Mystical Mabua

For George van Deventer of Trans Africa Safari Self Drive Adventures and Tours, Mabuasehube is a magical place filled with memories. The perfect place to recharge far off the beaten track.

Mabuasehube – loosely translating to “Red Earth” from the local San language – is one of the last truly wild places in Africa. When overlanders hear “Mabua”, encounters of the close kind with the king of the jungle comes to mind, with images on social media often showing a pride of lions taking over the campsite. Pure magic!

Mabuasehube is on the Botswana side of Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and is situated in southwest Botswana. This is Kalahari in its purest form. If you’re looking for solitude, look no further. This is one of those places you can literally hear your soul breathe a sigh of relief.

The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa was established in July 1931 and seven years later, in 1938, the Botswana Gemsbok National Park was proclaimed by what was then called Bechuanaland. That same year the farmers on the Botswana side, 84 families with more than 5 000 head of stock, were resettled to the area south of the park. The ruins of old dwellings and several graves are still located close to Rooiputs. Mabuasehube Game Reserve was established in 1971 and was incorporated into the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in 1992.

In 1948 an informal verbal agreement between the Bechuanaland Protectorate and the Union of South Africa was made to set up a single conservation area in the adjacent areas of the two countries. In June of 1992 representatives from the South African National Parks Board (now SANParks) and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) of Botswana set up a joint management committee to manage the area as a single ecological unit. A management plan was drafted, reviewed, and approved in 1997.

Both countries agreed to collaborate in promoting the area from a tourism perspective, and to share equally in park entrance fees. On 7 April 1999, Botswana and South Africa signed a historic bilateral agreement whereby both countries undertook to manage their neighbouring national parks as a single ecological unit.

The boundary between the two parks has no physical barriers apart from the white markers in the middle of the Nossob River, which is also the international border between the two countries. On 12 May 2000 history was made when President Festus Mogae of Botswana and President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa formally launched Southern Africa’s first peace park – the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as it is known today. This historic event opened the door for many other peace parks that followed suit.

As remote as it gets

Mabuasehube is way off the beaten track and as remote as it gets in southern Africa. This is part of the charm that this piece of heaven on earth has to offer. Combine that with amazing Kalahari vistas and incredible animal interactions and sightings and you have a bush lover’s dream destination.

The Kalahari has so many faces, but you need to choose those roads less travelled to witness this spectacle of truly unchanged raw beauty. It has so much more to offer than just the lions or leopards. Take time to look for the beauty in the common things around you; the stories in the sand every morning, the sunsets and sunrises, the insects, birds and trees, the majestic sand dunes and the beautiful Camel Thorn trees. Look up at the stars and stand in awe as you realise that we as humans are not even a spec on a dust particle in the bigger picture and universe. This part of the Kalahari brings you in touch with what really matters, and it forces you reflect on your life. It makes you think, leaving you with a grateful heart. It frees your soul from everyday worries and fears and it shows you what is really important.

Mabuasehube is an extremely remote park with no phone signal and not even radio reception. Unless you have satellite communication, you are completely cut off from the outside world. There are no amenities like shops and fuel stations in the park. As such you must be fully self-sufficient for the time in the park. This includes all drinking water, fuel, food, wood and camping gear. The nearest town from the park is Tsabong, 130km south. It doesn’t sound far, but it will take you a full day there and back. Part of the road to Tsabong is very thick Kalahari sand, with a high middleman. I have personally recovered 4×4 vehicles that got stuck on this section of road.

How to get there

You can only enter the park at the Eastern Gate (to be found at S25 04.982 E22 09.444) or via the Boso Trail from Nossob. It is advisable to book a few nights at Matopi, situated almost halfway between Mabua and Nossob, should you go the Bosso route. This is probably the most remote campsite I have ever visited with not even one single soul in a 100km radius around you. When doing the Boso Trail, be aware that this is a two-spoor trail with traffic in both directions and sometimes across dunes with no knowledge of what’s coming from the other side. There have been head-on collisions in the past – it’s advisable to keep your speed down and just enough to get over the dunes. If not sure turn the vehicle off to listen for oncoming traffic before attempting to cross the dune.

The eastern gate can be reached via one of four routes:

  • The Tsabong route: This route leads from just outside Tsabong (S26 00.918 E22 24.327) but might prove challenging due to thick sand especially if you are towing. 110km from the turn-off to the gate.
  • Kokotsha Cutline: This is the most used route to Mabuasehube and can vary from the most beautiful sand track to the road from hell due to very bad corrugations depending on when last it was grated. The route starts 10km North of Kokotsha (S24 51.198 E23 15.978). 136km from the turn-off to the gate.
  • Kang Cutline: 32km South of Kang is a Radio Tower (S23 53.868 E22 57.209). Go around the tower to find the route next to the vet fence. Keep on the southern side of the fence for 136km to reach the North-eastern corner of the park. 164km from from the turn-off to the gate.
  • Hukuntsi Route: This route takes you from Hukuntsi to either Kaa or via the KD2 wildlife management area. This is the least travelled route to Mabuasehube and not advisable if you have not done it before. 147km via KD2 and 327km via Kaa.  

Regardless of which route you take, the Mabua adventure starts the moment you leave the tar road. Take it slow and be on the lookout for animal sightings on these routes. We have experienced some of our best sightings here, including wild dogs on the Tsabong route. The roads inside the park are all sandy two-spoor tracks. A few small sections are slightly rocky with limestone. Your tyres should already be deflated, as getting to the park involves sand driving.

Let’s talk campsites

The campsites at Mabuasehube vary from full ablutions with cold showers, sinks and pit latrines (long drops) to nothing but a tree. Some of the sites have water available, but this is not always guaranteed. Also note that it may not be suitable for drinking due to the salty taste. Therefore, you must always plan to be totally self-sufficient and bring all the water you will need.

Every site has a trash drum and a concrete slab for making fire. Most sites have a wooden A-frame structure that keeps you cool in summer and dry in rain. All these structures have a paved block or concrete floor. The showers and long drops are in spiral wooden structures with a peep hole on the bottom to see if the facility is clear of anything that can make a meal of you. This is not said in jest: Mabua is not a zoo – these animals will eat you. Herewith a quick rundown of the different sites and what you can expect at them:

Entrance Gate (KT-ENG-01 to 03):

The entrance gate has three campsites with A-frames andtoilets and showers with no water, but you have access to a water tap at the gate. There is a waterhole next to the gate complex fence and we’ve had sightings of lion and leopard in camp. This site is close to the staff quarters, and you can sometimes hear the laughter and conversations from there. This is the least booked site in Mabua and always a good back-up if you can’t find space.

Monamodi (KT-MON-01 and 02):

Monamodi has two campsites situated next to the Monamodi pan. Both have running water, but Monamodi 1 has no toilet or shower, only an A-frame with a tap. Monamodi 2 has a shower with cold water, a long drop and an A-frame, with a few shade trees. This is the best site for hyena sightings and has a resident leopard that likes to drink from the tap at number 1. Unfortunately, you don’t have a view on the pan but there is a waterhole about 300m from Monamodi 1. This is the best waterhole for birds of prey and vulture sightings, as well as thousands of doves and Sandgrouse early mornings and late afternoons. The Lanner Falcons will entertain you for hours on end while hunting the doves and Sandgrouse.

Lesholoago (KT-LES-01 and 02):

This is our second favourite site in Mabua, especially Lesholoago 2. This site features two long drop toilets, running water shower (cold) and a huge Camel Thorn tree, as well as an A-frame. You have a direct view over the pan, which is host to a resident pride of lions that like to frequent the campsite. There is also a resident leopard that can be seen at the waterhole late afternoons. Lesholoago 1 has a shower, a long drop toilet and an A-frame, with nice trees. This is the most northern site in Mabua. It was at Lesho 2 that we spotted an adult lioness on top of the A-frame.

Khiding (KT-KHI-01 and 02):

The two Khiding sites are close to each other, but still private enough so that you can hear but not see your neighbour – quite ideal for people camping together. These sites share ablutions that consist of long drop toilets and showers (no water) and both have nice shade trees. The closest waterpoint is Mpaya, 10km away. The resident Mpaya lion pride often frequents these sites, and the pan are visible from both sites. The pan is also the home of two cheetah brothers, seen early morning on or around the pan. This also where the Mosomane oneway trail to Nossob starts.

Bosobogolo (KT-BOS-01 and 02):

This is the most southern of the sites in Mabua and provides the best opportunity to spot the very elusive Kalahari wild dogs. None of these sites have water and only Boso 1 has a shower and toilet. Boso 2 is very basic with no shower or toilet. Both these sites have an A-frame and shade trees. The remoteness of these sites makes them ideal if you want peace and quiet. The pan – visible from both sides – is always bustling with gemsbok and springbok. The Boso Trail to Nossob starts from here.

Mabuasehube (KT-MAB-01 to 04):

Also referred to as just Mabua, you will find four campsites here, the most of all the camps in the park. None of them have water, although the plumbing looks intact. Mabua 2 and 3 have A-frames and are close enough together for you to be able to see and hear the other site. They both have good views over the pan. All of them have a toilet and shower enclosure (no water), except for Mabua 1, which has none.

Mabua 1 is very basic with only a braai stand and smallish tree, but with the best view of the pan. If you’re looking for a true wild camping experience, then this is the go-to place. In my opinion Mabua 4 is the best of them all and about 700m away from Mabua 2 and 3. You are almost guaranteed of lions in your camp at these sites. This is part of the Mpaya lion pride’s core territory. There is a resident leopard and a brown hyena that frequents these sites in search of water. These sites are part of the Inter-Tourism group’s privatised sites and can only be booked through them, making it rather expensive compared to the other sites in Mabua.

Mpayathutlwa (KT-MPA-01 and 02):

These are the two prime sites in the whole of Mabua, guaranteed to give you a lion encounter of the close kind. The two sites are about 700 metres apart and both having stunning views over the pan, which also features a permanent waterhole visible from Mpaya 1. This is our favourite site and Mpaya 1 is the best of the two as it has a running water shower, wash basin and proper toilet. Mpaya 2 only has a water tap in front of the A-frame. Both sites have A-frames and shade trees. The lions, leopards and hyenas visit these sites frequently due to the availability of water. The only drawback is that Mpaya 1 sits on a crossroad, and it is frequented by all who want to fill up with water. It can get quite busy here on some days.

This is also part of the Inter-Tourism Group and needs to be booked through them. Additionally, Mpaya features the so-called reserve site, which has no toilet, shower or A-frame and is situated between the waterhole and Mpaya 1. It has no shade trees, but it has the best view over the waterhole.

Booking your spot

You must book your campsites and pay in advance to enter the park. Remember, there is no other accommodation nearby so there will be no Plan B. Apart from payment for campsites, you have to pay the park conservation fee and vehicle access. This can be paid when you make your booking, and you will receive a voucher or confirmed booking receipt. If you booked one of the Inter-Tourism Group sites you still need to pay the conservation and vehicle entry fees in cash at the gate. You need to book a year in advance to secure a specific site on a specific date and even this is not guaranteed.

Most people that have booked a spot in this Kalahari wonderland will know what a mission it can be to secure a booking. Due to the few available sites (18 in total) and the huge demand it sometimes seems impossible to get a booking. Add to that the frustrations of not getting through on the telephone numbers and sometimes getting cut off in the middle of the conversation and every successful booking looks like a miracle. The best time to try and make a booking is after 14:00 in the afternoon. The congestion on the single line seems less and this has worked for us in the past.

Contact details

Park Managed Sites

Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP):

 +267 318 07 74 | DWNP@gov.bw

Privately Managed Sites:

Inter-Tourism Group: +267 350 0999 / +267 71 116 090 |

campsites@inter-tourismgroup.com |

www.inter-tourismgroup.com

Trans Africa Tour Focus: Richtersveld

George and Marlene van Deventer from Trans Africa Self Drive Adventure and Tours pride themselves on offering experiences with a difference, often venturing off the beaten track. One of the highlights on their remaining 2022 calendar is the “Wild Side of Richtersveld” tour, taking place during September.

17-24 September | R5450 per person sharing

This exclusive eight-day trip will take adventurers along the Orange River and into the heart of the rugged beauty of nothingness. Conjure up a desolate and forbidding landscape, seemingly devoid of life, except for some people dotting the horizon. Upon closer inspection this mirage dissolves into the human-like halfmens (half person) tree and the harsh environment proves to be a treasure-chest containing the world’s richest desert flora. Only five vehicles are allowed on this trip – book today to avoid disappointment!

Places on the itinerary:

• Richtersveld National Park

• Pella

• Klein Pella

• Ramansdrift

• Henkries

• Kuboes

• Kamgab

• Road to hell

• Hell’s pass

• Hand of God

• Old Mines

• Goodhouse

What you need:

• A good reliable, serviced 4×4 vehicle with a fuel range of 500km (including extra fuel containers like long-range tanks and jerry cans)

• Camping equipment and cooking/braai accessories

• Fridge/freezer or cooler boxes

• Food for six days

Price includes:

• Camping fees

• Conservation fees

• Park entry fees

• Tour guide with vast knowledge of the area (who is also a qualified paramedic)

• Two-way radios for communication, constant updates and history

Not included:

• 4×4 vehicle hire

• Fuel

• Food

• Transfer fees

• Game drives

CONTACT: +27 82 093 9984 (Marlene) / +27 82 688 1431 (George) | info@transafricatours.co.za | www.tasda.co.za

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