When it comes to overlanding, Lea and Francois Erasmus are professionals. Their company, Ultimate Routes, specialises in planning and booking trips for other adventurers. They share some of their favourite destinations in Botswana and Namibia.
Ask Lea and Francois of Ultimate Routes what they remember most about their first trips to Botswana and Namibia and it sounds like a list of must-do experiences. Camping beside the Khwai with hippos, elephants and wild dogs visiting camp. A sunset river cruise in Chobe National Park. Watching the sun dip down over the desert from a walking trail in Klein Aus Vista.
Any one of those moments would be a highlight in itself. But this adventurous duo collects memorable experiences like kids used to collect stamps. As overlanding trip specialists, Lea and Francois build routes around the magical moments we all crave. Think big game sightings, unique overnight stays and amazing photo opportunities.
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One Tracks4Africa user will get to experience Lea and Francois’s expertise first-hand. Buy a Self-Drive Guide to Botswana or Namibia from the Tracks4Africa online shop by 28 February 2021 for a chance to win a trip planned by Ultimate Routes.
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Lea and Francois explain what makes overlanding in Botswana and Namibia so special and share some of their favourite destinations.
Which three phrases would you use to describe these countries?
Botswana – Wild, big game, safari
Namibia – Road trip, breathtaking, diverse
What is the sound/scent that you associate with each?
For Namibia it’s the dawn chorus. There’s nothing better than waking up to the grunts and calls of hippos every morning. When you stay in one of the Caprivi riverside campsites, it’s your wake-up call. That and the chatter of birds before sunrise, urging you out of the tent to make a cup of coffee.
In Botswana the smell of the bushveld is something unique. There’s the sweet scent of the vegetation, overlaid with the smoky scent of the previous night’s smouldering fire. And, of course, the sound of lion roars that wake you in the morning.
Where do you go for total seclusion?
Mudumu National Park in the Caprivi offers three wilderness campsites, a hidden gem if you ask us! Campsite 2 and 3 are on our list of favourite secluded camping spots. In Botswana, the Mabuasehube campsites offer a large degree of seclusion as there are only 2–4 campsites around each pan. This keeps visitor numbers to just a few people, so you have the wilderness surrounds all to yourself practically. Kubu Island is also a solitary spot – when camping here, take a walk onto the pan for some distance … it’s quite incredible.
Which is your favourite waterhole for watching animals?
A kink in the Kwando River named Horseshoe Bend is a magical place where elephants of the Caprivi’s national parks gather to drink, play and swim. This is one of our favourite spots to sit and observe these majestic creatures for hours.
Which view in Namibia makes you feel small?
From Klein Aus Vista’s campsite walking trail, there is a lookout point with a breathtaking view over the sandy flats. Rocky outcrops seem to rise up from the sand dunes. Another awe-inspiring view can be enjoyed from Elim Dune at Sossusvlei. The landscape stretches out around you and in summer you can watch a rainstorm approaching from far away. To feel smaller yet, take a drive by the Moon Landscape in the Namib Naukluft en route to Swakopmund!
Where in Botswana do you love to go for sundowners?
First up must surely be a Chobe River sunset cruise – with that added touch of luxury. Our cruise was made even more special by the chance to see African Skimmer and Carmine Bee-eater. Either way, the sunset over the river is a magical evening experience. From the banks of the Chobe River in our campsite at Ihaha, a sunset played backdrop to a massive herd of buffalo approaching to cross the river directly across from our camp!
Where’s a great place to sleep under the stars?
Namibia in December is another kind of hot! Sleeping under the stars is a must at a few campsites. Little Hunter’s Rest in the NamTib Biosphere is a particularly beautiful one. The campsite overlooks grassy plains below the Tiras Mountains. It’s an utterly scenic spot for a cold sundowner under an old camelthorn tree as you wait for the stars to come out.
Which bucket-list activity do you urge overlanders to take?
We’d definitely suggest a mokoro trip in the Delta as well as the Chobe River sunset cruise. Experiencing Botswana’s national parks and wildlife from the water as a vantage point adds a whole new dimension to game watching. Another unique perspective on Botswana’s beautiful Okavango Delta is from the air. When staying in Maun, a scenic flight over the Delta is an activity we’d highly recommend.
Where do you find yourselves taking the most photographs?
It’s no question that in Namibia it’s Sossusvlei. It’s a landmark and simply being there is a bucket list tick. We suggest driving to Sossusvlei at the break of dawn to ascend the dunes. Watching the sunrise from the dune crest in an indelible experience. You can choose to climb just one dune or many. Each has fantastic views over the rolling orange dunescape, which contrasts so well with the crisp blue skies.
What do you buy when you visit these countries?
In Namibia, salami! The local, traditional German-style salami is excellent. In the Caprivi, there are beautifully carved mokoro replicas made of False Mopani wood. We recently bought one, along with a colourful wildlife mobile for a baby’s crib made of hand painted recycled tin.
One of our most treasured souvenirs from Botswana is a handcrafted box. It’s fashioned from an old metal sign board and was bought in Maun from a roadside craftsman. The box now contains all our travel books, a card game or two and stickers to show where we’ve traveled. We don’t leave on a trip without it.
Why go overlanding in Botswana and Namibia?
Botswana offers many wilderness camps where travellers are close to wildlife, day and night. It teaches you to be more attentive to the signs of the wild and to respect nature. Remember, you are merely a visitor to this amazing ecosystem. Travelling in Namibia encourages you to research/read/discover more about the fascinating geology – you’ll be confronted with it wherever you go. The country also offers an incredible window on the wildlife and birds that thrive in arid environments.
Overlanding in these countries taught us how valuable travel is – for couples, friends and families alike. The time you spend around the campfire, removed from technology and daily stress, and the potential for problem solving on a trip together provide wonderful opportunities for interaction with loved ones. Overlanding in our neighbouring countries encourages a broadened world view. It’s a chance to learn new languages, interacting with locals and appreciate these countries’ histories and local folklore.
If you’re thinking of visiting, enjoy the dreaming and researching. BUT if you really want to go, then set a date and commit to the trip. In both countries, we’ve learned to ask the locals when in need of advice, referrals and directions. People are happy to help and you’ll most likely discover your own secret gems when you tap into local knowledge.
Unlock the magic of Botswana and Namibia with the Tracks4Africa Self-Drive Guides. In addition to two suggested routes, you’ll find traveller information on destinations, accommodation listings and detailed maps. These guides provide practical advice on trip preparation, road conditions and red tape – in a nutshell, everything you need to explore with confidence.