The Mokolodi Nature Reserve, located a metaphorical stone’s throw away from Gaborone not only has game drives, a quaint restaurant and picnic spots in the bush, it also has a couple of accommodation options including chalets and camping. We spent a couple of nights at a camp site and it truly is a great, "beginner" (if I can call it that) camping experience near the city.
We arrived in the mid afternoon, around 16h, but as it was still summer, we had enough time to set up camp and have the fire going by sunset. The campsite we had chosen was the “Bundu Camp Site”, which is one of the smaller campsites and isn’t really suited for large 4x4’s or vehicles with roof-top tents because of the size of the camp and it has low-hanging branches. Encompassed by tall trees, you are greeted by a large fire pit (along with a braai grid) in the middle of the site. This is where we set up our “kitchen area” - the boxes, table, gas burner etc. As it was getting dark, slowly but surely, we decided to pitch the tent first and then do the relaxing bit. Having practiced one or twice at setting up the tent at home (as we had bought it only a couple of weeks before) we had the tent set up in 15 minutes (give or take five, ten minutes).
As the sun set and darkness crept in through the trees, we had a fire roaring, a bottle of merlot open and the night birds singing above us. We made a quick pasta dinner with a simple sauce (not frozen and brought from home like on our Khama Rhino Sanctuary trip) and enjoyed the wine as the full moon rose above the campsite. There were a couple of other camping groups there that evening, one at the entrance to the main campsite, which was further away so we couldn't hear them and one not too far from ours, which was occupied on the first night but the neighbours were of the quiet, whisper-laughing type.
The silence of the night made us sleepy shortly after dinner and we were soon cosy in our sleeping bags, listening to the night animals out and about. Just as we were dozing off a loud stampede of hoofs was heard behind our heads, probably about 10 or 15 metres from the campsite. Not being able to fall asleep for a while, we contemplated which animals they could have been, but it’s hard to tell because of the darkness, the distance and so forth, but we assumed it was either zebra or impala dashing off to the nearby watering hole for a midnight drink.
The following morning I got up earlier, and made us coffee and breakfast while it was still cool outside. We had our food as the sun rose and by 10am it was already quite warm, but the large, dense trees do give ample shade and keep the campsite relatively cool. We packed up the coolboxes and food, refilled our coffee mugs and took a short walk to the chalets, located nearby to investigate why we thought we could hear the grunting of hippos so close by (they are normally in the large lake on the other side of the reserve and can’t be heard from the campsite). We came down to the chalets and would you know it, the two hippo from the large lake were having a grand old time in the watering hole. They must have walked from one spot to the other during the previous night or probably the night before. We hung out by the water side for a while, sipping our coffee and admiring the hippos as they splashed about.
As we strolled back to camp, a family cycled past us on their way back to the camp and joggers waved at us as we arrived back to our site. I drove back to the reception to buy a few more bags of firewood as that evening we’d have a fire for ambiance and a braai. Dina stayed in the camp to relax and enjoy the afternoon shade. As I was told excitedly, later when I got back, a small herd of impala had come thundering through the camp, probably again on their way to the watering hole. It was quite a shock as it sounded like it was a herd of angry, stampeding buffalo (of which there are none in Mokolodi), instead of four or five prancing impala.
The rest of the afternoon was spent lazying around the camp, reading, playing cards and taking photos. As dusk creeped in, we got out the mosquito repellant and made sure we were covered from head to toe as we had learnt our lesson the night before. We got the fire going, cracked open a cold beer from the 34L Coleman coolbox (which was still keeping the ice solid and the drinks quite cold even on the second day) and prepared the meat for the evening’s braai. Beef fillet steaks, some chicken drumsticks and boerewors (South African sausage made for grilling on the fire) made up our meat selection with green salad and garlic bread on the side (which we left next to the roaring fire to get nice and crispy. We had dinner with the remainder of last night’s merlot and a really full moon above us. I took the opportunity after we ate to set up my tripod and camera in a clearing just outside the campsite to try and get some good shots of the full moon in the clear sky.
As we sat around the fire in our cosy little Bundu campsite, sharing the last few sips of wine, we recalled the days events, with the hippos, the impala “stampede”, the cyclists, the joggers, the birds and the baboons that could occasionally be heard nearby. We concluded that the campsites are very neatly organised and located in the thickest trees for maximum shade. We had a stroll earlier to our neighbouring campsite as it was now empty, and that one was quite large, having space for two, perhaps even three vehicles, a number of tents and ample space above for roof-top tents not hitting the branches. We cleaned up the dishes in the sink which has a tap with running water which made cleaning up a breeze. There are no electrical power points though, but then again, you’re in the campsite with a full moon, who needs electricity? :)
The following morning we regretfully got out of our tent, knowing that we had to leave that day. But we planned to make the most of the day still and got to cooking a hearty breakfast and had the kettle boiling for the morning “cuppa”. I believe one needs to check-out by 11am from the campsite, although no fuss is made if that time is not met. We finished up our breakfast, made a couple of sandwhiches and started breaking up camp and packing everything in the RAV4. We would leave the campsite and go for a self-drive through the reserve and stop at one of a few of “our spots” by the main lake and have lunch there before making our way back to the entrance and then home. Along the way we stopped by the watering hole to see the hippo, we also saw a few female kudu grazing beside the track and almost ran into a large male giraffe on the way to the main lake. We found a shadey spot near the edge of the lake, set up our chairs and had our lunch as we admired the large fish eagle soaring above us, probably as hungry as we were, and then perching on the highest tree near the lake to look out for his next meal. The water level had dropped a bit over the past weeks and the ground around the edge of the lake was still ever so slightly soggy and wet. This clearly made visible the massive hippo footprints we came across going from the grass straight into the water.
Mokolodi’s location near to Gaborone does offer a pleasant bush retreat and camping experience that provides you with all the essentials while still giving you a rustic, adventure-filled experience just a few kilometres out of town. The campsites are ideally situated and you have all the basics, from a sink with running water to a flushing toilet and a cool-looking, outdoor stone shower. So if you live in Gaborone or are visiting for a short while, make sure to go and spend a night or two at the Mokolodi campsites (or even relax in the chalets if you’re so inclined) and enjoy a peaceful night under the stars without having to go too far to feel like you’re hundreds of kilometres away.
Visit the Mokolodi website for more information on camping and chalet options and pricing.
Also check out the rest of our "Bundu" photo gallery below:
The location of the Mokolodi Nature Reserve
"We are a Botswana-based couple who live for those outdoor, bush-bound moments."