The Long Road to the Kalahari Elephants in Savuti, Botswana

I met my parents at the airport in Livingstone, Zambia.  They came to visit and we spent the next 10 days road tripping through Botswana; spending most of our time in Savuti - in the center of Chobe National Park, and the Okavango Delta.

Elephants cross infront of the
two-track path

They got their fair share of African border crossing experiences on their first day: waking up early in South Africa, flying to Zambia where we viewed Victoria Falls, crossing into Zimbabwe to view Victoria Falls from the other side and then driving to Botswana for dinner.  All border crossings (with the exception of South Africa) required some sort of unofficial payment for which there was no receipt.  This was in addition to the "official" fees: visas, road tolls, bridge tolls, carbon emission tax, vehicle import fee, and mandatory purchase of "approved" third-party insurance.

A one-eyed hyena approaches our dinner 
table after drinking from the swimming pool

Once in Botswana we headed straight for Savuti in the heart of Chobe National Park - home to the highest concentration of elephants in Africa with over 120,000 Kalahari Elephants.  In addition to hyenas, zebras, leopards, warthogs, wildebeests, kudu and impala, we saw hundreds of elephants from lone bulls off on their own to large breading herds with baby elephants drinking and cooling themselves off at watering holes.

 The length of the park is roughly 450km / 280mi but took about 12 hours to drive over the course of a couple days.  The slow pace was a result of deep dry sand, flooded rivers, and occasionally heavily corrugated dirt paths.

A bull elephant in musth

Driving on the main dirt roads we passed a few gates where we had to stop and fill out a logbook with our name, date, vehicle type, registration number and the direction we were heading.  Upon reaching the final gate we were told that the Khwai River had flooded and that the main dirt road ahead was not passable - even with a 4x4.  The options were to take a couple hour detour into Moremi National Park or a shorter detour over a series of less traveled dirt roads to where there was a bridge to cross the river.  The ranger said that he hadn't heard of anyone using the bridge in the past few days and that we should make sure to check the bridge before driving over it.  As we followed the ranger's hand drawn map to the bridge it seemed odd to have to "check the bridge" before using it, but that made sense once we arrived at the bridge.  It was slightly submerged under the river and constructed of logs tied together by rope and wire.  That was okay, however there was about a 10 foot section on the right side of the bridge where the logs were broken, leaving a hole about 5 feet deep.

Making it over the "bridge" with
a little speed

After about 45 minutes of chopping trees, moving logs, breaking the axe, falling in the water, loosing the shovel and my flipflops in the river, we tied the logs together with extra wire left on the river bank and put wading plugs in the engine and gearbox just incase the truck didn't make it across.  I took my laptop and camera gear out, my dad backed the vehicle up to get a little speed and successfully made it over the makeshift bridge without slipping off the logs. 

>> Check out more photos of the river crossing and animals in Chobe

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John, How fun to have the 2 old people with you, even tho they slowed you down. Great Photo's, video and comments. Take care.

Tom & Linda


John, It's been fun to follow your adventure
also watching you and you dad work together.Good Job!Have Fun and stay safe

I'm taking the trip of a lifetime by watching you do it from my desk...

Great trip, John, and how much fun to have your Mom and Dad along. It's fun to read and see your adventures.




Whoa ... John, this is really heart-stopping lifetime adventure! Savor fully. Be safe. So glad your folks could join you for a while.
Doug and Joan

I miss you Spiderman.


Hi John - Its great to see that you are having such a wonderful adventure. Me and my daughter enjoyed watching the river crossing video.


What do you think of the YouTube video about this?

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Taking off to some unidentified place in the heart of Africa – somewhere with no electricity, no running water and at least one week’s journey from anything resembling a city has been a long time dream of mine.

My name is John Bradley and in May 2009, I left my job in Chicago, sold my car, moved everything else I owned into my grandma’s basement and flew to Africa. I plan to take roughly one year to overland on a budget from Cape Town to Cairo. I do not have an itinerary; I have no idea where I will be five days from now. My path is guided by the attempt to balance the urge to see and experience as much as I can with the desire to travel slowly and close to the ground.

This is where I will post my stories, photos, and videos as I move along on my journey. Feel free to post comments or send me an email with any thoughts or suggestions.

Current location: Coffee Bay, South Africa

Distance traveled: 42,790 km

Days on the road: 366

(last updated 5/16/10)

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