Day 23 – 26/08/2017 Nata, Botswana – Stevenson Game Reserve Botswana
On rising the next day we found out that the deal here only included breakfast for one. As I wasn’t hungry and was happy for a rusk and a cup of tea, David went off to have breakfast in the dining room alone.
We left Nata at 8am travelling via Francistown heading in a westerly direction for the Stevenson Game Reserve situated on the border of Botswana and South Africa.
One of the little villages we passed on the way
The first half of the journey we dodged really bad potholes and saw a few warthogs, impala, yellow billed Hornbills and variety of other small birds. We passed small villages, the occasional cyclist and the ever present remains of a few ‘dead’ cars in complete contrast to the surrounding bush.
Another ‘dead car’
We arrived in the area at about 3pm and once again ‘Lady Jane’ decided to take us on the scenic route through one of the small rural villages. Travelling on a dirt track weaving in between the village huts we realised that this couldn’t be the right road. We eventually stopped to ask an elderly man walking past us if he knew the reserve or at least where the Tuli Block was. Luckily for us not only was he friendly, he was also familiar with the Sherwood area and Tuli block. So with the information given we were able to re-route back to the main road, turning left and now moving in the correct direction towards the Muldersdrift border. Just before the border post we turned right heading into the Tuli block. This road lead us to a private locked gate with no one in sight so we knew that this wasn’t correct. Once again there was no visible signage anywhere. We turned around and headed back towards the main road. Turning right we spotted a service station near the border. We thought there might be someone there who could direct us. I climbed out the car and went to see if I could find someone. A very enthusiastic young man said he knew exactly where the reserve was and was very keen to climb in the car with me until he realised that I was travelling with a man!
On his direction we turned around and headed back in the direction we had just come from and just a short distance ahead we spotted the Stevenson Game Reserve sign which was only visible from the this direction and that is the reason we didn’t see it.
The sign board we couldn’t see coming from the other direction
The reserve was another 13 klms down a gravel road in a northerly direction. When we arrived at the gate the security guard radioed the main desk to check whether they were expecting us despite the fact that we assured him we were indeed booked in. Shortly after signing in and passing through the gates into the reserve, stood a small bush buck and shortly thereafter a lone wildebeest had just crossed the road and was heading into the bush. A little further on stood a lone kudu frozen in the dry grass curiously looking back at us.
Majestic male greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros)
African ground squirrels (genus Xerus)
As we stopped to admire this majestic animal a little squirrel scuttled across the road and bounded up a tree trunk. An impala wandered across the road in the distance. Nearing the main reception area a grey heron stood like a statue in a small pond. The reserve looked promising and we eagerly headed towards the reception area.
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea)
Stevenson Game Reserve reception area
On arrival in the parking area we were welcomed by Zoe, Brutus their big ‘sookie’ dog and little friend. After signing in, Zoe asked us to follow her in her vehicle to our accommodation. A fair distance away from the reception building we came upon a lovely rondavel bush style camp. It was quite rustic but very functional and clean with a pleasant private outdoor lapa (an open structure covered with a dry grass thatched roof, used for outdoor meals) set up with table, chairs, small kitchen, pantry, fridge, gas cooker etc.
Zoe with Brutus and little friend
After unpacking we decided to go exploring. With a very basic map in hand we ventured off to find the weir stretched across the Limpopo river, which borders Botswana and South Africa. As we climbed out the car we could hear some Egyptian geese squawking in the distance and could see they were nesting under the canopy of some large trees on a nearby small island. The whole scene was so picturesque and peaceful except for the birds chattering away.
The weir across the Limpopo River
As we sat on the river bank to take in the scene we heard a commotion in the distance. It sounded like male voices which seemed to be getting closer and closer. Just then a pontoon type vessel appeared around the corner carrying a group of rowdy men wearing camouflage uniforms. They came from the South African side and appeared to be enjoying their booze cruise. We exchanged some friendly banter in Afrikaans and suddenly I was a ‘Tannie’ (Afrikaans for aunty) again. They guided their large pontoon towards us and as they neared the bank they kindly offered us two cans of ice-cold King’s Castle brandy and cola!
Late afternoon booze cruise
We happily accepted and a couple of minutes later they set off in the opposite direction with much jollification. David cracked open the cans and happily sipped away as we sat relaxing on the bank enjoying the sounds of nature as peace was restored. Suddenly out of the blue another vehicle arrived with a group of four people. We spent some time chatting with them. One of the couples were locals from Botswana and the others were visitors from the Czech Republic. After they left we walked along the river bank. We spotted a pied kingfisher, fishing from the nearby reeds. diving into the water with great accuracy and speed.
Peaceful scene across the Limpopo River
After taking a few photos we got back into the car and continued exploring to see if we could find any more game before sunset. We spotted a shy little duiker well camouflaged under the trees near the river bank. As we followed the river we found a small side road leading to a couple of designated camping spots right on the water’s edge. There didn’t seem to be any campers there at the time.
Grey go-away-bird (Corythaixoides concolor)
We then drove to the other side of the reserve looking for one of the other water holes indicated on our little map to see if we could find any of the resident eland. Sadly we didn’t find any. However there was a lot of activity around the waterhole with the resident ducks and go-away-birds (Grey lourie). By now the sun started setting quickly. Feeling rather exhausted, we made our way back to the camp to see what we could muster up for dinner, with our now diminished food supplies. As we pulled up to our rondavel we startled a warthog who had been happily grazing in the camping area. He made a mad dash to get out through the perimeter fence. The poor animal squealed as he struggled furiously to free himself after getting caught in the wires. Luckily he was able to break free in moments and did not require any assistance.
Burchell’s glossy-starling (Lamprotornis australis)
Around the camp hopped many glossy starlings and spur fowl all furiously foraging in the scrub. To our surprise the outdoor dining area had been beautifully laid out with candle light, serviettes, plates etc in our absence. After rummaging through our cooler box we discovered a tin of baked beans and a can of peas! So while David heated the peas and beans I made toast to accompany our gourmet meal! I was so hungry that I savoured every mouthful! It was the best baked beans on toast ever. After the last of our shared can of Grapetiser we finished off with a lovely cup of hot tea.
Late afternoon sunset
Once again it was a quick shower, bed and I fell swiftly into a deep sleep serenaded by the sounds of the creatures of the African night.