President’s Day Weekend in Mapungubwe National Park

In the US we celebrate 4th of July but in Botswana they celebrate the 1st of July as Sir Seretse Khama day. Khama was Botswana’s first president after gaining independence from the UK and one of the most celebrated people in their history. For our 4 day holiday weekend, we hoped to visit one of the parks in Botswana, but….I waited too long to book and all the camp sites and lodges were filled up! We really wanted to go to the Tuli area so I googled looking for any option for a place to stay. Somehow I came upon a place called Kaoxa Bush Lodge which looked close to Tuli on the map. They had availability and self catering chalets so I signed us up! When it came time to make the drive I then realized that our camp was actually in South Africa and next to an entirely different national park than I had thought! We were going to be visiting Mapungubwe national park instead of Tuli! But not a huge deal because it was actually just a 15 minute drive from the Botswana border. We drove across the Martin’s Drift border crossing and approach via the South African side on the way there to be sure we wouldn’t run out of gas.

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Kaoxa Bush Camp really exceeded our expectations – which was easy because we had no idea where we were going or what we were going to see! We ended up being the only guests so we got to enjoy the feeling of being the only people for miles. The camp had a lovely common area with a braai/boma dining area, an indoor dining room with deck, a fully equipped kitchen with numerous fridges, 4 lovely stone chalets, and a pool.  It was very much like an eco-lodge nested perfectly into the surrounding bush and rocky outcroppings. The camp is set adjacent to the National Park so the landscape is the basically the same and animals are allowed to roam over to the camp. A short walk from the camp we were able to visit a cave with ancient San Rock Art that is over 2000 years old.

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To get to Mapungubwe National Park, we just had to drive about 10 minutes up the road to the gate, we registered for the park, paid a discounted entry fee (yay being a Botswana citizenship) and we were free to cruise around the park on our own. The landscape of the whole is really unique and beautiful. The most prominent feature are the fascinating sandstone rock formations called kopjes that fill the horizon in all directions. There are also woodland areas, savannahs, riverbed forests and random baobab trees dotted throughout the area. There were so few people that it really had a magical feel.

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This area is special because it encompasses the confluence of the Limpopo river and Shashe river which form the borders between Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe. The park has a great outlook point where you can walk along a boardwalk to view the meeting point of the rivers and the 3 countries.

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My favorite part of the park was the tree top walk. A series of elevated wooden platforms were built over a forest of heavily protected endangers species of trees that are along the banks of the Limpopo. We walked along here at sunset and it was so tranquil and beautiful.

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Another great feature was the birdwatching hide which allowed us to sit comfortably which snacking/enjoying a beer with a perfect view to a lagoon filled with amazing birds. We did most of the drives on our own – seeing elephants, zebra, kudu, giraffe, steinbock, dik diks and lots of birds. We did a night drive with a park ranger where we saw jackals, cerval cats, hares, and my favorite was seeing a troupe of  baboons scattered on individual perches to take up a whole side of a cliff. We also did a sunrise drive with the guide but didn’t end up seeing much. We narrowly missed seeing a lion which the rangers at the gate said waked right past then just before we returned from our drive!

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We loved the peace and quiet of our camp. We cooked awesome dinners in the braai area and had incredible views of the stars. We went out exploring at night to see if we could find any animals in our camp area and tried to unsuccessfully take star pictures. We couldn’t help thinking how fun a place like this would be to bring a whole group of our friends. Its hard to see so much beauty and not be able to share it with everyone!

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Overall we felt very lucky to have happened upon this wonderful place by luck. It was a perfect weekend getaway for us and only cost about $250 for the whole 4 day trip!

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