Mabuasehube | There’s a lion in our camp
When you get into hot water in the Mabenyane concession area, your nearest help is in the Mabuasehube Game Reserve. Two readers, Danie Pienaar and Pine Pienaar, visited the area separately earlier this year. Here is their advice if you’re also planning a trip there.
The Mabuasehube Game Reserve – or Mabua, as it is commonly known – is that small square at the eastern end of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in Botswana.
The reserve might just as well have been called the “Mabuasehube lion park”, because this area of 3 900 km² is dinkum lion country. Apart from having an excellent chance of seeing Kalahari lions, the odds of you getting to know some at close quarters are even better.
Apart from a leopard that dropped in at Pine’s campsite one evening and strolled around casually, a lioness visited them a few nights later.
Pine says the lioness first walked around the shower cubicle to see whether there was water at the washbasins, and then walked through the campsite’s
A-frame shelter and drank their dishwashing water from the collapsible basin!
Afterwards she lay down about 3 m from their fellow campers’ trailer and tent.
Some people in Pine’s group decided it was safer to rather sleep in their vehicle, and no one walked to the toilet that night …
Why (apart from the lions) should I go?
- “The great thing about a visit to Mabua is that there usually are few visitors. You seldom encounter other vehicles and when you find lions it usually is only the lions and you.” – Danie
- “It’s remote, and your group are frequently the only ones who are experiencing something wonderful, such as a leopard feeding. You can therefore take everything in at your leisure and take enough photographs without a traffic jam.” – Pine
What is the best time to go?
- “Visiting Mabua is nice all year round, but in the dry season (May-November) it is easier to see animals moving to the pans.” – Danie
- “Our first rainy-season visit to Mabua was in March this year. It was the first time we saw water in the pans. The grass was vivid green and mostly so high it was difficult to see animals.” – Danie
Pg 2: What are the …
What are the easiest routes to get there?
Danie says there are primarily three access routes: via a 4×4 route from Nossob on the South African side of the Kgalagadi, or from Tshabong in the south of Botswana, or via a cut line from Kokotsha if you’re driving from Gauteng.
Tshabong is some 27 km from the McCarthy’s Rest border post. This is your last chance to refuel, although fuel isn’t always available. The 112-km road north from Tshabong to Mabua can be deep-sandy in drier times, but you don’t need an advanced driving course to master the road, says Danie.
“If you’re driving from Gauteng, you can drive via Gaborone or Lobatse and then reach Mabua along a 120-km long cut line from Kokotsha. If you follow this route, you should refuel at Sekoma.”
- "The Tshabong-Mabua road comprises four different tracks in some places, but only one track in other parts, while the rest of the road is overgrown with grass.” – Pine
- “In winter the temperature can drop far below freezing. It can also become extremely hot in September and October.” – Danie
What facilities can I expect?
- “You have a choice of seven campsites, with Lesholoago the northernmost and Bosoboolo the southernmost campsite, some 40 km apart. The campsites are all situated at pans.” – Danie
- “The campsites have pit latrines and A-frame shelters. Water for washing is available at some campsites. The only warm shower and washing facilities are at the campsite at the reserve entrance and it is advisable to plan your day trips in such a way to include it.” - Danie
- “At campsites that have water it is good manners to first ask whether you can shower or collect water if you’re not camping there. However, no one minded when we asked.” – Pine
- “Refuse isn’t removed from the campsites regularly – a problem we, like people before us, reported to reception.” – Pine
Pg 3: What can I do …
What can I do there?
Numerous circular routes run past the reserve’s pans. Pine says there aren’t vast herds of game on the pans – with some exceptions, most of the pans had a few blue wildebeest, gemsbok, springbok, red hartebeest, ostrich and jackal.
However, the element of surprise compensates for it.
Apart from seeing a leopard feeding on a springbok carcass in a tree, and the leopard and lioness that visited their campsite, Pine and his group also encountered brown hyena, a number of kudu, an African wild cat, steenbok, mongoose, Cape ground squirrel as well as a Wahlberg’s eagle, secretary bird, ostrich, vulture, a red-necked falcon and a martial eagle during their ten days in the reserve.
“Don’t be in a hurry – enjoy the silence and open spaces,” says Pine.
If you want to experience true solitude and isolation, says Danie, tackle the 155-km long Mabuasehube Wilderness 4×4 Trail from the Malatso Pan to Nossob. You’re allowed two days and one night to complete this one-way sand route.
The route should be booked beforehand and only one group (no fewer than two vehicles and no more than five vehicles) are allowed per day.
Keep in mind that you are crossing an international border and that you should keep your passport ready at Twee Rivieren.
What should I pack?
- “Be totally self-sufficient – take your own drinking water, fuel, food, overnight gear etc.” – Pine
- “You should be self-sufficient in all aspects, firewood included. There’s a steep fine for collecting firewood in the reserve.” – Danie
- “Take as many plasters, lotions and internal medicines along as your first-aid kit can hold. The company doesn’t improve when one person in your group has piles or gout. And the nearest hospital is far away.”
- "If you are rich enough to afford a satellite phone, take one along.”
- “Take as many spanners and pliers along that you can handle.”
- “A high-lift jack is unnecessary, because you shouldn’t get a flat tyre.”
- “You’re allowed to take meat into Mabuasehube.” – Danie
Pg 4: Things to watch …
Things to watch out for …
- “Store pots and food inside the vehicles or in tents, as predators and scavengerssometimes visit the campsites.” – Danie
- “Always be alert in the reserve – predators can appear anywhere, anytime.” – Pine
- “One morning we found jackals had carried off some of our slipslops. The jackals seemed to have style, because they chose the well-known brands!” – Pine
- “The jackals even stole the black pot’s lid one night. We managed to find it in the long grass the next morning.” – Pine
- “A Cape cobra had slithered through underneath their tent, campers at one of the stands told us.” – Pine
- “It’s not really malaria area, but if you can find a malaria pill that doesn’t cause suicidal depression or hallucinatory dreams, you should drink it.”
- “Also be alert on roads outside the park – cattle, donkeys, goats and horses frequently walk round freely, and road conditions can be very misleading and changeable from time to time.” – Pine
- “Find out which stand is yours – especially if the A-frame shelters are unmarked.” – Pine
What does it all cost?
Three nights in Mabuasehube cost Danie’s group of four vehicles and eight adults some R1 450. The amount included the following:
- Access fee: ±R28 (per person per day)
- Vehicle fee: ±R17 (per vehicle, once off)
- Accommodation: ±R42 (per person per night)
Where do I book?
Danie recommends that you book in three ways: telephone, fax and e-mail. Personnel at the bookings office are very friendly, he says, and they answer your e-mail within moments.
Here is Danie’s protocol:
- Dial +267 318 0774 (I usually speak to Motlhagodi; she is very helpful);
- Then send her a fax at +267 318 0775;
- Finally, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. (The Gaborone bookings office already opens at 07.00.)
Once you have done this, remember the following:
- Note down your booking number;
- You should pay a deposit;
- No money is paid or received at the reserve’s entrance gate;
- Phone the bookings office again before departing to ensure that all your paperwork is in order.