Nxai Pan

Potholes with a little coating on the way to Nxai Pan

Due to the visit of Toyota in Maun, we were late coming back on the road to Nxai Pan. Of course, we still took the opportunity and stocked up our supplies unplanned. The A3 is a cheek! On a distance of 35 km there are more potholes than road surface and this part of the road costs gladly more than one hour.

Off to South Camp in the north

We didn’t make our schedule and arrived at the Nxai Pan gate about an hour to late. We checked in and were told that about 70% of the park was not passable due to the rain. Our campsite in the northern part of the park (South Camp) was accessible without any problems. Furthermore, we drove the almost 45 km through deep sand without difficulty to the office in South Camp. When we registered there, we were welcomed on the plain in front of the campsites by a group of Germans with a ‘La-Ola’ wave.

They took a seat on the plain and drank their beer with a view of grazing zebras. Great! Our campsite was a bit remote and our neighbors, two Englishmen, were sitting there all day long. They were waiting for the rental company’s mechanic to come the next morning. On their rented Toyota Hilux, the ABS lights suddenly came on a few days ago and other lights came on. The visit to a workshop brought nothing and the rental company advised to ignore the lamps. Then a few hours before our arrival, while driving in the park, the brakes failed. They were stopped by a tree – lucky ones.

The rental company asked them to bring the car to Maun (haha) and besides they would have to pay for the caused damage. We really hear many funny stories on our trip, and we are glad that we decided to buy a car instead of renting one. When we returned to camp in the morning after the game drive, they were gone. That was an indication that at least someone was there.

Herds of Zebra in Nxai Pan

The morning game drive was a positive experience. We noticed that the ranger at the entrance seemed to have mixed up the numbers. We estimated that about 70% of the trails were passable and only 30% were rather not. The plains and grasslands, interspersed with smaller forests and strips of bush, were mainly home to herds of zebra and Oryx antelope. We enjoyed the herds and especially – that’s actually why we had come here – the newborns or offspring. We had the pleasure to watch young zebras, but we saw clearly more pregnant mares. Apparently, we were a bit too early in the Nxai Pan.

Where are the lions?

Lions? Yes, there are lions but no one has seen them for several weeks. About a week ago, the dominant male could be heard at night but since then, there has been silence. The rangers just shrugged their shoulders. We drove all parts of the region and found that the trails were drying quickly and the muddy areas were getting better every hour. When we returned from our first – extended – game drive at noon, we were alone. All the other campers had left, and so we had the park all for ourselves.

We didn’t see anything special anymore and the next morning – according to plan we should move to the southern part to Baines Baobab in the pan – we decided to do a game drive to a water hole before the transfer.
It happened: In front of us, the day had just dawned, six lionesses were lying on the plain, enjoying the first sun rays of the day. They scanned the surroundings with interest. These were the lions that no one had seen for weeks. They lay spread over the plain and when two of them began to walk in crouched position to the bushes, it came to our minds that we could witness a hunt.

Should we stay or should we go to Baines Baobab?

The success rate of lions is not excellent (about 9:1) but to witness a hunting attempt is a rarity.
After an uneventful hour – potential prey were about 2 km away – the lionesses gradually retreated into the dense bushes near the waterhole and began to cuddle and sleep. It was clear that nothing would happen until the afternoon, but what if a single animal came to the waterhole just before time? We drove to the office and decided to “rebook”.

We clarified that we would be able to stay one night longer in South Camp and drive to Baines Baobab the next morning. When we returned to the waterhole, none of the lionesses were to be seen anymore. We positioned ourselves in the shade of an acacia tree and Guido made the strategic mistake of revealing our sighting to a guide at the only lodge around. Sightings are largely a matter of being in the right place at the right time. That’s why we like to share our sightings with others and think it’s stupid to keep everything to ourselves. In this case, however, it would have been better…

Waiting is part of the game

We stayed the whole day with the cats. In the late afternoon several vehicles of the lodge appeared one after the other. We had positioned ourselves about 50 meters in front of the woods and had a clear view of the waterhole and the trees. We wanted to avoid affecting the scenery and believed that if a hunt were to occur, it would have to be in our direction. Likewise, we didn’t consider the Game-Vehicles. They drove directly into the woods to be next to the lionesses – of course in bad light conditions. We will never understand what is supposed to make the difference between watching an animal at 10 meters or at 4 meters.

The guides decided for lionesses in the dark woods and against hunting lionesses . Passing giraffes immediately checked out the situation. These cars and the constant driving back and forth was like a big sign – at the end it was bizarre: 7 giraffes were staring at one spot in the thicket.

Thank you for nothing, guys

After an endless period of time – we had been with the lionesses for 10.5 hours – a group of zebras came to the waterhole, drank briefly and immediately ran out on the plains. The lionesses missed positioning themselves. The scenery would have guaranteed success in our opinion. When the zebras were gone, one of the lionesses came out of the thicket and ran along the bushes on the back side of the waterhole. She was pausing where she should have been sitting when the zebras were there. She was still watching them…

Thanks for the important lesson!

One by one they all came out and lay down in the evening sun at the waterhole – they had given up. We took some photos in the evening light and after a total of eleven hours of waiting we drove back to camp.
At the end of the day we were glad that there were no deaths at all. However, we finally understood that the reasons and intentions of our action and the guides with the guests were completely different.

Many guides want to show their guests something. Whether the light is good or whether it makes sense to wait plays a subordinate role for them. We have, of course, experienced other guides (unfortunately not on this trip). Probably, we will do without such hints in the future. In not everyday situations that are capable of development. The interests are simply too different.

Off into total solitude

The next morning we drove to the pan at Baines Baobab. We enjoyed the day in the total wasteland and there was no one but us in this breathtaking, completely reduced nature. The rim of the pan was easily passable, and we enjoyed this generous expanse of nothing. A gray/white ground – that’s it.

The evening and night were spectacular. Baobabs are such special trees, and we stood in the middle of them. The size becomes obvious with the relation with the car.

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