The African bush is a mecca for the nature and wildlife lover and enthusiast and there aren’t many better ways (if any, in my opinion) to go around seeing this wild haven than in the comfort of a 4x4 vehicle, preferably driven by yourself at your own leisure. Such vehicles aren’t always cheap to come by, well in that case, how about renting out a self-drive 4x4? That’s what we did not too long ago and would definitely recommend it to others as well.
If you’ve been following our blog and social media pages for a while now, you’ll know that our “Trusty Adventure Vehicle” is our 2001, Toyota RAV4 with all-wheel-drive. It was our first SUV-based (although technically categorized as a “compact SUV”) and while serving as our daily driver around town we also use it for all our out-of town and bush adventures. It has taken us to quite a few nature/bush spots around Botswana but the RAV does have its limitations regarding off road capability and where we can go with it.
The Chobe National park, for example, is serious bush territory where the lack of decent ground clearance and low-range gearing could pose a problem for us in a fully-laden RAV4. The first time we visited CNP, we went in a safari vehicle on a 2-hour drive through a small section of the park, which was great but not as fulfilling as we’d hoped for because we are used to going on self drives at our own pace and seeing more than just what can be accommodated in the allocated 2-hour safari drive. So the second time we (Dina, my dad and I) went to Kasane, we decided we’d rent out a proper 4x4 vehicle for the day and go on a self-drive through CNP ourselves. Tawana Self Drive, based in Kazangula (just a few km’s outside of Kasane) offers this and more. They hire out fully-equipped 4x4 vehicles for extended adventures as well as offering a “Safari Pack” which enables you to rent out a 4x4 even for just a day, with a select amount of equipment to allow you to enjoy a self drive through the CNP on your own.
I found them online, got in touch via email and quickly and easily made a reservation for a Safari Pack option for one day during our Kasane trip at the end of September 2017. All communication with Vincent via email went smoothly, I was sent the invoice for a very reasonable price, made an EFT payment and that was that. The Safari Pack vehicle is either the Toyota Surf or the Toyota Prado, and I requested the Prado if possible (which Vincent organized for us by the time we arrived to Kasane). We stayed at Senyati Camp about 20km from Kasane and upon arrival I messaged Vincent to get directions to their office the next day so we could pick up the car, but he offered to drop off the vehicle to our camp which was perfect!
The next morning, a little after 8am, Vincent and his wife Julie pulled up to the reception of our camp, where I was eagerly waiting (they came with two vehicles, the other being a RAV like ours, to take them back to Kazangula). They gave me a short but informative explanation about the vehicle, which gearing to use in the park, the extras that were included and what to do if we needed any help). The Prado is large, spacious, has good ground clearance, low-ranging gearing, a centre-diff, power steering, air-con, sun-roof, roof-rack and all the boot space you could want. Included in the Safari Pack is a coolbox for your drinks and snacks, a powerful pair of binoculars, an assortment of wildlife and birding books, a map of the CNP, basic recovery gear, a GPS and even a satellite phone (with Vincent’s number on speed dial) for just in case. I filled out a short indemnity form, paid the required deposit (which is given back when you return the vehicle) and that was that… we were ready to go on our self-drive through the Chobe National Park.
We reached the Sedudu entrance gate to CNP at around 9:30 and were quickly on our way to the riverfront, eagerly looking out for wildlife. The Prado made easy pickings of the sand, rocks and ruts along the way and we never had to worry about getting stuck or scraping the bottom of the vehicle at any point. We were able to follow the river route for as long as we wanted, seeing some great wildlife along the way. We then turned inland a bit to the Serondela picnic spot where we stopped and had a quick lunch and some drinks from the coolbox in the back. We continued with our drive, again down the riverfront, and up a couple of steep embankments, again without getting stuck with the vehicle. Shortly afterwards we headed back inland, where we came across a rather rocky section of road, which the Prado handled without any worries, although at times it rocked like a ship in a storm, but coming from a smaller and lower RAV4, I suppose this was just unexpected. We got through the rocky section in no time and then made our way up to a view point that over-looked the river and plains below. We had another short drinks break there, stretched our legs, took some photos and then made our way back down and headed towards the Lesoma gate as it was already late afternoon and we wanted to reach camp before sunset.
The road back to camp was smooth and comfortable and we were in front of our chalet, with cold drinks in our hands before the sun set, waiting for the Vincent and Julie to come collect the vehicle from us. We met up around 7pm in the camp, told them all about our exciting drive through the park and what animals we saw. The only equipment we used (luckily) were the binoculars, coolbox and map. But it was reassuring to know that we had the recovery gear and satellite phone as a safety measure. We spoke a bit about the car, the other vehicles in their fleet (which also includes the smaller RAV4 and the very capable Toyota Landcruiser wagon) and how their love for Botswana inspired them to start up their still small, but rapidly growing business.
To get to Kasane, you can do so with any vehicle as all roads are tarred, but if you want to go on a self-drive through the Chobe National Park, you do need a capable 4x4 and that’s where Tawana Self Drive can help. Whether it’s for a couple of weeks or just for the day, they have the right vehicle (and adequate equipment) to cater to your needs. Visit their website www.tawanaselfdrive.com or send Vincent and/or Julie an email and book your next 4x4 bush adventure now!
If you'd like to read the full trip article on our Kasane trip, please follow this link.
*Road Beneath Our Feet and its founders have no affiliation with the mentioned camp/lodge/hotel/accommodation/travel provider. All comments are based on our personal experience and we aim to inform other travelers based on that experience and our point of view only.*
"We are a Botswana-based family of 3, with a passion for going out into nature and the bush any chance we get!"