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A group of us recently travelled the long road from Tsabong in Southern Botswana, to the entrance of the Mabuasehube area of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It’s a long road but unlike the Beatles song, it doesn’t wind too much, in fact, the last 45kms or so are pretty darn straight and very sandy and it has three lanes nogal! Which lane you choose to ride along has nothing to do with the conventional rules of the road, its more to do with the height of the ‘middel-mannetjie’ along the way and if you want the under-carriage of your car (or rather 4×4) polished or not.

So, several undulations of the triple carriageway later and one of the trailers in our group breaks down, requiring some attention. This occurred around 5pm in the evening with 15km still  to go to reach the Park entrance before the closing time of 6pm. This doesn’t sound far away, but on these roads, time was important, especially at this stage of the day, otherwise it ends up being a set-up at the gate only to have to move again the next day. So we asked the third member in our group to go ahead to advise the park authorities of our dilemma. We sorted the trailer issues out and got to the gate at about ten minutes to 6. It was starting to get dark and the authorities who usually prohibit travel after dark, kindly allowed us to travel through to our campsite, Bosobogolo 2, which is a further 26 kms south of the gate, just being short of an hour’s travel time.

There are few turn-offs in the Mabuasehube area and the few that are there, are clearly marked, so the anticipated hour transpired and we arrived at our campsite. Low and behold, another somewhat awkward situated presented itself which we had to deal with, but more of this shortly.

Now as anyone who has been to Bosobogolo will testify, there are precious few, and only two, camp-site facilities around this particular pan. Campsite number two (the site which we booked) has only an A-frame structure and that’s it – no water, no toilet! Upon our arrival to the site, in the dark by this stage, we find a family well set up with their tent and other camp accessories nicely tucked in under the A-frame. So, as we arrived, we could hear the gentleman say something like ‘Oh no, I knew this might happen’. Obviously we were concerned with what we saw and immediately started to question whether or not we had arrived at the right campsite. In a fairly forthright but polite manner,  the Lady asks us to show her our booking confirmation, which we duly did, which, at the same time very fortunately confirmed that we were indeed in the right spot. Thankfully, the A-frame structures are clearly marked and so there was no doubt as to who had the correct booking. We soon established that this family had arrived at the (Bosobogolo) No 1 campsite which they had booked and had observed that another group of people had been using their site which, to them, appeared to be somewhat ‘trashed’, the evidence being some empty beer cans and bottles lying around the campsite. Seeing this scenario, they took the decision to move on from that site to the one we had booked. (I heard the following morning, that indeed, campsite No 1 had been double booked – ours hadn’t been!).

So once we had established that it was our right to site number two, the gentleman made a plea to us that it was late in the evening (19h30ish) and that he had a small child and given this fact, could they please remain set up in our camp with the promise that they would vacate the site the following morning. He also made a case for the fact that Campers should be there to help each other out during times of need.

Our situation was that we had a party of 9 people in our group (three vehicles), with one of our party being in a wheel-chair and that we had a booking for only three nights at this particular camp. Furthermore, their tent was set up in such a way that it would prohibit us from using the A-frame structure at all and that our intention was to set this area up as the kitchen / dining / washing up area.

So, in this situation, what would you have done?

Taking all of the described situations and scenarios into account, the options are:

  1. To allow them to stay for the night with the proviso that they move first thing in the morning, as they had suggested


  2. Ask them to move with immediate effect

6 Responses to “Campsite thievery in the Kgalagadi”

  1. Katherine Blaine

    So what did you do? Botswana is famous for double bookings. Not a good situation and I am not sure what I would do but am interested to hear what you did.

    • John Gale

      Hi Katherine – clearly this has not attracted too much attention and I was hoping for a few more people to respond. But we had quite a bit of discussion and debate amongst ourselves around this at the time, but we did insist on them vacating the campsite for several reasons. The bottom line is that our booking was made a year in advance, it was not double booked and we were in the right place. Clearly these people took the chance (when they saw that their site had been trashed) and their gamble didn’t pay off. And hopefully, people who read this will learn too. Our debate was mostly around the safety of their child / children given that the campsites are totally open to the wild, but while they set up again at the next campsite, the kids could sleep in the car if need be – its not as if they had school the next day and our actions compromised their sleep! What was a little unpleasant was that the guy tried to make us feel guilty for throwing them out instead of taking it on the chin that they were wrong! I doubt that they will do that again!

  2. Mr. P-J Hannabus

    Difficult one. But they were probably hoping you wouldn’t arrive? But, clearly marked, in the minority, they would have to move! Your big group could help them move in a few minutes! They were playing the sympathy card! Take no prisoners!

  3. Andy Stanton

    John a really difficult situation to find oneself in, however the other travellers took a “liberty” in my view and should have tried to at least re-arrange their camping position to cater for your groups needs on your arrival, you shouldn’t have had to “play second fiddle” to a trespasser, who would have been clearly aware of the possible consequences.

  4. ROBernardo

    In their own words “help each other out” one child plus an adult in their party and the physically challenged in the other party stay in the tent they put up. To include if there are any senior in the parties.

  5. alice

    This happened to us at Polentswa. We arrived late afternoon and all sites were taken. No one was around camp to confront so being just the two of us any wary of any confrontation we had to make the decision to return to Nossob and stay there. The next day we returned to the main gate an got all our days refunded.


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