Anybody with self drive experience in Botswana? Is this do able? Im checking out some companies. Any comments on Come-Along-Safari.com? Please share.
We had a two week self-drive in a landrover this summer, driving from Maun to Livingstone. We had a great, fully equipped landrover (from Safari Drive UK)and looked after ourselves throughout the trip except for two nights in Moremi camping on an island. We didn't need to use the satellite phone but people have been stranded for various reasons and had to wait for help. The country really is sparsely populated and in some places we didn't see anyone for hours even though we were on the "main" safari/tourist routes. However, since we had all of our gear with us (including plenty of food and water) it didn't worry us.
However, two points that may be relevant. It was NOT a particularly cheap option (the usual reason we do self-drive in SA, Namibia, etc). Plus we have lots of driving experience in Africa. Some of the driving on sand was laborious. Water was a particular issue this year with some difficult spots where we had to get out and walk it before driving. Some of our itinerary was changed as some roads were closed. However, we had a great time and would love to do more of it.
Nevertheless it is not too bad as long as you have a decent 4WD vehicle. A Toyota Hi Lux kept in permanent 4wd would be my choice as they are so reliable. Land Rover's are also very good and as they are lighter do not get stuck in deep sand so easily as a Toyota but they are less reliable.
I would also strongly recommend you have a satellite phone with you.
Bear in mind that the time of year is a real consideration with a self drive. If you are going in the dry season (about May - November) then you should be fine. General water levels in the Delta will be high then so be careful with river crossings and if in doubt find ways to bypass them. However, the actual tracks will be good to drive on.
If going in the main rainy season December- February then much more care needs to be taken. Heavy rain can cause flash floods on the roads and conditions generally are a lot more hazardous.
Price wise it is true that a self drive in Botswana is more expensive than some other African countries. This is mainly because the terrain that you find in the parks and the remoteness means that you have to hire a good 4 WD vehicle and ideally one that is fully equipped for camping. This will obviously cost more than a normal car. What you have to compare it to though is how much it costs compared to the alternatives, especially in the Okavango Delta. Again the time of year that you want to go will have a major influence here.
If you are going in peak season(July- October) then the cheapest tented camps In the Okavango Delta that offer decent game viewing are going to be around $475 per person per night and most of them will be a lot more than this. Group mobile camping safaris will be cheaper but still quite expensive. Compared to this a self drive will be a lot more affordable particularly if it is a longer trip
If you are going in the low season then you can get some really good offers from the camps in the Delta and also on the mobile safaris so these might be more worth considering.
Mark, Gondwana Tours & Safairs, Maun
What kind of route are you considering in Botswana?
IMO, if you decide to self drive Botswana, get a high clearance vehicle like a land rover or land cruiser, with a diesel engine. Diesel for the low end torque so you don't need to be too concerned about deep sand tracks, have some extra clearance for water crossings, and for the fuel economy, so you don't need a bunch of jerry cans to haul petrol.
Be sure you can get campsite reservations before you commit to hiring a 4x4. Looks like self drive is extremely popular this year and a lot of people(including 1st time 'offroaders') are making reservations way in advance. I have heard many dates are booked in several parks.Edited: 19 January 2012, 22:48
Are there any good options other than the 'roof top' tent type camping vehicle? I only ask as my knees and hips are a bit dodgy and I may have a problem getting up the ladder into the bed. I saw a trip report where they hired a pop top thing from SA, Kea?and drove up to Botswana. it seemed to be pretty rubbish and most things on it failed. That would be a nightmare in Botswana. We are doing a self drive this June in Namibia to 'practice' thanks Charlie
Maun Self Drive 4x4 offers the option of a ground tent with their rentals.
A vehicle that I often use in Botswana is called a Trax. It's a single cab 4X4 camper van, with a pop up roof and a fold out side panel that turns in a "double" bed (lol, as double as you can get, anyway! It's far more convenient than some of the camper vans I've used, and I've never had any major problems with them. It's a Toyota Hilux 2.4 diesel, and you need to work the gears a little in heavy sand (it's a little underpowered for my liking).
One of the things I really liked about it is the airflow through the tent section, particularly when it's really hot. I find many camper vans don't have enough window space to cool down at night. You have the "safety" of not sleeping on the ground, but the ability to see around you on the open side. My own opinions of course ...
This is a link you can look at:
Thanks for the suggestions. I like the Trax as it's off ground but not needing to go up the ladder! Only one spare wheel. Would that be enough? C
I usually carry a tubeless puncture repair kit to repair minor punctures. Big tyre damage does happen on occasions in Botswana, but rarely. There are tyre repair companies in all big centres.
Make sure that your vehicle is fitted with a compressor. I don't think the Trax has an on board one, so ask for a portable. You'll be needing it for adjusting tyre pressures in Botswana.
Try Rad Land Rovers. They have all the equipment including tables fridges etc, the best I have seen.