Botswana, a landlocked country in Southern Africa, has a landscape defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta, which becomes a lush animal habitat during the seasonal floods. The massive Central Kalahari Game Reserve, with its fossilized river valleys and undulating grasslands, is home to numerous animals including giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas and wild dogs.
Moremi Game Reserve is part of the UNESCO listed Okavango Delta ecosystem. It is is home to the most endangered species of large mammals: the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion.
After breakfast left Maun, heading further north towards Moremi Game Reserve, which is part of the Okavango Delta safari region. It was only about 125km, but once again we’d be traversing rough, sandy roads so it was going to be a long, uncomfortable journey.
The route we had been given avoided us going through the Moremi Game Reserve en route and paying the day entry fee. Somehow, things got a bit mixed up with our GPS (or more likely human error), so we did end up passing through the Moremi Game Reserve, and the worse thing about it was that we didn’t see any wildlife on the way!
We exited the gate from Moremi very close to where were staying in the Khwai Community Area. Just outside of the park, we had to cross a very rickety bridge over the Khwai River. It was made up of wooden, round planks that had been set across the bridge, which had rotted to some degree, so they had put additional long tree trunks along the length of the bridge. I must admit I was a little nervous crossing over.
In Khwai village there are a few accommodations; we were staying in the Khwai Guest House, which was not a house but was a few chalets based around a communal bar and pool area. There were only about a dozen chalets, making for a very intimate experience.
Our chalet was small and cosy. There was no air conditioning, so we had the proposition of an uncomfortable night ahead of us.
After chilling in our room and around the resort for a couple of hours we headed across to the bar for a sundowner and wait for dinner.
Dinner was served family style on one big table, so it was a great opportunity to meet and socialise with the other guests. Afterwards, we gathered around the campfire to continue our discussions and partake in some more drinks, before heading to bed.
We had a very busy day of game drives in the area. For the morning we had a game drive inside the Moremi Game Reserve.
Moremi was the first reserve in Africa to be established by local residents. Concerned about the rapid depletion of wildlife in their ancestral lands – due to uncontrolled hunting and cattle encroachment – the Batawana people of Ngamiland, under the leadership of the deceased Chief Moremi III’s wife, Mrs Moremi, took the bold initiative to proclaim Moremi a game reserve in 1963. It is the only officially protected area of the Okavango Delta.
Moremi Game Reserve is situated in the central and eastern areas of the Okavango Delta. It includes the Moremi Tongue and Chief’s Island and is one of the continent’s most diverse ecosystems. Here you will find all the naturally occurring herbivore and carnivore species in the region and over 400 species of birds, many migratory and some endangered. Both Black and White Rhino have recently been re-introduced, making the reserve a ‘Big Five’ destination.
Covering approximately 3,900 sq. km, where land and Delta meet, Moremi Game Reserve is a profoundly picturesque preserve of seasonal and perennial floodplains. The landscape includes waterways, lagoons, pools, pans, grasslands, and forests. This terrain makes driving Moremi’s many tracks and trails delightful and exceptionally inspiring.
From the Khwai guest house we had to cross over the same ramshackle bridge we’d been over the day before.
Our driver/guide took us to a part of the Reserve we had not covered the day before. Most of the land we had previously travelled through was dry and arid, but here the waters from the Okavango Delta created ponds and rivers. This proved to be a great attraction to the wildlife.
The first things we saw of interest were a large tawny eagle just chilling out on the side of the road, and close by a magnificent African fish eagle.
Not too far from these two raptors, we came across our first animal sighting of the day, a breeding herd of Cape buffalo. During our time in Africa, we started to develop a healthy respect for these powerful, sometimes aggressive animals. The herd was right next to the road, so we carefully moved by them, and they didn’t seem bothered we were there. Enjoying the ride on the back of these buffalo were oxpeckers and cattle egrets, who for the favour were busily removing any ticks or bugs from the buffalo’s hide.
Even though there had not been any rain for many months the watercourses still had plenty of water in them. The antelope, zebras and waterfowl seemed very at home here. There was a lot of an antelope we had not seen much of, the lechwe, who are particularly at home in the wetlands. And there was, of course, the ubiquitous waterbucks. Here there was the best collection of waterfowl we’d seen in Africa including saddle-billed cranes, the threatened wattled cranes (the largest cranes in Africa), storks, pelicans, and whistling ducks. Also, by the water, we spotted bee-eaters, including the beautiful carmine bee-eater.
Our peace was disturbed by the arrival of a large herd of elephants from deep in the bush, including many females and some calves. These animals rule the jungle in these parts, so we could do nothing but wait for them to pass by us. Of course, we were delighted to sit there and watch them.
It was a good few hours since we’d left the guest house, so it was break time. Our guide found us a shady spot, with a lot of bush cover so those who needed could relieve themselves. Despite being in the bush it did feel safe with the ten of us there – but wandering into the bush for a pee was another question.
Our guide pulled out a flask of hot water to make tea and coffee, and a box of tasty snacks.
Whilst we enjoyed our elevenses one of our crew spotted a different type of antelope, another one I had not seen before, the common tsessebe, which looks a little like a hartebeest. This large antelope is the fastest in Africa, reaching speeds up to 90 km/h.
It was now time to end our morning game drive and head back to Khwai Guest House.
For the afternoon there were several activity options. We decided to go on another game drive, this time around the Khwai Conservancy. Most others had gone on to join other trips, but we were joined by a young couple Julia, who was from Italy, and her partner Max from Sweden. Their full-time jobs were in marketing but in the summers, they travelled to an island close to Italy where they spent their time tagging migratory birds. Including the species of bee-eaters, we were seeing here.
The terrain in the conservancy was very similar to Moremi, although the roads were in a worse condition. We passed a couple of male elephants in musk, so we gave them a wide berth. Just beyond these males was a small herd of female and baby elephants frolicking in the water and mud, which was great fun to watch. As we left this group, we passed by another group which contained some juvenile males who were not happy with us being there. One started waving his head and trunk and flapping his ears, a clear sign that he was not pleased to see us. When this happens, the best thing is to wait and let the elephants quietly go about their business. Instead, our guide gunned the game drive vehicle towards the elephants, which of course pissed them off even more, resulting in trumpeting and a mock charge. I can only guess that some tourists like this. Julia was terrified and visibly shaking. We later learned she had already been in a vehicle earlier on this trip and had been charged by an elephant. Having been charged in the past we knew how scary this could be. None of us was happy – which our guide could tell – so things calmed down after that.
We continued to drive around the conservancy spotting more elephants and many antelope. Whilst we were driving Our guide was receiving calls from other guides telling him about sightings of leopards and lions, but they were some distance away. But we slowly worked our way back to the river as the sun was going down. We passed a couple of wattled cranes dancing in a pasture, before crossing over the river. Here there was a stationary game drive vehicle, and right next to it on the road a magnificent leopard. It seemed very content just to watch us and the other car as if it didn’t have a care in the world. We must have been there twenty minutes before another vehicle full of tourists turned up, and still, the leopard was not bothered. Our guide decided we should leave before more vehicles turned up.
We were not done yet with carnivores. Our guide took us down a trail towards the river. By now it was getting dark, but on the opposite side of the river, we could see a pride of lions who looked like they were resting from having recently killed and eaten. There were no other game-drive vehicles apart from us, so once again we had an exclusive viewing of the wildlife. Other vehicles began to turn up, but as they did the lions decided it was time to move on and they all disappeared into the bush.
Our drive continued and it began to get very dark. Our guide produced a powerful flashlight which he shone into the bush, picking out nocturnal animals, including a bush baby, a genet, and a wild cat. It had been a great game drive and we made it back just in time for dinner.
About Moremi Game Reserve
The Moremi Game Reserve initially consisted mostly of the Mopane Tongue area, but in the 1970s the royal hunting grounds, known as Chief’s Island, were added. Let us share a few more facts about this area to introduce it properly. The Moremi is home to the most endangered species of large mammals: the cheetah, white rhinoceros, black rhinoceros, African wild dog and lion. Over 500 bird species (from water birds to forest dwellers) and over a 1.000 species of plants are also recognized in the Moremi. This ecosystem is amongst the richest in Africa. And thanks to effective protection, the flora and fauna is relatively undisturbed.
Within the larger UNESCO listed Okavango Delta Game Reserve, Moremi covers about 40% of the Okavango. The Moremi and the Okavango Delta is one of the few interior delta systems that do not directly flow into the ocean or sea. The annual flood makes for a spectacular interaction between water and wildlife, as animals synchronize their cycles with this seasonal flood.
The Moremi Game Reserve protects the central and eastern areas of the Okavango Delta. By combining drier areas and waterways, the contrasts are astonishing. Imagine views of savannah game as well as birdlife around the rivers, or elephants and hippos splashing in the lagoons. Often referred to as a ‘Garden of Eden’, the Moremi Game Reserve offers excellent game viewing year-round and stunning landscapes of savannah, floodplains, lagoons, dense forests (where leopards and wild dogs hide) and winding rivers.
Planning your visit to Moremi Game Reserve
There are two entrances to Moremi: North Gate and South Gate. Most people come from Maun and use the South Gate, while the North Gate is on the border with Khwai Concession and Kasane is the next major town, many many kilometres of sandy track away.
It’s very simple to get from Maun to Moremi: take the tarred road northeast from Maun to Shorobe, 40 km away. Pass through the veterinary fence and it’s another 52 km of driving on a nice dirt road to Moremi South Gate. After the vet fence there are many animals – probably more than just inside the park – so you might be slowed down by these. The drive from Maun to Moremi takes at least 2 hours. You can take meat and eggs north from Maun to Moremi, but you can’t bring them back south to Maun.
Sometimes Moremi Game Reserve is closed entirely because of heavy rains, making the roads almost impassable. This normally happens in the rainy season (Dec-Mar) and the park might be closed for a week or two. The route to Xakanaxa, which is often fine but sandy, even gets large pools in it, and the campsites are barely reachable. It takes a while for the rains to stop and the land to dry out, and more time for the bridges to be prepared and undergrowth cleared from the tracks.
The road conditions in Moremi Game Reserve change significantly with the seasons and with the years. Away from the water the tracks are sandy, but not too sandy, and generally nice driving apart from the occasional muddy hole to drive around. Sometimes these holes are large and new short tracks form in the neighbouring bush to detour around them.
By the water, if it’s dry the tracks can be great with hard mud providing a solid base. You will still sometimes come across areas that are heavily rutted from people driving in wetter times. In high water tracks become waterlogged and very muddy.
|Hours:||The park is open from 6am–6.30pm April to September, 5.30am–7pm October to March.|
|Fees:||P30/205/270 for citizens/residents & SADC/ international per person per day + vehicle fees per day of P20/75 and trailer fees of 15/60 for local/international. Children 8-15 half price and under 8 free.|
Things to bring:
|Two spare tires||Seed net/grill||Puncture repair kit||Sand tracks|
|Spade/shovel||High-lift jack||Kinetic strap/rope||Compressor|
|Tire pressure gauge||Car tools and spares|
|Water and food||Fuel||Braai Wood||Flashlight|
|Headlamp||First Aid Kit||Camera||Binoculars|
|Wide-brimmed hat||Sunscreen||Mosquito spray|
Best time to visit Moremi Game Reserve
Dry Season–April to October
The last precipitation of the Wet season usually falls in April. June and July are the coolest months, but temperatures start rising in August and peak in October.
- April & May – Mostly dry and sunny, this is the start of the Dry season. It is hot in the daytime, with temperatures up to 30°C/86°F. The vegetation in the reserve is still green.
- June, July & August – Rainfall is virtually nonexistent. The temperature has dropped a bit with afternoons reaching 26°C/79°F, on average. Don’t forget to bring warm clothing for morning drives and boat trips – early morning temperatures are only 8°C/46°F.
- September & October – This is the end of the Dry season. The reserve sizzles with heat before the rains arrive. October is usually the hottest month with an average afternoon temperature of 35°C/95°F. Nights and mornings are pleasant.
Wet Season–November to March
It immediately cools down after the rain, and the dust settles. It rarely rains all day. Storms and short showers in the afternoon become the general pattern. It’s hot throughout the season, and afternoon temperatures rise to about 32°C/90°F.
- November & December – Conditions are hot and mostly sunny with intermittent rainfall. When it does rain, the relief is palpable because temperatures tend to build before precipitation and fall afterwards. Early mornings are the most comfortable, with average temperatures around 19°C/66°F.
- January & February – During the wettest months, strong storms are frequent, especially in the afternoon. Rainfall doesn’t usually last more than a few hours.
March – The rains are tapering off, although it still rains every couple of days. Precipitation is mostly in the form of thunderstorms. Mornings tend to be a little cooler at 18°C/64°F.
Where to stay
Nestled on the edge of the traditional village of Khwai, Khwai Guest House was designed to welcome travellers both looking for a cosy base for their bush exploration of Botswana and eager to get acquainted with local community living in remote wilderness.
Blending traditional African feel with a stylish and welcoming modern touch, Khwai Guest House is a delightful place to relax and unwind between exciting safari adventures in the wildlife-rich areas of Moremi Game Reserve and Khwai Concession.
|Third Bridge||Xomae Group||P80||P190||$30||$50|
|Third Bridge Tented Camp||Xomae Group||P500||P650||$120||$120|
|South Gate||Kwalate Safaris||P100||P125||P175||$40|
|Khwai North Gate||SKL Camps||P100||P150||P215||$50|
Contact Details: Contact Xomae Group, Kwalate Safaris of SKL Camps to book campsites in the reserve. Contact the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) to pay conservation fees in advance and receive a voucher, or pay in cash at the park gates.
Department of Wildlife and National Parks: Botswana Parks and Reserves Reservation Office, +267 397 1405 or +267 318 0774, email@example.com. Office hours 07:30-16:3, closed weekends.
Xomae Group: +267 686 2221, firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s a form on their website to book but don’t rely on this working.
Kwalate Safaris: +267 686 5551, +267 686 1448, +267 71 308 283, +267 71 307 435, email@example.com. Their location in Maun: Above FNB, New Mall, Maun. Their office hours are 8:00am- 4:30pm Mon-Fri and 8:00am – 2:00pm Sat. Visit their rather basic website.
SKL Camps: +267 686 53 65/6, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.