“I wouldn’t put your tent there.” The guide warned me.
“Why?” I enquired.
“When the elephants come through in the night they use those trees as scratching posts” as he points to the acacia tree next to my tent. “Chances are they won’t see you and there will be quite a mess to clean up in the morning.”
“Fair enough.” I responded as I took my tent and moved it a little further away from the little spiky shrubs.
It was at this point I knew I was in a special place.
Welcome to Elephant Sands Campsite
I think Botswana is often overlooked as a destination as people flock to its more famous Sothern neighbour, South Africa. However, this is a good thing as it has many secrets waiting to be discovered and is also ranked as Africa’s 2nd safest country.
The country is home to some amazing places to enjoy an awesome game drive including the Makgadikgadi pans, Okavango Delta, Chobe river, and the place this post is about, the Elephant Sands Lodge. and campsite
Located in the Northern wilderness, as the name suggests, it is a fantastic place to get close to wild elephants in Africa.
My visit to Elephant Sands, in Nata, was as part of an overland tour I was taking through Africa, from Livingstone in Zambia, where I had just been jumping into Devil’s Pool, to Johannesburg where I would catch my flight home.
I figured having the final leg of my African Adventure part of an organized tour. I would be far more likely to get to the airport on time rather than relying on public transport.
Given that the last train I caught arrived more than 24 hours late, I thought it was a good plan.
In this post, I want to share with you some information about Elephant Sands Camping and the awesome wildlife show I had a front-row seat to as wild dogs faced down a heard of elephants while there.
It always starts with a bloody tent
As with most stops on these safaris, the first job after arriving is putting up the tents. After a few days, it becomes a real pain in the arse. I would love to be able to say I got better at it each day and it got easier . . . but it didn’t.
Luckily I could rely on the help of some of the others in my safari group. On reflection, it must have been that I had a bad tent.
Another tenting skill I also didn’t master was choosing the right spot. A day earlier I had managed to camp on an ants nest and was still finding hundreds of the little buggers hitching along with me.
With the ground hard and dusty, if I hadn’t been so poor, due to a complete lack of budgeting skill, I would have certainly ended up in one of Elephant Sand’s lodges rather than my ant-ridden tent.
After receiving the very welcome safety advice, I finally decided on a safe place to pitch my tent before heading to the bar area for a couple of well-earned beers and a spot of elephant watching.
The Elephant Sands watering hole
The campsite . . . and more importantly campsite bar . . . sits on a raised terrace area with a swimming pool and located about 20 metres away from a watering hole used by wild elephants.
When our group arrived there must have been at least 12 wild elephants, bathing, spraying and in general having a pretty good time.
They would often inquisitively wander over to us, within touching distance, I had to keep reminding myself that they are wild elephants, so although I really wanted to grab some trunk, I thought I best err on the side of caution.
Experience Elephant Sands Campsite, Botswana, for yourself
The attack of the wild dogs is still to come, but first I wanted to share a bit more information about Elephant Sands and how you can visit.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this piece, I was there on an overnight stop as part of a five-day organised tour that started in Livingstone, Zambia, but if you are not on a tour, it’s definitely possible to book for.
The Eco-lodge is set among a 16000 hectare private conservation area. There are no fences or walls which means all of the wild visitors can freely roam so you expect to see anything during your stay.
The best way to enquire about booking is via the contact form on their website, or by emailing [email protected]. You can specify dates if you know when you want to be there or also use it for general enquiries.
There is camping or basic lodges available. We were camping among the acacia trees and it was such a surreal feeling to wake in the darkness of the night knowing that it is just a thin piece of canvas between you and the almighty beasts.
Elephant Sands Camping Facilities
- Swimming pool
- Restaurant – serving breakfast, lunch and dinner
- Curio shop
- Laundry service
- Solar powered showers
A few other things to be aware of. The lodges tdo not have power sockets in the, so if you need to charge any gadgets or gizmos, you’ll need to do this at the bar, so plan ahead. There is very limited cell phone reception, so let your loved ones know you are off the grid, and there are no fans or air-con in the rooms.
Mosquito nets are provided in the lodges, but best still to bring some repellent for the evenings.
Finally, this is a quote from their website that I love and it sums the experience up in a nutshel:
Our campsite & lodge are unfenced; all animals roam freely which means you can expect to see anything. Always bring a good torch or headlamp with you if you do not want to bump into a browsing giant on your way to the bathroom
Elephant Sands Botswana rates
There are 20 en-suite tents and 8 en-suite chalets with views over the watering hole. The price of accommodation (June 2020) is as follows:
- Family chalet (1 d/bed, 2 single beds) – Botswana Pula 1690 ($140)
- Twin chalet (2 S/beds) – BWP1320 ($110)
- Single chalet – BWP910 ($75)
- Added mattress – BWP200 ($16)
- Camping – BWP120 ($10)
Please note, these prices are subject to change, you can check the website for the most up-to-date rates and images of the accommodation.
Remember to also include the price of food which is separate and there is no self-catering option:
- Breakfast – BWP90 ($7.50)
- Dinner – BWP160 ($13)
- Lunch is an a la carte option so the price will vary
Elephant Sands Map
Elephant Sands is located in the ominously named Northern Wilderness close to the Zimbabwe border.
Attack of the African wild dogs
So now you’re all up to speed on the accommodation, let’s get back to these dogs!
Unbeknownst to me, I had picked the best time to visit Botswana, just at the end of the dry season where animals are trying their best to find any water source they can, which led to this great show.
It was while watching the elephants I noticed something on the horizon, smaller than an elephant. Then a second and a third, it was a pack of wild dogs and they wanted what the elephants had . . . the water.
A couple of the wild dogs approached, but the elephants didn’t want to share and chased them off. I thought that’s pretty cool, wild dogs are quite rare to see.
But before I could get my next beer I heard a commotion as the whole pack, around 25 dogs, charged the watering hole.
Startled, the elephants retreated and stood back, watching the dogs. Every now and again an elephant would make a half-hearted attempt to scare the dogs away, running towards them, trumpeting and putting on a show. But it would take just one dog to growl and stand its ground and the elephant would slink back off.
The elephants fight back
However, after about 10 minutes of watching the dogs, they decided enough was enough.
A group of them charged together as the dogs stood firm, but this time, as two pulled up, the third elephant, a bull and the biggest of the bunch kept on going, water and dogs flew in every direction!
The rest of the elephants saw their opportunity and dashed into the water.
With no other option, the dogs retreated. For a while they hung around, it seemed they were devising a new plan, but something happened in the pack and they became more interested in fighting each other as opposed to the elephants and disappeared over the horizon.
I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to witness that and I didn’t even have to go on a safari trip to do it.
Well, I was on a safari, but you know what I mean, one of those game drives into the national parks with lots of people in safari jackets crammed into a small Jeep.
It was like something straight out of a wildlife documentary, right in front of me, with cold beer available!
As the elephants settled back into their routine of spraying, bathing and generally lazing around, I finally got that second beer and was treated to a wonderful sunset while sipping and wondering if my tent really was far enough away from those acacia trees.
Discover more from my African Adventure
If you would like to know more about my trip through Africa, an ambitious attempt at solo travel for the first time, you can buy my awesome travel diary on Amazon.
How to Clean Your Underwear in Africa chronicles my trip, the highs, lows and hangovers as well as dishing out lots of handy advice for first-time travellers. There may even be some great little nuggets in there for travelling pros as well.
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