Mabuasehube, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: The majority of safari destinations in South Africa are well-organised, hospitable, and not much of a gamble when it comes to what you can expect from your accommodation. That’s fair enough – when organising an annual holiday the last thing most of us want to worry about is a dodgy toilet.
The problem is, when you start adding comfortable touches to a wildlife destination, an element of adventure is lost. For most of us that’s fine, but there are many out there who crave a more intimate wildlife experience. It’s for these people that places like Mabuasehube on the Botswana side of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park exist, people who are prepared to take the dodgy toilet to get a true taste of Africa.
Botswana seems to have the right idea about how the more adventurous type of traveller likes to experience the bush. Compared to the fenced and sometimes overcrowded camping grounds of Twee Rivieren, Nossob, and Mata Mata, with their clean and comfortable ablution blocks and convenience stores, on the South African side the isolated campsites on the Botswana side are very, very basic.
If you’re lucky (or if you book the right campsite from the get go) you’ll get an A-frame to escape the Kalahari heat, a long drop (un-chewed toilet seat not guaranteed), and a place to hang your bucket shower. Most sites include at least one of the above, and for late-bookers or those who don’t know any better, there are a couple that have absolutely nothing except the view – but what a view it is.
Without the dry riverbeds on the South African side of the park, campsites in Mabuasehube are perched around the edges of vast, flat, sizzling pans, a couple of which have borehole-fed waterholes (currently at Lesholoago and Mpayathutlwa). With or without water and the game it attracts, the vistas across these pans are incredible.
It has to be said that game-viewing in Mabuasehube isn’t what it is in the Nossob and Auob riverbeds. Then again, after the rains a flush of green on the pans attracts vast numbers of springbok, wildebeest and gemsbok. On their tails, as always, are the ever-present big cats who have no qualms about turning your A-frame into a jungle gym and your campsite into their own private playpen complete with tasty chew toys (your stuff, not you – hopefully).
Some sites have their own resident wildlife. Yellow mongooses, ground squirrels, and red-billed spurfowl have become accustomed to sharing their space with human visitors, and the dark hours bring out the usual pesky night prowlers like brown hyenas, black-backed jackals and Cape foxes. It’s worth locking your drinking water away (fresh water is gold in the Kalahari), but if you’ve brought a little extra to leave out, keep an ear open for thirsty critters (and sometimes even cats) that stop by for a drink in the night.
It is rumoured that Mabuasehube might soon become more accessible to the less adventurous traveller, and it’s not really surprising. It was only a matter of time before Botswana decided to cash in on the transfrontier arrangement. It may eliminate the possibility of ending up with a dodgy toilet, but what does it mean for those of us who’d rather take the risk for the chance to immerse ourselves entirely in the wild?
We’ll just have to wait and see, but if you’re that way inclined, perhaps it’s worth booking a week or two in the wild Kgalagadi soon – before it becomes too hospitable.
The prime game viewing areas in Mabuasehube are situated around a series of pans and are mostly very open, making wildlife photography relatively easy. It’s a great reserve in which to photograph general Kalahari game like springbok and gemsbok in golden light and if you spend some time at the waterholes you stand a good change of getting shots of bateleurs (middle of the day) and brown hyenas (early morning and late afternoon). Lions are not easy to find, but if you do come across a pride, chances are that they’ll happily pose for photographs. Personally, I love the park’s vistas most. Use your smartphone’s panorama function to stitch together a series of photos of one of the pans, or take the time to take a series you can stitch in Photoshop.
If I want to go:
Where? Mabuasehube lies in the south-western corner of Botswana and forms the eastern tip of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. You can reach it by entering the park on the South African side (Twee Rivieren) and then crossing over to the Botswana side just north of Nossob Camp, or you can drive straight to the Mabuasehube entrance gate, which lies approximately 130 km north of Tsabong.
When? March and April are great months to visit Mabuasehube, because the extreme summer heat has subsided and the green flush on the pans attract vast numbers of grazers, which in turn attract predators. October to February is usually unbearably hot and May to August can be freezing cold.
Both access roads to Mabuasehube are very bad. The one that runs between Nossob and Mabua is very sandy and badly corrugated and the one south of the Mabuasehube entrance gate is extremely sandy. You definitely need a 4×4 with low range to drive here.
There are many campsites
Lesholoago no.1 (GPS: S24.94381 E22.02142)
Lesholoago no.2 (GPS: S24.94049 E22.03115)
Mabuasehube no.2 & 3 (GPS: S24.98063 E21.97134) if you’re travelling in a big group.
All of these campsites have great views and the maximum amount of facilities.
You should know:
Visitors to Mabuasehube need to be entirely self-sufficient. This means bringing all your own drinking (3 litres/person/day), washing up and shower water (5 litres/person/day), fuel, wood, and power sources. Also, remember to bring your own bucket shower.
Jackals and hyenas are likely to investigate your campsite in the night so don’t leave anything you’ll miss outside when you go to bed – especially leather goods, but also anything from Tupperware containers to nylon rope.