Flamingos as far as the eye can see

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Botswana  ,
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

After Chobe we started our journey South towards the capital, Gaborone stopping for a night in Nata bird sanctuary. Along the way we got to see a bit more of rural Botswana which still has a lot of mudhut villages with cattle and donkeys in the road. It seems the money is really in the cities and hasn't caught up to the more rural areas yet. Along the road are signs warning of elephants crossing and we actually did have to stop to allow one across the main highway.

Nata Bird Sanctuary was a bit expensive to get in and we didn't really know what to expect other than we hoped to see some birds and to see some salt pans. We setup camp under a Baobab tree and then drove out onto the salt pans in search of the birds, we heard there were flamingo's at certain times of the year but that they don't like it when it's too wet or too dry so its a bit of  a case of "luck of the draw." We were told they were 3 km's away and we headed out but saw a grand total of about 2 small birds, 2 Ostriches and a Wildebeest after driving for around half an hour. We seemed to drive for ages and not see anything along the river, which was completely dry so of course no birds in sight.

We were cursing having to pay the entrance fee and planning to ask for a refund when in the distance we could see another car parked up and a man with a camera setup on a tripod. We headed that way and what came into view took our breath away. The salt pans opened out, stretching as far as they eye could see and just ahead of us were birds. Not one or two, but tens of thousands. As far as we could see were flamingo's, herons, vultures and a whole host of other birds. It was absolutely incredible and we sat having drinks whilst the sun set over the salt pans. When the flamingo's decided to relocate slightly we watched as they moved in unison and it was a very special sight. 

 So from wanting our money back we were thinking it was a complete bargain. Even without the birds, the view was spectacular over the salt pans and the sunset was amazing. When we left the lady said we really needed to come back again when the bird numbers are better, unbelievably what we saw was only about a third of what you can sometimes see at Nata.

Then we had a long drive down to the capital of Botswana, Gaborone where we booked into a beautiful bed and breakfast called Oppi Koppi which as the name suggests is at the top of a Koppi. The view was spectacular as you could see for miles down below. This was just a stop for a night and we went into Gaborone to have some dinner. Gaborone was surprisingly first-world, far more up-to-date than Harare and actually the City centre was quite impressive with a number of new high rise buildings. It was just the opposite of what we expected and actually almost all of the shops are the brands you see in South Africa.

Katy was incredibly impressed with the B&B as it is exactly the sort of place she would love to have for herself. I actually agreed as the owners don't have to do any of the housework, they have maids to do it for them. Their money comes from taking Americans on hunting trips and they had a number of trophy game heads mounted on the garage wall, apparently Americans pay $80,000 USD to shoot an elephant and there are lots of private game reserves which cater for the sport, using it as a way of culling to control numbers. Not sure I like it, we certainly wouldn't want to go to anywhere like that.

So Gaborone marks the end of this part of the trip and now we head back to Johannesburg. What an incredible few weeks it's been, we actually can't believe how lucky we are to have had the experiences we've had and to see the real Africa. It's something we will never forget!

Getting back into South Africa was a very easy border control post. On the Botswana side they had a notice on the wall which I thought was brilliant. I can't remember the exact wording but the gist of it was...

"It has come to our attention that our gate controllers are sometimes letting people through from both the Botswana side and South African side to quickly get fuel or pass paperwork. These people do not have the relevant immigration paperwork and often don't even have their passports. This is against the law and is lax on our part. On discovery of this breach, we need to pull up our socks"

I couldn't believe that they literally stated that they need to pull up their socks, and why they have this notice admitting their incompetence for customers is beyond me. Ah well, only in Africa!
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