Photoblog: finding Baines’ Baobabs

Posted by Melanie van Zyl on 6 October 2014 Tags:

I’ve learnt loads about family travel over the years. By the time I was barely taller than the offroad tyres, I could tell you how to set up a rooftop tent navigated for the best view; and early on I discovered fun doesn’t emanate from the television.

Also read: An intriguing case of mowana mania

A couple of border crossings and many semi-legal photographic opportunities later, I also discovered it’s easier to charm my way to forgiveness than get consent. But there’s one really important travel lesson: when given the option, always pick the road you’ve never been on.

Inspired by detours, backroads and an elusive painting (you can read more about the full Botswana road trip in the October issue) we hit the dirt in the search for Baines’ Baobabs – an oasis of trees in the middle of nowhere and one of the most soul-stirring spots I’ve visited.

 

The strip of tar between Kasane in the north and Nata in the south is notorious for elephant crossing the road. Driving at night is a bad idea. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

The strip of tar between Kasane in the north and Nata in the south is notorious for elephant crossing the road. Driving at night is a bad idea.

 

The Nxai Pan National Park requires a capable off-roader as roads are sandy and slow-going.

We skirted Nata turning towards the Okavango Delta and stopped at the Nxai Pan National Park.

 

On the way towards the park, you'll come across an enormous anthill marking the turn to Planet Baobab - be sure to pull in for a look. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

On the way towards the park, you’ll come across an enormous anthill marking the turn to Planet Baobab – be sure to pull in for a look.

 

The pool is a welcome oasis and the entire camp is brimming with Baobabs. It's a real sight to see. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

The pool is a welcome oasis and the entire camp is brimming with baobabs. It’s a real sight to see.

 

Arguably the best bar in Botswana, Planet Baobab's has quirky decor and plenty of cold ones. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Arguably the best bar in Botswana, Planet Baobab’s has quirky decor and plenty of cold ones.

 

The Nxai Pan National Park seems desolate at first, but take your time and you may just get lucky. We stumbled across a pack of wild dog.

The Nxai Pan National Park seems desolate at first, but take your time and you may just get lucky. We stumbled across a pack of wild dog.

 

Surrounded by a expansive salt pan, Baines' Baobabs tower above the flat area.

Surrounded by a expansive salt pan and about an hour’s drive from the Nxai Pan National Park gate, Baines’ Baobabs tower above the flat area.

 

Baines' Baobabs is so named because the landscape painter immortalised the trees in watercolour over a hundred years ago.

Baines’ Baobabs is so named because the landscape painter immortalised the trees in watercolour over a hundred years ago.

 

Come sunset, the painting I'd found in the National Geographic Archives came to life. It's no wonder Baines decided to paint this moving scene.

Come sunset, the painting I’d found in the National Geographic Archives came to life. It’s no wonder Baines decided to paint this moving scene.

 

A close up look at the enormous trees. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

A close up look at the enormous trees. The seed pods hang off it like baubles off a Christmas tree.

 

You wouldn't believe it, but elephant roam these parts. These footprints have been here a long time though and have been preserved as the muddy salt pans dried out into flaky desert. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

You wouldn’t believe it, but elephant roam these parts. These footprints have been here a long time though and have been preserved as the muddy salt pans dried out into flaky desert.

 

We were lucky to have the best view of the Baobabs from campsite number one - a kilometre away over the Kudiakam Pan.

We were lucky to have the best view of the Baobabs from campsite number one – a kilometre away over the Kudiakam Pan.

 

On the left, campsite one and the Kudiakam pan which stretches towards Baines' Baobabs on the right.

On the left, campsite one and the Kudiakam pan which stretches towards Baines’ Baobabs on the right.

 

Man on man. It doesn't get better than this. There's no electricity or water at the site and you need to bring all of your supplies. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

Man oh man. It doesn’t get better than this. There’s no electricity or water at the site and you need to bring all of your supplies.

 

The camp sites are incredibly spacious and we parked ours underneath a mighty Mowana - the Tswana name for Baobab. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

The camp sites are incredibly spacious and we parked ours underneath a mighty Mowana – the Tswana name for Baobab.

 

Thanks to its remote location the stargazing at Baines' Baobabs is beyond compare - it's as though you're sitting under a dome of suspended fairy lights and you feel minute in the extensive space.

Thanks to its remote location the stargazing at Baines’ Baobabs is beyond compare – it’s as though you’re sitting under a dome of suspended fairy lights and you feel minute in the extensive space.

“This is me,” my dad said as we sipped a twilight gin and tonic together. “Don’t take me to the mall. There are already too many people here.” I scan the pans spotting the dust trail from a single Land Rover, disappearing to campsite number three at Baines’ Baobabs in the Nxai Pan National Park (note: there are only three campsites here and we’ve occupied one of them) then realise I’ve learnt another important travel lesson from my parents.

 

My dad drives back towards camp at sundown. Photo by Melanie van Zyl.

My dad gives a ‘thumbs up’ as he drives back towards camp at sundown.

 

If the road you pick is so honest and captivating it makes your body ache in contentment, you should choose it again. And never stop searching for beauty, even if you have to go back a hundred years to find it.

 

This is me taking it all in from the rooftop. Photo by my dad.

This is me taking it all in from the rooftop. Photo by my dad.

Click the photo below to see more from our October issue, which is on shelves now!
October issue - Botswana
Feeling inspired? Check out the Top 5 places for an authentic Bostwana safari here.