5. Jo-Anne Hitchcock says:

    I just had to google a Genet, and its a cute spotty possum basically! So funny to have it in your tent

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